The Norman Transcript

November 14, 2012

Planning contract awarded

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Council approves $300,000 for transportation strategy

The Norman City Council approved a contract with Freese and Nichols for $300,000 for the development of a Comprehensive Transportation Plan this week. The plan will guide the city in the implementation of long-range corridor and transportation planning with multi-modal options.

Council members approved the contract 8-1, with Roger Gallagher voting against it.

The item was originally on the consent docket, a section of the city council agenda that allows for quick passage of a number of routine items without debate.

Council members asked that the contract be moved to the regular agenda, however, to allow for deeper discussion. At the heart of the issue were changes that had been made to the contract following input by Harold Heiple, the attorney who represents the Norman Developers Council.

The new proposed contract had reduced the number of public meetings and had shifted certain work details to Norman city staff. In addition to these changes, the new contract was $22,000 less.

Council members said they had not had time to review the changed contract fully, however, and some pushed for postponement.

“When the item was taken off the agenda at the last council meeting, I was able to have a very constructive meeting with the city manager and the director of public works about the scope of work — not the contract, but the scope of work,” Heiple said. “We need, in this town, a transportation study and we need to get it under way.”

Heiple said he favored adoption of either one of the contracts and urged the council to move forward.

After some debate, the council adopted the original $300,000 contract.

The lack of a comprehensive plan has, in certain situations, resulted in work to add turn lanes or upgrade an intersection because no tool for long-term planning was in place.

“The number of times we’ve rebuilt some of these intersections could have paid for this plan,” Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said.

The contract calls for Freese and Nichols to work with the city to create guiding principles, goals and objectives. An assessment of the existing transportation system and current and future system needs will be aided by public surveys.

Freese and Nichols will forecast transportation conditions and develop a plan and prioritization as well as policies and programs. The final stages will be implementation and documentation.

City Council member Tom Kovach, who made the motion to adopt the original contract said he was concerned that a public meeting had been removed and some of the work listed in the original contract was being shifted to city staff.

While staff has the skillset to perform certain aspects of the work, Kovach said shifting that burden to them puts too much on an already full plate.

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