By Conrad Dudderar
A small yet opinionated crowd came to the Yukon Community Center Oct. 9 to voice their thoughts about Yukon and visions for its future.
About 15 people attended Saturday morning’s “Community Conversations” town hall forum inside the YCC gymnasium, 2200 S Holly. The town hall-style event was facilitated by Adam Brooks and Erica Hollis of Candor Public Relations.
“Be candid and open,” Hollis told the audience. “We want to hear all perspectives.”
This was the second in a series of interactive discussions sponsored by the City of Yukon, as city leaders considering calling an election to fund capital improvement projects. A June 2022 election date has been suggested.
The Yukon City Council and city administrators are using these public forums to solicit feedback from residents on their “visions for the future.”
During last Saturday’s hour-long town hall, several longtime Yukon residents shared their ideas on issues ranging from drainage and traffic to Yukon’s tax base and controlled growth.
Robert Noll Jr. said Yukon city leaders need to focus on improving existing infrastructure because there are major issues with the water/sewer systems that require a multi-million-dollar upgrade.
While events like Christmas in the Park, Rock the Route and the Chisholm Trail Festival attract people to Yukon, Noll believes the City of Yukon first should take care of basic needs like street striping and street signs.
Pointing out it took two months to fix a problem he had reported, Noll said the city must be more proactive about noticing and addressing such items.
Genie Vinson agreed improvements are needed to the aging water and sewer infrastructure. Because of Yukon’s continued reliance on Oklahoma City water purchases to meet demands, the former city council member fears water costs will rise greatly.
Peggy Turner referred to drainage and erosion problems along Turner Creek behind her home. She believes more regular maintenance is needed to the city’s creeks, flower beds and other existing facilities before new projects are considered.
Dale Regier said the city’s “flood control” system near Highway 4 and Wagner Road also has not been maintained correctly leaving “plugged up” drainage culverts.
TRAFFIC, CHRISTMAS AND MORE
On another subject, Turner shared a familiar concern among Yukon motorists – increased traffic congestion along N.W. 10th and Garth Brooks Boulevard.
Recalling when Yukon was a much smaller town, Turner said she enjoys the conveniences of new businesses and more shopping options – but realizes this area’s growth comes at a cost.
Vinson, a former mayor, said there is a “very limited area” inside Yukon city limits that can be developed. The City of Yukon is bounded on all sides by Oklahoma City.
Vinson emphasized all businesses on the south side of 10th Street help Oklahoma City’s sales tax base.
Undeveloped property inside Yukon city limits needs to be for new businesses providing “economic development” through more sales tax revenues, she added.
Attendees were encouraged to shop City of Yukon merchants whenever possible.
Several people at Saturday’s town hall gathering discussed shopping for groceries at Crest on N Czech Hall Road south of Interstate 40 because of the wide product selection and low prices. The store is in Oklahoma City, which some Yukon residents may not realize.
The City of Yukon had two previous chances to land a Crest grocery store – the first time on Main Street and later near INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital. Both deals fell through.
Several town hall attendees talked about Christmas in the Park, Yukon’s mammoth 40-day holiday lights festival that continues to expand.
Noll referred to the many months and resources the City of Yukon spends to plan and present Christmas in the Park.
Turner wondered whether funds could be better used elsewhere, saying, “At what point is enough enough?”
Vinson responded to these concerns, pointing out this yuletide light tour attracts many thousands of visitors to shop in Yukon stores – so the financial benefits well offset the cost. She emphasized cities across Oklahoma are “totally dependent” on sales tax revenues to fund operations.
Town hall participants last Saturday were asked to share what they want to see in Yukon.
Among responses: Sports/soccer complex on city-owned property off Frisco Road, repairs to the Kimbell Park Pool, new gardening club, better variety of volunteer opportunities, upgraded city parks, new farmers market, further Chisholm Trail Park development, and road improvements.
Meanwhile, Yukon residents were again reminded to complete the 2021 Yukon Community Survey (Yukonsurvey.com or www.cityofyukon.com)
Public input collected from town hall meetings and surveys will help the Yukon City Council determine what capital items to list on an election ballot.
Among possible projects are a multi-use sports/recreation complex, new library, third fire station, expanded/renovated community center, and infrastructure upgrades.
A dedicated sales tax or property (ad valorem) tax increase are likely funding options, which require voter approval.
The City of Yukon should use the MAPS model – that Oklahoma City has passed four times to fund specific capital projects, Vinson said at last Saturday’s town hall.
Through this model, the “dedicated” sales tax is temporary but may be renewed with voter approval.
Whatever projects are placed on an election ballot and however they may be funded, Vinson advised Yukon city officials to “be specific” when presenting the proposal to voters.
“And you do what you say you’re going to do” (if the measure passes), she added.
Regier, who said Yukon was a “small town” when he moved here, said he would support a sales tax proposal to fund capital improvements. He believes this is the “most fair way” because “everyone pays” when they shop in Yukon businesses.
An ad valorem tax increase is only funded by property owners.
Regier noted the last city-wide election, a multi-million-dollar bond issue for a sports park, was soundly defeated because of strong opposition by Yukon’s property owners.
A third Community Conversations’ session will be 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Jackie Cooper Gym, 1024 E Main.