MIAMI – The Oklahoma Department of Tourism has notified officials here that they are going to convert all travel centers in Oklahoma to touchless systems (like doors, restrooms, etc.).

Amanda Davis, Executive Director of the Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Shanda Schertz made the presentation to the city council at their regular meeting Tuesday evening.

“We were made aware about a week ago that the state has applied for CARES Act grant funding in order to make all travel centers in Oklahoma, including the one here, touchless,” Davis said. “Because the travel center here is a state building, we are under agreement with them to run its operations for now, but they want to go ahead and move forward with other updates, knowing there is a good chance they may re-assume operations.”

In addition to making everything touchless, the state plans to add a dog park and a picnic area outside the center so there will be more space for visitors to park and get out and walk around.

“We have been working closely with Mark Hill and they are going to close the center on approximately Oct. 12 and move in a portable 80 x 20 foot trailer for the center to operate out of temporarily. The state will handle all the costs and will also bring in a portable restroom facility,” Davis said.

The center could be closed for up to 90 days, but it will be worth it, according to Davis, “because it’s going to make the center very attractive.”

She said they are hoping the center will be closed for less than 90 days, since it isn’t going to be a big overall remodel.

The trailer the state provides will have Internet, so operations at the center can continue, and Davis said they are waiting right now to find out if the state is going to provide storage and security during the remodel.

“It will cause somewhat of a disruption; we were already dealing with COVID-19 and the disruptions it has caused in addition to a decrease in the numbers of travelers. It’s kind of a day-to-day thing, but we have had some sales days recently and more foot traffic. And the state can’t give us any guarantee yet, but there is also a possibility they may offset the loss of revenue we experience during that time,” Davis said.

She went on to give a report about the number of visitors that have come through the center recently.

“From the time COVID hit until now, the start of the new fiscal year, it has been a challenge,” Davis said.”Prior to COVID we were averaging 250,000 visitors through the center every year (approximately 20,833 a month). This July we had 11,027 visitors, and in August we had 11,436. But that’s still almost 12,000 people coming through the doors.”

Interim city manager Tyler Cline reported that the Main Street road project hit a bit of a snag when they hit a gas line at 4th Street, so that area was shut down last week, and the rain has slowed progress down some.

Cline also reported that the Central Avenue road project is going well and officials at NEO have expressed excitement about it.

Ottawa County has started construction on a bridge that will be between the Route 66 Splash Pad and Joe Pollock Field.

In other matters, Mayor Bless Parker's nomination to appoint Sloane Arana to the Miami Public Library Board, replacing Nancy Gee (term to expire July 18, 2023), was approved, as was the nomination to appoint Parker to the Miami Community Facilities Authority (MCFA) to replace Rudy Schultz.

The meeting was continued in executive session to discuss the city manager position and negotiations concerning the International Association of Firefighters Local #1969.