January 15, 2014

New buisnesses could be on Chickasha horiozon

James Bright, Managing Editor,
The Express-Star


Chickasha's city council met Monday night in a work session Council Member Howard Carpenter called the most enjoyable in recent memory. 

Carpenter credited Chickasha Economic Development Council President Christy Elkins comments on a plethora of possible new businesses as the reason for the meeting's jovial tone. 

"We have several feasibility studies involving restaurants and big box stores going on right now," said Elkins. "There are so many retail entities ready to come in and we have a developer looking at building a new shopping center." 

Elkins said industrial businesses are looking at the city as well, including some that are interested in the Chickasha Airport. 

"Originally we lost that project, but it's back on now," said Elkins. 

New apartments and a housing division are also well underway, according to Elkins. Plans to build a large truck stop, which could potentially include a 24-hour restaurant are in development too. 

"If this goes through it will create a lot of new money," said Elkins. "This won't be recirculation. It will be a wealth of new sales tax dollars." 

City Manager Stuart Fairburn said he and Elkins discussed at length how to address increasing sales tax revenue for Chickasha over the last year. He said the three primary areas of business are industrial primary jobs, housing and retail. The debate stemmed from which area to attack first, but recently he and Elkins have adopted a new methodology to broadening Chickasha's business horizons. 

"We said 'Screw it, we need them all,' so we may as well go for all three," said Fairburn. "Economic development is the key to sustainability for any city." 

The business discussion stemmed from the council's interest in next year's budget. Fairburn said the city has seen positive sales tax numbers over the last three months, but that's not a reason to start spending money. 

"Over the last three years we have seen the sales tax dollars go up and down pretty rapidly," said Fairburn. 

Grady County announced they are looking at a possible 1/4 cent sales tax, which would be allocated toward fire services. Vice Mayor J. E. Epperson said he was told if passed, some of the revenue from that tax would go to the municipalities, which could aid in paying for the city's fire budget. 

Fairburn said although possible, that tax could create havoc for the city in the future. 

"We go out for a continuation or a new sales tax it could be difficult to pass with this one floating around," said Fairburn. 

In the post recession era, Fairburn said the city will need to look at staffing levels, alternative revenue sources and departmental efficiency to meet budgetary goals. 

With this in mind, the council looked at changing some municipal court fees and fines last night. 

"We would let the (municipal) judge look at our current rates and come up with a plan of action," said Fairburn. "Some will be left as is, others can be lowered and some can be raised." 

Possible land purchases were also discussed during the meeting. 

Fairburn said two plots are being offered to the city at a cost of $2,500 each. 

Council Member Mike Sutterfield said he doesn't believe either property is worth the requested amount. He said he would vote no for anything more than $1,500. 

Council Member Ryan Posey said he saw the possibility of using the properties for retail upon purchase. 

"We are trying to obtain lousy areas and make them buildable (sic) for interested parties," said Fairburn. 

The council also looked at a Park Master Plan, which outlined specific instructions on what each park within the city needs. 

Fairburn said the analysis system in Chickasha found there are not enough parks for the city's population. 

"We have too much spillover and too many people who are only utilizing Shannon Springs Park," said Fairburn. 

The council will review the possible addition of trails in certain areas and how to allocate money to parks from capitol improvement dollars. 

"Most of the park projects will be rehabilitation, but we would definitely like to add a few," said Fairburn. 

A resolution to accept the plan will be organized for a future vote.