Norman residents will be asked to approve nearly $120 million in general obligation bonds to finish quality-of-life projects and other city initiatives on Aug. 25.
Four ballot questions will total $119.9 million to include Norman Forward projects for $85.6 million, $5 million for a homeless resource center, $24.3 million in municipal complex renovations and $5 million for a small business relief program. Voters can choose to approve or disapprove each ballot question.
Proposition I will fund the completion of “parks, recreation and community facilities projects” in the Norman Forward project plan. Several proposed facilities in the Norman Forward Sales Tax fund (NFST) remain unfinished or have not begun since the 15-year, half-cent tax was approved by 72% of voters in 2015. Remaining projects include the Senior Wellness Center, an indoor aquatics and multi-sport complex, a softball and football sports complex, a park maintenance facility, improvements to Reaves Park and ongoing improvements to Ruby Grant, Andrews, Rotary and Griffin parks.
A $4 million donation will be given to the indoor aquatics and sports complex from the Trae Young Family Foundation if the bond passes.
The senior center location will be located at Norman Regional Health System’s Porter Campus, pending the outcome of an agreement between NRHS and the city, spokeswoman Annahlyse Meyer told The Transcript Friday. The location will be near an existing bus stop on the northeast side of the campus, she said.
NRHS plans to build a free-standing emergency room and other health services for the area. The city council approved a re-zoning request for the ER on Tuesday.
Norman Forward completed projects include the Westwood Park Family Aquatic and Tennis Center and the Norman East and Central libraries. Renovations have been completed at Sonoma, Oakhurst, Prairie Creek and Songbird parks.
City officials have said during council meetings earlier this year that a slump in expected sales tax revenue and the rising cost of construction services year over year since 2015 has left projects underfunded by $85.5 million.
Projects have been guided by ad hoc committees and overseen by the Norman Forward Oversight Committee.
The second ballot question asks voters to approve a $5 million-dollar “homeless shelter, community facilities” bond projects, the ballot reads. During city council meetings earlier this year, advocates asked the council to add a homeless resource center to quality-of-life projects on the ballot.
The City of Norman is the designated Collaborative Applicant or Lead Agency for the Norman/Cleveland County CoC. As the Collaborative Applicant, the City of Norman is responsible for the coordination of all federal and state funded efforts to address homelessness within Cleveland County.
The city council commissioned a study to guide how the funds should be used to facilitate housing, but the study is not complete. The funds cannot be used on programs but can be used for capital projects related to homelessness and “for research and planning,” the city’s website reads.
City Hall’s municipal complex is Proposition III and pays for remodeling and expansion of city offices. The expansion is based on a “comprehensive study and needs assessment” which shows the city needs additional facilities to meet the demands of a “growing community,” the city’s website states.
The bond would supplement a 2008 bond to complete a “Municipal Complex Master Plan,” for renovations and the relocation of several city departments. Funds will also be allocated for a new emergency operations and dispatch center, and fire and fleet maintenance facilities. The city took over the University of Oklahoma’s off-campus public transit system in 2019 and has not built a facility for the fleet, which is housed temporarily at OU.
The coronavirus pandemic temporarily shut down and limited operation capacity for businesses in Norman following Mayor Breea Clark’s proclamation in March, The Transcript previously reported. The council voted to add a $5 million business relief program, but the structure of the program is still being determined. The city’s website states the Economic Development Advisory Board is creating the program..The ballot language describes the program as providing for “the purpose of economic and community development with particular emphasis on marginalized communities, job retention and creation programs.”
The city council learned from a poll in May that most voters still supported Norman Forward, with 58% percent saying they would vote for the bond. The city’s renovation plans won even more support with 66% of voters in favor with 56% supporting a business relief package and 62% in favor of a homeless resource center.
The survey was conducted by Pat McFerron’s Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates.