As 2017 comes to an end, here are a few changes, projects and improvements that happened this year in the City of Altus.
In August, the City of Altus working with Hokett Construction of Blair completed work on A Street. The project included chipping out the patched-up potholes and filling them with rock to level them with the existing road and add a two-inch overlay to smooth out the road and offer commuters an easy drive from Grady Street to Park Avenue.
In November, railroad signals were added to the train tracks on Navajoe Street at what had been a blind crossing — surrounded by houses on both sides — for many years. Those tracks separate traffic traveling to and from Altus Primary School and Altus Junior High as well as traffic for the City of Altus Parks and Recreation facilities and Cole Heights Park. The project cost the Oklahoma Department of Transportation $200,000 and cost the City of Altus nothing, but the process of securing funding involved a lengthy application and approval process, according to Street Director Chad Osbourne.
The Street Department project on Carver Road was a cooperative effort of the City of Altus and Jackson County. The road is split between both entities, and their joint effort made the project possible as neither had the ability to complete it on its own. With the City of Altus providing the manpower and Jackson County providing materials, the one-mile section of Carver Road was grated and sealed in October. City Council approved payment to Jackson County Dec. 11 for the cost of materials at a total of $112,396.04, well under the $150,000 budgeted for the project.
The final payment was approved by the Altus Municipal Authority Dec. 11 to HCCCo, LLC of Tulsa in the amount of $420,837.10 for phase two of the Altus Water Treatment Plant Improvement project. The project began in 2015 for various plant improvements including the rebuilding of clarifiers, replacement of valves and controls for filters, and a new pre-treatment system for the reverse osmosis treatment facility. Specifically, the Authority plans to install a new mechanical bar screen, replace existing pumps, modify the existing aeration basin influent distribution box, replace equipment in the existing clarifier and construct a new clarifier, a new auxiliary return activated sludge pump station, new ultraviolet effluent disinfection system, replace bypass pond pumps, replace existing plant control system, miscellaneous structures, piping, and electrical work and other minor plant work.
The Altus Municipal Authority received approval for an $11 million loan Wednesday from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to improve the Authority’s wastewater and metering infrastructure. Construction of upgrades and improvements to the infrastructure will be financed by the Oklahoma Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
The City of Altus had a rate study conducted to determine how electric rates are affecting the city’s budget. An amendment to the electric rates in the Code of Ordinances, Chapter 28 was made in November. The rates will increase by small increments through 2022 unless the rate plan is changed again in the next five years. The current electric rate as of September 2017 the city charges a $31.43 per customer monthly charge with $0.10537 per kilowatt-hour charge for utilities used beyond that initial charge for residential customers. For now, those rates won’t change until January 2018 when the electric rate will increase to a $32.37 per customer monthly charge with $0.1085 per kilowatt-hour charged for utilities. The amendment also creates rates for solar power of $42.08 for residential customers,$48.24 for small commercial customers and $82.39 for large commercial customers.
The City of Altus released a statement in October stating that it does not currently have bulk trash removal service and waived the 1,500-pound limit that can be discarded for free at the landfill with an Altus utility bill and personal identification. The City of Altus hired two contractors for bulk trash pickup in November. The City of Altus is also looking at the possibility of doing bulk trash pickup service themselves.
In March, an amendment to the Code of Ordinances removed Animal Control from the Altus Police Department’s supervision and allowed the city manager to determine who should supervise staff and operations. Supervision was taken over by the City Manager’s office under the direction of Assistant City Manager Matt Wojinowski.
The Outdoor Kennel Match Program was launched in February in response to a need at the Animal Shelter for more and better outdoor kennels that would give animals time outdoors while shelter staff cleaned their indoor shelters. The Animal Shelter set a goal to have enough funds for 20 kennels. Fifty percent of funds raised in the program were to be matched by the Altus Animal Shelter. At $300 a piece, the city was poised to match $150 for every $150 raised toward the purchase of an outdoor kennel. In less than a month, they almost doubled their goal. On Dec. 6, the donors were honored at the City Council meeting and a plaque with their names was hung at the Altus Animal Shelter.
Beginning in 2018, the Altus City Council and Municipal Authority will meet once a month on the first Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Altus Municipal Complex at 509 S. Main St. in Altus. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Jan. 2 at 6 p.m.
An amendment ordinance to provide a record retention schedule and a process by which open records may be requested, including fees for those records, was approved by City Council in December. Requesters must submit a request to the City Clerk-Treasurer. Fees for copies are 25 cents per page for standard copies and $1 for certified copies. A search fee will be charged equal to the hourly wage of the person performing the search if the request is solely for commercial purposes or would cause excessive disruption to that person’s normal duties.
An amendment repealing Chapter 5, Article IV which made the city limits of Altus as a bird sanctuary was made in November. With the amendment to the article, residents will be able to trap, catch, and hunt birds — depending on where they’re located — though discharging firearms is still prohibited within city limits.
Metropolitan Area Projects, or MAPS, was a sales tax voted on by Altus citizens in 2008. Since then, the City of Altus has set aside those MAPS funds for projects such as the Senior Activity Center and Central Fire Station — two projects currently in progress.
Groundbreaking on the Senior Activity Center at the Dr. Morris Foster Library took place in March. Though the project is nearly completed, a grand opening date has not been set. The building, formerly the Altus High School library, will hold a renovated senior activity center with handicap parking, an industrial kitchen and activity area planned by Joe D. Hall General Contractors of Elk City.
The Altus Fire and Rescue Central Station project began Nov. 3, 2015, when the Altus City Council awarded a contract to Boynton Williams and Associates Architects of Norman to design the new Central Fire Station. A contract with Joe D. Hall of Elk City was approved by the council Dec. 15, 2015, since then, final design plans and specifications were issued, the council authorized Joe D. Hall to advertise construction bids based on an estimated construction cost of $6.9 million and bids were received by the City of Altus. Joe D. Hall Representative Chris Richeson told the City Council Dec. 6 that Altus Sand and Gravel and Thompson Electric of Altus and several other contractors out of Lawton were chosen to work on the Central Fire Station, and are ready to begin as soon as possible, weather permitting.