The Norman Transcript

March 13, 2013

City council gives nod to system upgrade

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Kids playing rec sports in city parks will be a little bit safer during stormy weather in the future.

The Norman City Council approved a $70,665 purchase from WXLINE for new lightning detection systems for Griffin, Reaves and Westwood parks.

Parks Director Jud Foster told city council members that replacing parts on the existing systems had become difficult because of the age of those systems.

Council members approved funding in this year’s budget for the replacement of current lightning detection and warning systems installed in 2000 at the parks, according to city staff notes. These systems monitor atmospheric conditions and automatically sound warnings when storm conditions become unsafe. The old systems had become unreliable and obsolete.

“During any given athletic season, there are hundreds of people at these parks, out in the open,” according to staff notes.

According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, lightning can strike up to 10 miles from a thunderstorm.

“All thunderstorms produce lightning, and each lightning strike is a potential killer,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service, in a press release issued to Little League.

NOAA said that about 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the United States each year. According to U.S. Youth Soccer, about 400 children and adults in the U.S. are struck by lightning annually.

Requests for proposals and other research indicates that the WXLINE proposal is the lowest cost available.

Council members also approved $53,580 to provide fleet management service analysis.

Norman owns and operates a fleet of 855 vehicles and equipment, with an annual operating cost of $5 million, according to city staff reports. The average fleet age is 9.9 years, and fewer than 30 vehicles are being replaced each year. An internal management audit indicated that the service analysis will provide vital information on what the most cost-effective options will be for the future of Norman’s fleet management.

Council member Dave Spaulding questioned whether city staff might be better equipped to do the analysis in-house.

“We are creatures of habit, and the programs and replacement programs we use to manage the fleet here in Norman have been developed over the last 20 or 30 years and are very entrenched,” Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said. “We’ve got to find news ways of doing things.”

O’Leary said firms like Mercury do this for a living and bring a fresh set of eyes and minds to help craft solutions that would fit Norman. O’Leary said current practices are not sustainable long term and city staff needs help thinking beyond current practices.

The council also approved $44,800 to Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon and Williams Inc. for design and consultant services for the council chamber’s audio visual upgrade.

Council member Greg Jungman voted “no” on renewing a plat for St. James Place, a proposed subdivision between State Highway 9 and Cedar Lane, just west of Classen Boulevard. The preliminary plat had expired. Jungman made the “no” vote as a stand against approving plats while Norman remains under a water crisis. Developers said build-out will occur over a decade. 

In other city business, developers of the University North Park presented a map of ongoing development and a proposal for an “iconic tower” visible from Interstate 35 and from Robinson at the entry to the Legacy Park town center. Development partner Robert Collett made the presentation during the non-voting city council study session.


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