City Council meeting

Residents attend a Norman City Council budget meeting in July at city hall.

Norman will soon have two vans to transport unhoused people to services.

Tuesday, city council members unanimously voted to spend $318,158 to purchase two Dodge Promaster vans.

The money for purchase comes out of $500,000 set aside from the general fund in December for crisis response.

The purchase was approved in connection with two Homebase studies and studies through the University of Oklahoma’s Zarrow School of Social Work that identified transportation as a prominent need for Norman’s unhoused population.

The Zarrow study ranked the need for transportation resources 4.5 out of 5, according to a city staff report.

While Ward 1 councilor Brandi Studley spoke to the need for transportation, she noted the cost of the vans, which will be powered by natural gas, is “pretty high.”

“We had experience buying these from state contracts before, from the state transit program,” said Taylor Johnson, city transit and parking manager.

City attorney Kathryn Walker noted that the city charter prohibits officials from buying vehicles from dealers to be used for city business.

Studley expressed concerns that unhoused people who use the vans wouldn’t be able to store their belongings because the natural gas storage area would take up too much space in the back.

Johnson said guidelines for use, like how many bags a passenger can carry on the van, will be addressed once they look at usage.

Ward 3 councilor Kelly Lynn and Ward 5 councilor Rarchar Tortorello, who have spoken against the city providing homeless services, voted for the purchase ordinance with the rest of the council.

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