By Michael Pineda
A group of Yukon residents is fighting against a proposed de-annexation of Wilshire Boulevard – and their voices are being heard.
Following discussion during a June 7 study session and meeting, Yukon City Council voted 5-0 to postpone sending a letter of de-annexation to Oklahoma City. The council instead will continue to look for ways to fund road repairs as Oklahoma City waits to get moving forward on the project.
Council member Rodney Zimmerman said by having more discussions, the city will hopefully not have to de-annex the road and have a path to getting it fixed.
“It may not happen,” he said. “It may be impossible to get the road down and not de-annex.”
Council member Donna Yanda was a little more adamant on her views.
“I just don’t see de-annexing being part of the answer,” she said.
As with many things in government, it all comes down to money.
The good news for Yukon is Oklahoma City has been able to get good rates for the five-mile stretch because it has bundled it with other projects. The bad news is the city still needs to come up with $1.3 million. If the city were to go it alone at a future date and ask for bids, Assistant City Manager Mitchell Hort said the cost would be significantly higher.
“We need to find our half of the money or not do it.” Mayor Shelli Selby said. “But we can’t pull money out of the air, we are not the federal government.”
As it stands, the city owns half of Wilshire Boulevard and Oklahoma City the other half. Should Yukon opt to de-annex, Oklahoma City is ready to repair the whole road, which means it would also get a 33-foot easement.
Jody Pendleton, who lives on Wilshire Boulevard, addressed the council during the study session.
“We do not want the control to be in Oklahoma City,” she said. “We feel we have got really good representation with the comments and conversation I have been able to have with each of you guys over this. I appreciated that.”
Pendleton told the council she did not believe residents would have good representation in Oklahoma City. As an example, residents on Wilshire Boulevard were given a number to call in Oklahoma City about the annexation. When told she would get a call back to address her questions, she said she never got a response.
“I feel like that is the perfect example of what we would be dealing with when we had issues with anything to do with Oklahoma City and our frontage,” she said.
Tim Smith spoke on behalf of his employer, Bob Funk, who has been a proponent of repairing the road. He pointed out Funk had been trying to get the road fixed for a long time.
“How that happens, whether it is annexed, de-annexed or whether it’s a joint effort to repair the road, I think his concern is the road just needs to be repaired,” Smith said.
Smith talked about the poor condition of Wilshire while driving down the road earlier in the day. While he was not saying what should happen, he noted de-annexation is a way to get the road fixed, and if Oklahoma City was willing to pay for it, it appeared to be a gift.
“If there is no funding and if Oklahoma City will fix it, and if Yukon de-annexes it, then I think it is a viable choice that should be considered,” he said.
One avenue to fund most of the road could come from the Frisco Interchange Project. City Manager Tammy Kretchmar said the Oklahoma Department of Transportation could owe the city between $900,000 to $1 million because it overpaid. An audit still needs to be conducted before the amount is confirmed. At this point, there is no timetable for reimbursement.
Kretchmar also said any leftover funds from current bond projects have been earmarked for work on Wagner Road. The city also could approach Canadian County for a portion of its ARPA funds, which have not been disbursed.
“I would just like to say, Wilshire has been on my bucket list since I have been on the city council, which has been quite a few years,” Yanda said. “And no one wants it fixed more than me. But it’s not about me. It’s about the citizens that I represent. I have listened to their voices, and I have heard from many of you multiple times. And I feel like their voice needs to be heard and that their property and rights are not jeopardized.”
Zimmerman said he could see the positives that can come out of de-annexation and that those speaking against de-annexation had made a point.
“Their points are good, for and against,” he said. “I just heard more from the people that are against than the people that are for it.”
The city is working against the clock to find a solution, as Oklahoma City is ready to move forward. Selby spoke in favor of doing what is best for the community and the citizens. While having Oklahoma City annex the road would save millions, she agreed with residents that it would come with a cost in terms of future road upkeep.
“The road needs to be done; it just needs to be done,” Yukon Council member Aric Gilliland said. “But I am not willing to vote against the people who are going to be affected the most.”