The Edmond Sun

October 11, 2011

Voters say yes to Public Safety Center

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — After years of public discussion and debate, Edmond voters overwhelmingly approved a half-cent sales tax Tuesday to build a $25.5 million Public Safety Center.

“Yeah, we were able to get it done!” said former mayor Patrice Douglas, now a corporation commissioner. Supporters of the safety center ballot initiative formed a watch party Tuesday evening at the Kivlehen House on North Jackson.

“It’s just a wonderful tribute to the men and women of the Edmond Police Department — the confidence that voters have placed in them — realizing that even in these tough economic times, they were willing to put a tax upon themselves to put a new facility for our officers,” Police Chief Bob Ricks said.

A public safety center will be designed to combine the Edmond Police Department with Central Communications and Emergency Management into a new 75,000-square-foot building.

With all 31 precincts reporting, 3,339 voters, or 73.07 percent, approved Proposition No. 1, which enacts the five-year half-cent sales tax. There were 1,452 votes, or 26.93 percent, against the proposition, according to the Oklahoma County Election Board.

Edmond’s sales tax will remain lower than the sales tax rates of neighboring communities by increasing to a rate of 8.25 percent. The half-cent sales tax will have a sunset provision, according to the ballot.

Voters also approved Proposition No. 2 to allow the city to loan itself money out of the $7.2 million Hospital Trust Fund with an improved return of investment on that trust fund. The yes votes totaled 4,105, or 76.86 percent in favor, with 1,236 no votes, or 23.14 percent of the vote.

Edmond voters in 2008 rejected a property tax city leaders sought to pay for what was then proposed as a $31.5 million Public Safety Center facility. At that time, they voted 24,121 against the property tax, with 15,268 voters in favor, which was also the same day as the presidential general election.

The City Council listened to what Edmond residents told them during the 2008 vote, said David Miller, city councilman.

“We came back and fixed it. Now we just need to prove ourselves and do what we said we were going to do,” Miller said. “… I can’t wait to get started.”

Miller will travel to Chicago with Assistant Police Chief Steve Thompson for a seminar on designing a public safety center.

“It’s a long time waiting for an opportunity to meet a gaping hole in how we do business. As you can see I have a big smile on my face right now,” said Matt Stillwell, director of Central Communications and Emergency Management.

City Councilman Charles Lamb said he looks forward to the challenge of moving forward with the project. This will involve working with an architect to select the best downtown location on city-owned property.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Waner said she would like to see the council move quickly with hiring an architect so that construction can move forward as soon as possible.

“Interested bidders would need to be ready to go and step up and give it their best,” Waner said.

Former Mayor Saundra Naifeh said the wide margin of yes votes meant that Edmond residents realize how important the safety center is to the future of the community.

“I think, ‘What a great day for Edmond,’” Naifeh said. “We are not only going to be top in the nation as a suburb, we’re the safest and we’re staying that way.”

City Manager Larry Stevens said the city staff appreciates and will validate the trust voters have in their community.

“I think people trust us to do the right thing,” Stevens said.

Miller said the construction of the Public Safety Center also will be a psychological boost for the Edmond economy.

“Anytime you see construction going on, that makes everyone think you’re doing well,” Miller said. “My dad used to say, ‘If you go to a city and you see cranes in the air, you know the economy is good.’”

Tuesday was a winning night for Edmond, said Ken Moore, president and CEO of the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a needed facility for police, for communications, for emergency management,” Moore said. | 341-2121, ext. 114