NORMAN — In 2008, Norman voters were asked to add a half-percent municipal sales levy to their taxable purchases in order to increase the number of police officers and firefighters and build two new fire stations.
Nearly all of the additional 41 police officers have been hired and are being trained with a community policing philosophy. Simply put: More officers means each will have more time to get to know and help solve neighborhood and business district problems in their assigned patrol areas.
A successful Citizens Police Academy now has waiting lists of candidates for new classes. Engaging the community through the academy and regular contact helps officers become pro-active in crime prevention.
The tax, known as PSST (Public Safety Sales Tax), was approved 8,301 to 4,307 in 2008. Collections began but the national recession dampened our hopes that the tax could remain temporary. The tax was to expire in September of 2015.
As promised to voters, Fire Stations No. 8 and No. 9 have opened and are fully staffed. Response times in northwest and east Norman have been shortened with the opening of the new stations.
Additional PSST money has been used to remodel the Smalley Center for police and fire investigations as well as additional public safety equipment. The PSST II renewal would retain the PSST I police officers and firefighters, add 13 school resource officers, 4 dispatchers and 2 mechanics.
Additionally, it would allow the city to invest in a new emergency communications system that eliminates “dead zones” and allows all departments to talk to each other. The tornadoes in our county last year highlighted those “dead spots.” A new Fire Station No. 5 and new fire apparatus are also part of the PSST II proposal.
The Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the tax after initially seeking an August rather than April vote.
Voters on Tuesday are being asked to make that tax permanent. We believe that the prudent stewardship of the funds, with continued guidance by the council and a strong citizens public safety oversight committee, warrants a yes vote.
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