By Conrad Dudderar
About 30 people – including Yukon students and past and present city officials – attended a town hall forum this week to share their thoughts about Yukon and visions for its future.
“Community Conversations – A Yukon Town Hall Event” was presented Sept. 28 inside the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore.
The Yukon City Council and city administrators will use results collected from community surveys and public input from town hall meetings to decide what capital projects to list on a future election ballot.
A funding source – possibly a sales tax increase or bond issue – must be identified.
Tuesday night’s interactive discussion was facilitated by Adam Brooks and Erica Hollis of Candor Public Relations.
The town hall was designed as a “listening session” to “hear your thoughts” about Yukon’s future, Brooks told attendees.
Hollis encouraged “full participation” from the audience, noting that “no comment is right or wrong.”
Some people offered their opinions on what the City of Yukon needs.
Sue Kilmer, a retired Yukon city librarian, believes increased Internet connectivity is important. Many people presume everyone has Internet access at home and all resources they need for educational research, she added.
Kilmer, a member of the library board, talked about the importance of supporting and enhancing Yukon’s independent public library. A new library is among proposed capital improvements.
Kilmer pointed out the City of Yukon is “land-locked”, with a lack of space to build inside city limits – outside the floodplain.
Mayor Shelli Selby reminded the town hall audience that Yukon only receives sales tax revenue from businesses within its corporate boundaries. Extensive retail development south of N.W. 10th is all in Oklahoma City.
Yukon’s Cassie Kinet pointed out Crest, Hooters and Aldi are “not in Yukon”.
Later in the discussion, Kinet said Yukon needs more “online warriors” to “get the real facts out there, not misinformation.”
Rick Cacini, a city council member, told the town hall audience that quality roads and improved infrastructure is critical to Yukon’s future.
Cacini believes there needs to be “more advertising” and stronger promotion statewide of what Yukon “has to offer”, such as its downtown museums.
Casey Barnett, manager at the Dale Robertson Center, advised the crowd that Yukon hosts many activities “at a fraction of the price” as similar events in Oklahoma City.
Barnett stressed the need for people to support businesses inside Yukon city limits, which helps fund special events like the “Rock the Route” music festival and the city’s recreation centers and pools.
Joe Edwards, a park board member, said he’d like to see better infrastructure and sports fields.
While Yukon has “great core city services”, Edwards believes Yukon must “modernize” its outdated library, parks and recreation facilities to draw people to the community.
Previous bond issues to fund a Yukon sports complex were defeated. Edwards noted fewer than 20% of Yukon’s registered voters came out to vote in those elections.
Bob Noll, a retired Yukon fire chief, also referred to the core services the City of Yukon provides citizens – fire, police and medical.
“I’m more likely to ride on an ambulance than on a skateboard,” Noll said.
Noll wants the City of Yukon to “absorb” some of a $20 monthly fee on residents’ utility bills designated to purchase Oklahoma City water and meet supply needs.
Meanwhile, Debbie Kauffman encouraged young people to volunteer or work in the Yukon Parks & Recreation department and learn more about what programs and events are offered.
LOTS OF IDEAS
Among other suggestions shared at the Sept. 28th Yukon Town Hall forum were to:
- Build a multi-use sports park/recreation facility,
- Make the community “as accessible and inclusive as possible,”
- Offer more activities for older youth and teens and culturally diverse activities,
- Provide more “public art” projects to give people another reason to “stop in Yukon”,
- Have a dog park in central Yukon,
- Start a disc golf course,
- Open “exclusive” restaurants and diverse entertainment options, and
- Extend Christmas in the Park to feature more lights along the Garth Brooks Boulevard and Main Street business districts.
One attendee asked about improving vehicle flow along Garth Brooks Boulevard by coordinating the traffic signals at intersections. The audience was advised the City of Yukon just finished that project.
SALES TAX, BOND ISSUE?
Most of those sharing opinions at Tuesday night’s town hall forum seemed to favor a dedicated sales tax to fund new capital projects – rather than raising property taxes or calling a bond issue.
Whatever financing option is chosen, Kauffman said people want to know “there will be an end date” so any tax increase or debt incurrence is “not in perpetuity.”
Estimated costs of some desired projects is high, Mayor Selby told the audience – more than $100 million for a new sports/recreation complex and $50 million for a library/senior center.
“We need to be sure our people want that,” said Selby, hinting a tax increase may be needed.
Even a new dog park would cost around $30,000.
Yukon’s mayor was pleased several teen students participated in this week’s town hall discussion to share some “thought-provoking” ideas.
“I just wish that more people had attended,” she said afterward. “We truly wanted this to be a representation of the City of Yukon, for residents to give us their ideas and their thoughts.”
In closing, Brooks asked town hall attendees to complete the Yukon Community Survey if they hadn’t already. Find the survey at Yukonsurvey.com