The Norman Transcript

March 30, 2014

Tuesday’s vote could cement Public Safety Sales Tax

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Norman voters will have the opportunity to make the Public Safety Sales tax permanent on Tuesday.

The tax is not new. If approved, it will continue at the same one-half percent and it will continue to be designated for public safety use. The original tax was approved by Norman voters in 2008 as a temporary tax and supports 71 fire and police positions.

Feedback from the community to the Norman City Council was that we should not fund permanent public safety jobs with a temporary tax.

The tax will also support several designated capital improvement projects including a high priority communications systems for fire, police and other emergency responders.

“We sat down and figured out in detail what our priorities were and No. 1 is the radio system,” said Norman Police Chef Keith Humphrey. “Our radio system is coming to an end of life in 2018. After that date, Motorola won’t sell any more parts for that system.”

The renewed tax would also support four emergency dispatchers and two emergency vehicle mechanics, but dispatchers need the right equipment to do their jobs, Humphrey said.

“We need a system that provides coverage for 196 and a half square miles for public safety response,” he said. “Our current system has two towers. We need a system with five to six towers that provides that coverage. Since the implementation of that first system, our city has grown. We have more calls for service and it’s very taxing on our system.”

If renewed by voters the PSST will also support 13 school resource police officers.

“Half the police departments in the nation have officers assigned to schools,” Humphrey said. “The school resource officer is not a new program nationally, but it’s a needed program in Norman.

This program will enhance the safety of Norman Public Schools.”

There are 23 schools in the school district. Having officers with permanent assignments at the high schools and middle schools along with officers who will serve as rovers at the elementary schools will greatly increase the amount of proactive involvement between officers and students.

“It’s a cost share program between the school district and the city,” Humphrey said. “We believe this new program will add more coverage for all of the schools. The overall goal of the program is safety.”

These officers will work in other locations when school is not in session, but they will have special training to deal with the school setting. SROs characteristically develop strong bonds with students and school staff.

“The officers will be strategically selected and placed. The selection process will be a joint process with the school system,” Humphrey said.

Both sides in the debate began robo-calling voters Saturday afternoon. The “yes” votes came from a phone bank in Owasso and the “No” votes came from Oklahoma City. Former Mayor Harold Haralson taped the “no” message.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for the election which includes city council candidates from wards 2, 4 and 6.

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.

Joy Hampton

366-3544

jhampton@

normantranscript.com

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