McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

January 30, 2014

City officials offer preview of future

Ada — In 2011, the Ada City Council decided to take a more active role in mapping out the city’s future.

The council directed the city manager to take several steps aimed at making Ada a better community, including promoting economic development and making the city more attractive to businesses. Other goals included streamlining daily operations, eliminating waste and improving communication with Ada residents.

Three years later, the city has achieved some of those goals and is working on others, said Mayor Greg McCortney.

“They were huge goals,” he said. “They are not one-year goals; they’re really not three-year goals. We have some things done; there are some things we’re still pushing towards. But this is where we’re going.”

McCortney and City Manager Cody Holcomb gave the audience an overview of past accomplishments and a preview of future projects during a legislative lunch Thursday at the Industrial Training Center. The event was hosted by the Ada Area Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals of Ada.

City officials have made strides toward reaching their goals since the council issued its statement three  years ago, McCortney said. He said the city is more likely to finish the projects it starts, communication with residents has improved and the relationship between the council and city staff is stronger.

“We get along better,” he said. “We work together better. We move forward better than I thought we would.”

While McCortney focused on the city’s progress over the past three years, Holcomb filled in the details of current and future projects. He started with the city’s budget, which provides a spending plan for the next fiscal year.

Holcomb said the city has a $60 million budget, which relies heavily on sales tax dollars. He noted that May’s sales tax figures declined by 4.5 percent, and they dropped by 2 percent in July.

Sales tax collections continued to fluctuate throughout the year. Collections rose by 4 percent, but September’s figures were down by 17 percent. October’s collections were about 1.6 percent higher than normal, and November’s figures rose by 10 percent.

Holcomb said city officials are eager to see how the Chamber’s recent “Shop Ada” campaign, which encouraged residents to patronize local stores, affected December’s sales tax numbers.

“We’ll see the proof in the pudding here in about another month of that effort,” he said. “I think that’s something we need to continue to do, because the sales tax is very, very important to the core services that the city provides to our customers.”

He said city officials will focus on quality-of-life issues in planning the budget for fiscal year 2014-15, but they will also evaluate employees’ wages and look at ways to reduce turnover.

Holcomb said officials have several projects  on their plate for 2014, including an affordable-housing study. He said the city is evaluating proposals from three firms interested in conducting the study, which will look at Ada’s current housing supply and the obstacles that prevent people from living here.

“How do we create a program that targets the folks that want to live here but can’t?” Holcomb said. “That is something that is under way, and we are already having conversations with all of those players and trying to find out what their needs are, what their concerns are. Because we have to put them on the table and then come up with solutions that can address them.”

One of the city’s projects for 2014 is a comprehensive plan that will provide a road map for future growth. The city is currently developing the plan, which will provide a framework for the council’s spending decisions.

 

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