The Norman Transcript

March 29, 2014

City votes on Public Safety Sales Tax

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Early voting concluded with 135 voters Friday and 86 on Thursday, according to election board officials. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday for the Norman Municipal Election, which includes a proposition to renew the Public Safety Sales Tax.

Originally approved as a temporary sales tax in 2008, the PSST supports 71 police and fire positions. If renewed, the tax will continue to support those positions, as well as 19 additional positions. The renewed tax also would pay for fire trucks and apparatus and the relocation of Fire Station No. 5.

“At the current Fire Station No. 5 the facility is inadequate for housing the needed firefighters and equipment,” Fire Chief James Fullingim said. “The station currently is one mile inside the city limits of Norman. We believe the community will be better served to make the fire station more centrally located for responding in rural east Norman.”

The temporary tax already funded two energy efficient fire stations. Fifteen firefighters now call Fire Station No. 9 on Alameda Street east of 24th Avenue Southeast their part-time home. The $3.7 million building has many LEED certified components. Solar tubes provide free-energy lighting in the offices, and the facility uses geothermal heat and air.

“We did not have funding for these two fire stations,” said Mayor Cindy Rosenthal of No. 8 and No. 9. “If we didn’t have this Public Safety Sales tax we would have had to bring a bond before voters. It would not have been

possible to build these in this time frame.”

The east side of Norman along Alameda Street and down to Highway 9 has experienced strong growth, Rosenthal said. Need determines the placement of fire stations.

The PSST renewal would also fund an emergency communications system and a facility for emergency operations and dispatch.

“This will be a hardened facility,” Fullingim said. “If a tornado hits, it won’t hurt it.”

Key city leadership in charge of public utilities, emergency management and other core city services could set up a command post at this facility in case of a disaster, but the facility and the communications operation will be crucial for day to day operations as well. The new communications system will provide badly needed coverage for the expanding city.

“The current radio system does not provide adequate coverage during disasters, particularly in rural parts of Norman,” Fullingim said. “In many disasters, the system becomes overloaded and fails.”

If approved by voters, the Public Safety Sales Tax will continue at one-half percent on a permanent basis.

City council candidates in even numbered wards are up for election this year.

In Ward 2 candidates are: Gary Caissie, Aleisha Karjala, Matthew Leal and Clint Williams. In Ward 4 candidates are: Bill Hickman, Rhett Michael Jones and Greg Jungman. Ward 6 has two candidates: Jim Griffith and Jerry Lang.

State law requires voters to prove identity before voting. Voters without ID may cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are counted after election day if the voter’s information can be verified by the county election board.

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