MIAMI – A progressive Miami City Council meeting covered a range of issues facing the city including addressing the affordable housing shortage, road projects and finally building a new city animal shelter.
This council meeting was also the first to be live-streamed online to allow greater access to Miami residents.
“We had some video glitches, but I think if we can get that ironed out I think things will be pretty good,” Miami Director of Information Technology Michael Richardson said. “Most people are starting to get their content delivered via the internet. Now we can reach more people. I was really pleased with how the test went.”
Council meetings will continue to be live streamed and soon will be archived at the City of Miami's website miamiokla.net
Starting off the meetings of the Miami Special Utility Authority and Council, Mayor Rudy Schultz explained the absence of Councilman Joe Sharbutt.
He explained Sharbutt's seat is being vacated to comply with Oklahoma state statute due to the number of meetings the councilman has missed while undergoing aggressive stem cell cancer treatments.
“The good news is that's been very successful,” Schultz said.
Schultz said Sharbutt is responding well to treatment and intends to run for election to the vacated seat in May of 2016 to return to his council seat.
State Statute dictates that members of municipal governing bodies missing more than half of the meetings held in a four-month period of time must automatically vacate their seat.
City Attorney David Anderson said because of these state requirements past meetings involving Sharbutt were reviewed to determine if any legal issues resulted from his absence. Only the Oct. 20, 2015, meeting was affected and subsequently the council voted to reaffirm and ratify any actions taken during the specific meetings to avoid any possible legal problems.
“I do want everybody to know that Joe is an outstanding councilman and I can't wait for him to get back,” the mayor said.
The councilmen went on to other business starting with approving a purchase agreement of $174,026 with the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma for the Peoria Ridge Sanitary Sewer Utility improvements and related easements. In April of 2014 the city approved a resolution to acquire property interest in the project.
The Peoria Tribe constructed the sewer project and lift station to serve their own facilities at Peoria Ridge Golf Course and Clubhouse while giving the city the opportunity to purchase an interest for tie in and service to residents along the line.
After a presentation and some discussion regarding the vacated Eagle Picher property located at 200 East BJ Tunnell council directed staff and the city manager to move forward toward purchasing the property.
The facility is currently under the management of a bankruptcy trust manager and has soils under the structure contaminated by chlorinated solvent plumes. The property has remained vacant for some time without private party sale and is becoming a blight to the community according to city staff.
With sale of the property unlikely because of the regulatory requirements related to the polluted soils, the City of Miami plans to develop the property for a water park facility if grant funding can be obtained for remediation purposes.
The council agreed to a purchase price not to exceed $70,000, contingent on possible Brownsfield's program in conjunction with ODEQ for funding for remediation of the industrial waste plume contained underneath the building.
A public hearing which brought no outside comment was held in regards to the submission of a grant application to construct a $584,000 splash pad in Miami possibly at the 200 East BJ Tunnell property. This is the third time the City of Miami has applied for this grant.
“Our hope is to leverage this grant with the Brownsfield's grant and work with the two agencies that oversee it and if they both give us the grant to see what we come up with,” Miami City Manager Dean Kruithof said.
Kruithof said if the grant to demolish the building and remediate the property is not obtained another location could be used for the splash pad, such as adjacent to Joe Pollock baseball field.
Road project update
An update of City of Miami Road Projects for fiscal year 2015-2016 was given. Public Works Director Joe Waldon listed the projects in this phase including plans for two complete street reconstructs, Sunset Strip from E Street to G Street, and C Street from Steve Owens Blvd. to 2nd Street, two downtown alleys in the business district, patch and overlays of Willow Lane and 19th Street , several large spot and concrete panel repairs at K Street have been completed and E Street, Oak Lane repairs will begin in the spring, and over 7 miles of crack seal and micro-surface paving at various locations will be completed by summer.
The funding for the asphalt overlay project on Willow Lane came from Ottawa County Commission funds, saving the city $20,000.
“The county has been great partners these last several years on projects,” Schultz said.
A bridge on Veterans Blvd. on the schedule for repair for March of 2016 may be delayed for a year or two. The third phase of Main Street improvements allowed by grant funding design work will begin in the next couple of months according to City Engineer Chuck Childs. Downtown intersection stops signs will be moved to the street corners as part of this phase.
Kruithof said he has asked Childs to be more involved in prioritizing street projects to stretch funding as far as possible.The addition of 22nd Street SW was approved for inclusion in the fiscal year 2015-2016 Capital Improvement List for an expense of well under $15,000 according to Waldon.
“With these projects being done in the foreseeable future we are done with the south part of town,” Kruithof said. “We have other parts of town we need to concentrate on.”
