Commissioner Bill Baker talks plans for second term
Carter County Commissioner for District 2 Bill Baker won his reelection last week securing over 65% of the vote. This will be Baker’s second term in office, and he outlined some of his plans for the upcoming four years.
Baker began by discussing some of the ongoing work currently taking place in the County. One road project is currently under construction and another will begin by the end of the year. They are also focusing on improving some of the roads that have received heavy oilfield traffic, and they are continuing to work with engineering and insurance companies on the SOWC waterline damage on Stockton Road.
One project he would like to see in the upcoming term would be a County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) Program for Prairie Valley Road. Through CIRB projects, federal funds are distributed to the state. The state supplies the funds and engineering services to the county, and the road will be built to Oklahoma Department of Transportation specifications.
“Prairie Valley Road feeds more people into Ardmore than any other county maintained road,” Baker said. “I’ve made that statement a couple of times in the presence of the other commissioners and nobody has ever said anything different, so I think we universally agree on that.”
Baker said the economic growth along the road will likely increase traffic more in the future and highlighted the new Oklahoma National Guard Armory and the Chickasaw Nation Laundry facility as examples.
“One of the things that’s concerning about Prairie Valley Road is the amount of drop-off on the edge, which has to do with the amount of right of way that you have,” Baker said. “With CIRB projects they can come in and purchase the additional right of way and then engineer the road. It can take some time to get those projects done, but quite frankly those projects result in a product for the people of the county that the county by itself could not afford to build.”
Baker said just because he submits the project for consideration for CIRB, does not necessarily mean it will be accepted, however he is hopeful that will come to pass.
Some projects that will definitely be coming will be new asphalt and chip seal on county roads.
“We’ve got a couple things on our radar for the next couple of years where we’ll do some county-paid-for asphalt, and we’re taking the steps to do more mileage in chip seal,” Baker said.
He said the popular student intersection mowing program will also continue. The program allows high school students to mow and help take care of county intersections under the supervision of the county. He described it as a win-win situation for everyone.
“It’s gotten to be very popular with the kids, and it’s good for the constituents too,” Baker said. “It helps us by freeing up some of our manpower, and it gives the kids a couple things. For one, they get a chance to see that you don’t just make things up as you go, there are rules you have to play by, and then it helps them in the future by giving them a great reference.”
Baker acknowledged the coming challenges that will be brought by the decrease in revenue caused by the drop in oil prices and reduced tax revenue brought about by COVID-19 and said he will be closely monitoring spending.
“Spending is something that we’re really going to have to look at,” Baker said. “I’ve always had a model for how I like to purchase, so I like to know exactly where we’re at and what we already have. We’re going to have to look at the amount of revenue coming in and work according to that. That’s why CIRB projects are so important to the county.”