MIAMI — Mayor Bless Parker read a statement he had prepared during the regular meeting of the Miami city council Tuesday evening that addressed the ongoing issues the city is experiencing over how it handled electric bills in light of the effects COVID-19 had on the community and people’s ability to make payments.

“I have been the mayor for just over 100 days now. We have passed a few new ordinances and hired an outstanding new city manager, but I have higher expectations. And I have learned that Miami can only be successful if everyone works together — and that the wheels of city government move slowly,” Parker said.

“I have given a lot of thought to the July electric bills and how the situation was handled. As a city, we handled it poorly from the beginning. We weren’t transparent with the community, causing profound mistrust. And that mistrust has snowballed until we currently find ourselves in a tough spot. For us to be successful as a community we have to trust one another,” Parker continued. “I am asking the city to be as transparent as humanly possible and to communicate openly with the citizens of Miami. Our service to our customers and community has to be exceptional. If more customer service training is needed, then we need to provide that training.”

Parker went on to say that Miami is “open for business” and, when city officials go out to try and recruit businesses and industries, those businesses and industries will do their research.

If they see division between the city and the community, it could cost Miami the opportunity to bring them in.

“So I’m going to ask our city attorney to set up a citizens advisory board made up of community members and city council members where we will work together to improve our communication and partnership. The people voted me in and I am here to represent the people,” Parker said.

He continued: “Even if you don’t trust the city right now, I’m asking you to trust me. I’m asking you to give me the time to help make the changes that have to be made for us to move forward as a community. Change is hard and it upsets some people, but if we don’t start the change today it might be too late. Change is coming; I will not allow us to stay on our current path. It’s not working and, frankly, hasn’t worked for years. I’m asking all of you to join me in saving our community and fighting for our future.”

Some of the other council members voiced appreciation for Parker’s input and said, “For those that don’t know Mayor Parker — his intentions are genuine and there isn’t a bigger fan of this town.”

In other matters, the council approved memorandums of understanding for the use of city facilities for sports and recreation activities, pending the submission of insurance and food handlers’ permits, by the Northeast Oklahoma Soccer Association, Miami Area Little League Baseball, Miami Area Girls Softball and the Youth Athletic Development Foundation (flag football).

Chuck McKibben, Recreation Coordinator for the city, and Amanda Davis, Executive Director of the Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau / Tourism, presented information to the council, with McKibben stating that the memorandum is routine and basically the same as it has always been.

"We will have to make a change to the contract with Miami Area Little League Baseball because their president resigned and it has been decided that the Youth Athletic Development Foundation will take that league’s operations over," McKibben said.

A request for the waiver of a rental and use and advertising agreement policy for the four organizations was denied after some council members felt the rules should be the same for everyone and not waived on a case-by-case basis.

The council also awarded a Variable Flow Refrigerant System purchase and installation contract for the library facility's heating system to McIntosh at a cost of $311,108, contingent upon the submission of all required documents and engineer's approval of drawings and design, and the interim city manager or his designee’s signature.

The council had previously approved the expenditure, it was noted, and this vote was to approve the actual contract with McIntosh.

Justin Hilgenberg with the city explained that the library is currently without heat due to boiler issues and that, under this contract, the boiler will be removed and replaced.

They will be able to use existing ductwork, which will save the city time and money, and the estimated time to completion is approximately three months, during which time the library will be open and functional.

In other matters, the council approved the mayor's nomination to re-appoint Amy Ishmael to the Board of Adjustment (term to expire Oct. 15, 2023), to appoint Robert Ferguson to the City Zoning & Planning Commission (term to expire Oct. 15, 2023), and to appoint Shannon Duhon to the Miami Recreation, Tourism, Convention and Visitors Advisory Board (term to expire June 30, 2021), replacing Morgan Bussey.