A bid was awarded to Jo-Co Equipment of Broken Arrow for the $65,000 purchase of a new asphalt patcher that will save money and manpower for city street repair. The funding for the purchase of the equipment will come from the street repair budget.
“We think it would be a more functional way and cost effective way to fix potholes around town,” Miami Street Department Manager Mike Edwards said.
Comprehensive plan approved
The finalized version of the City of Miami Comprehensive Plan, a policy document for use in future city policy and decision making, was approved after an 18 month development process involving civic input.
Brannyn McDougal from Gray Planning, the consultant firm for the project, gave an overview presentation to council members of the final comp plan. McDougal said planning makes good sense for ongoing zoning and guiding progressive decision making for Miami.
“I think it's important to remember that this is a guide, it's not a final thing,” Miami's Economic Development Director Kristi McClain said. “It's a policy we adopt to form a vision.”
Implementation and measuring progress of the comprehensive plan are the next steps toward use of the comprehensive plan for the city and toward developing strategies to realize the vision for Miami.
Looking at capital improvements, land use, zoning and regulations are essential steps toward implementing the plan, according to McDougal.
“We wanted to have the Comprehensive Plan before you first,” Kruithof said. “If you look at the next few items we are about to discuss every single one of those has an element related to the comprehensive planning.”
Making strides toward increasing the number of available affordable housing units and options in Miami, two presentations were made by developers interested in projects in the city.
A Raga Properties LLC representative gave a presentation on a proposed O Street housing addition. The managed housing addition would offer two bedroom, two bathroom duplexes with garages and storm shelters for seniors, age 55 and older, for rental of $495 to $650.
“We are passionate about Miami and you are in need of affordable housing so we would like to be able to move forward with this,” she said.
A tax credit award was approved by council for the housing project to provide more quality affordable housing in Miami.
A second presentation was made by Housing Plus representative Tammi Creason proposing development of infill of vacant lots with 20 three bedroom single family homes throughout Miami neighborhoods and the development of the former Harvest Time Church five-story building on Main Street for 20 to 22 senior apartments to include a community space.
“It's affordable housing targeting that working middle class,” Creason said.
Creason said Miami's affordable housing options in Miami are bordering on “desperate need” and her company is proposing projects offering rental homes and apartments with home ownership options.
“These will benefit Miami greatly if we are to get approval,” Kruithof said. “It's not an either or choice, we want them both in Miami, very much so.”
Housing Plus will be returning to the council in the future for approval of resolutions for several issues including parking for residents at the downtown development and transfer of city owned vacant properties for development of the family housing projects.
Animal shelter update
The council also heard an update on the revised plan for the future City of Miami Animal Shelter presented by Waldon. Because the capacity need has not been as great as expected after another volunteer shelter closed according to Waldon, the plan has now been reduced to a 2,100 square foot facility with 28 kennels, two runs, a laundry room, a separate room for cats, an office, break room, restrooms, adoption room, and medical room included with an estimated completion date of July of 2016.
Bidding for the project will be opened soon and the new facility will be located south of the present shelter on the Truck Route on city property and is budgeted for under $300,000.
“We need to get this done,” Kruithof said.
Approval was given for amending Ordinance Chapter 12, Article I, Section 12-3 of the City Code of Ordinances pertaining to regulation of signs, canopies and awnings in the business district.
City Inspector Travis Jones said the revision of the ordinance now allows a 6 foot extension of signs, canopies and awnings from buildings while maintaining 4 feet of space from the curb. The recent development of a renovated downtown building was cause for the revision to allow all business owners an equal opportunity for improvements if desired under the amended ordinance while ensuring and enforcing safety and sidewalk and utility access.
In other business the council entered into a three-year subscription service contract for the Lexis Nexis database containing current United States statutes, laws, published case opinions, publicly available unpublished case opinions for $165 per month for the city attorney's reference use. Also approved by council was credentialing for Accurint, a records service, dropping driving record searches for employees from $26 to $6, a savings of $4,300 annually. Additionally, it is estimated that the $75 cost for pre-employment background checks will be reduced to $10. Savings there is estimated to be $2,000 a year.
A lease agreement was renewed with Newman-Ellis Coach Trailers for a building at 1320 Newman Road.
Three City of Miami employees were recognized with the “Above and Beyond Award” for service above their regular duties. Kevin Browning, Keith Babbitt and Kelly Johnson were recognized for their exceptional work.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Dave Heibert thanked the council and city employees for the improvements dealing with drainage problems on the east side of Morgan Hill.
Kruithof ended the meeting by thanking the city staff and employees for the new downtown holiday decorations of greenery garland, lights and banners all purchased from local businesses.
“The end result is just beautiful and we've had so many positive comments about it,” he said. “I think the end result was something spectacular. Go Pokes, Boomer Sooner and Merry Christmas!”