By Conrad Dudderar
An elected Yukon city official apologized to citizens after a recent street bond proposal failed, saying city leaders must find ways to pay for needed infrastructure upgrades without raising taxes.
Ward 4 City Council Member Aric Gilliland is advocating for city budget reductions and development of Frisco Road property to help generate revenues for capital improvements.
Yukon voters, in a Feb. 14th special election, gave a resounding “no” to a proposed $37.5 million bond issue that would have raised property taxes over an estimated 10 years.
The proposition failed by a 63.05% majority, with 1,766 “no” votes and 1,035 “yes” votes cast across Yukon.
Gilliland addressed Yukon voters about the general obligation bond election, which would have funded 17 roadway projects if it passed.
He first spoke during council discussion at the Feb. 21st city council meeting.
“I have heard you,” Gilliland said. “You mandated, loud and clear, that you do not want to pay more taxes on your property in order to pay for infrastructure.”
Gilliland offered an apology to residents in his ward and across Yukon.
“I don’t apologize for asking the good people of Yukon to vote on this issue,” he said. “But I apologize that we got our proposal so wrong. This is something you clearly did not want.”
City officials thought they were on the right track with the street bond proposal after extensive background work.
“But we weren’t,” Gilliland said.
Now Yukon city leaders must regroup to determine how to fund priority capital improvements.
“Going forward, there are projects and upgrades that our city desperately needs,” Gilliland added. “The upgrades to our roads – and beyond that, our sewer and water systems. Some of our municipal buildings are falling apart. These things have to be paid for.”
The Yukon City Council and city staff must work together to figure out how to accomplish that, Gilliland added.
For citizens he represents in Ward 4, Gilliland said completing improvements to Wagner Road tops his list.
He mentioned other needed infrastructure projects – traffic relief and control along Garth Brooks Boulevard and N.W. 10th along with millions of dollars in repairs and upgrades to the city’s water and sewer systems.
“The council is going to have to work hard with our city staff to figure out a way that these projects get done, without the additional tax revenue,” Gilliland said.
Mayor Shelli Selby then began speaking in council discussion, stopping Gilliland before he was finished with his comments. Selby apologized afterward, saying she thought Gilliland was done talking.
Gilliland shared the rest of his statement after the meeting, noting the city council cannot just sweep “under the rug” the dilapidation of Yukon’s infrastructure. City councils for the next four to five decades will be left to finish the job the current council must begin now.
Gilliland believes it is the council’s responsibility to provide the best infrastructure and quality-of-life improvements for Yukon citizens.
“We must move forward with a commitment to agonize over every expenditure — from paper clips to vehicles to trash trucks and anything between and beyond,” he said. “In order to pay for the things that must be paid for we, may have to sacrifice some other things.”
This is the time of year that Yukon’s city council members start submitting capital improvement project requests.
In coming months, city officials will be busy debating and finalizing the City of Yukon’s 2023-24 budget, which takes effect July 1.
“This year, along with my capital improvement proposals, I will be submitting a proposal for certain cuts,” the Ward 4 council member. “The money from these cuts should be used to fund infrastructure that must be paid for.”
FRISCO ROAD DEVELOPMENT
Meanwhile, Gilliland believes strongly that Yukon city officials must promote economic development along Frisco Road north of Interstate 40 – without raising taxes.
A $14 million Interstate 40/Frisco Road interchange was completed in fall 2021.
“Finally, we must have a strategic plan in place for the Frisco interchange and the sports park land,” Gilliland said. “We must cast a vision for the people of Yukon. It is our last piece of land. After that, there will be little-to-no development in Yukon.
“We must use that property to bring people to Yukon. I will say it again, imagine a civic center surrounded by a premier ballpark.”
These 184.5 acres, near the southwest corner of Frisco Road and Main Street, are part of property annexed in 2015 from the City of Oklahoma City. The site is now being leased as pastureland.
Gilliland envisions retail shops and restaurants at the front of the Frisco Road site – with hotels, theaters, more shops, and restaurants across the street.
“(F)olks would come from all over the country – every weekend,” he told Yukon residents. “(They would) get out of their car on Friday afternoon. And not get back in their car until Sunday evening. All those tax revenues can be used to fund infrastructure.
“It can happen. It should happen. And we need to make it happen! And we have to figure out how to do it without asking you folks for more of your money.”
A multi-use, multi-generational recreation facility with athletic fields was among proposals recommended last summer by the Yukon Capital Projects Advisory Board.
Some 73% of Yukon voters in March 2017 defeated a $18 million bond issue that would have funded a sports park development on the Frisco Road property.