While many are preparing to celebrate the beginning of a new year, the City of Ardmore has reached the halfway mark in its fiscal year. And to date, it has been a good year.
In November, voters approved a ½-cent sales tax that will allow the city to begin much needed improvements on its infrastructure. The city has also enjoyed increased sales tax revenue in four of the first five months of the fiscal year.
Given its good fortune, city officials are determined to continue to serve residents to their utmost ability. In January or early February, commissioners will attend an annual retreat and review what has taken place and update current goals.
Among the key conversation pieces will be the sewer infrastructure project, which will be funded through the sales tax.
“We are still working on a lot of the groundwork,” J.D. Spohn, Ardmore City Manager, said. “We will start work on the project early next year. We want to focus on the framework of the city and upgrades. The sewer basin is the majority of that and will involve 10 of the 14 basins.” The city received approval of a loan from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for the project in the amount of $8.7 million in November.
Another key item for Spohn is for the city to preserve the trust citizens have shown in city government.
“We want to preserve that confidence and trust,” he said. “ We try to be transparent and invite citizen input. I don’t see it as an issue, but it has always been one of our goals and we can always improve.” As mentioned, the city is benefiting from increased sales tax re venue and Spohn finds it important to promote a sustainable financial model. He noted that city projections for sales tax revenue is conservative and is pleased with early returns. But that is only part of the picture.
“I think when we get our six month financial statement, we can see how well we have done,” Spohn said. “I think we are doing pretty well with the goals we have set." In looking to the new year, the city is focused on expanding economic development initiatives.
In September, the commissioners approved an amendment to the Tax Rebate Agreement, which was one of the last steps needed to facilitate the remodeling project at Mountain View Mall. The remodel will include two new retail stores, one of which would be TJ Maxx.
In terms of expanding the tax base, the city has the addition of eateries to look forward to. Currently, plans are cemented for the addition of two new restaurants. The Rib Crib will be coming to Ardmore and will be located at Ardmore Commons. Also coming to Ardmore will be Chicken Express, which will be located at Mountain View Mall, in front of J.C. Penny, next to Burger King.
Spohn said residents of the city will benefit from the addition of Southwest Park, which is currently under construction. The park was an example of citizens coming together, seeing a need and acting on it.
"There was a group of citizens that saw a need and raised funds," Spohn said.
Spohn also said the city continues to work toward keeping existing facilities top-notch.
The other area of emphasis for the city continues to be ensuring safety and protection for the residents of Ardmore.
"Chief (Keith) Mann has made a concerted effort on gang and drug issues. We want our citizens to feel safe. We feel Ardmore is a great place to live." One item Spohn and commissioners would like to see added is a ladder truck for the Ardmore Fire Department. The truck would be placed at Fire Station 3 and would replace an existing truck. The city would like to use funds generated from the county fire department sales tax, which has expired, for the purchase of the truck.
"There is a lot of commercial development in that area and our existing truck is old," Spohn says. "It makes sense to have a multi-purpose truck. We have requested one from the county and it has not been approved yet. We plan on visiting with the commissioners to see what can be done in that area."