City votes to launch TIF in Cushing

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By Jim Perry

Managing Editor
A semantics issue?
Or a real, down-to-earth confrontation?
Either way, the Cushing Board of Commissioners on Monday voted to approve a general policy for a tax increment district — TIF — in Cushing.
Commissioners, along with advocate Marilyn Duff and Cushing Economic Developer David Hinkle, discussed the policy for nearly an hour during a meeting that lasted about two hours.
They voted 4-1 in favor. Commissioner Brent Thompson cast the lone dissenting vote.
Thompson from the outset had questions for City Attorney Jonathan Huseman regarding the policy and its 20 standards. Most, Huseman said, were “word for word” along with state statutes. Others, he said, were added after discussion with the Batchelor Law Firm of Oklahoma City.
Two points of the 20, those on hand said, created problems. Nos. 7h and 20 were similar in reading.
No. 7h: “There must be a specific development plan in place for each project before any approval is granted by the Commission.”
No. 20: “Any TIF district proposal should not be approved unless there is a specific development project proposal; any such development proposal (or application for individual projects) should encompass the entire district (or individual project if an individual applicant) and include cost estimates, plan (blueprints, etc.), and impact estimates.”
None of the other standards drew attention.
“The seventh one and the 20th one contradict one another,” Commissioner Terry Brannon said.
“We promise nothing,” Duff said. “But if we don’t start soon, we’re going to lose downtown.”
Commission Chairman Don Amon, after considerable discussion, said he thought, “This is a semantics issue. Whatever we want can be put in there.”
The TIF district targeted most is for downtown Cushing. The action taken Monday was “a first step according to state law,” according to City Manager Steve Spears.
“Is this for one TIF or any TIFs,” Thompson asked.
Duff, before commissioners voted, asked if the two standards could be omitted. She answered her own question.
“They really should not be in there but if they must, let’s go on with it.”
Duff has worked on the TIF proposal for more than two years.
The five-member panel — all were present — unanimously voted to accept the 2016-16 audit, as presented by Chuck Crooks from CBEW Professional Group.
The board also approved a professional service agreement with BDB Engineering for crack-and-seal upgrades to runways at Cushing Regional Airport. Commissioners also voted to remove and replace various taxiways.
The board also:
—Voted to change fees at Cushing Youth and Community Center.
Spears said fees have not been changed in more than 25 years. The annual rates of $30 for adults — 18 to 54 — will increase to $40, $15 for seniors — 55 and older — will increase to $20, teens — 13-17 — will bump up from $15 to $20, and children 12 and younger from $2 to $5.
Fees, Spears said, are about one-third of the youth center’s annual budget.
Commissioners also approved an ordinance calling for $50 of each alcohol-related fine or deferral fee to be set aside for use by law enforcement.
“For overtime for staffing during compliance checks ... that sort of thing,” Police Chief Tully Folden said.
Also approved was an ordinance prohibiting the removal of traffic-control devices.