Changes made to municipal code
During their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Okmulgee City Council heard a few residents’ concerns surrounding dilapidated housing and an increase in drug use in their neighborhoods.
One resident said that she had submitted pictures of dilapidated properties and noted increased traffic to supposedly abandoned homes, and felt that her complaints were not being heard by city officials. She asked what residents can do to help and requested a city official come out and inspect the properties.
Councilman Steve Baldridge echoed these concerns, adding that recent changes to the municipal code may help to, at least, address the issue of junk vehicles in the yard. He told her that there is currently a waitlist of homes to be demolished, and while he understands her concerns, “We have more houses on the list than we have money.”
Earlier in the meeting, the council voted to approve the removal of a dilapidated property located on the 700 block of Morton Ave. in the amount of $8,395.00, as bid on by American Demolition. The building was listed as dilapidated at a hearing on July 27.
On the issue of drug use, Councilman Baldrige said that he had been personally affected by the issue, after properties of his were robbed.
“I’ve lost six heat and air units that were in my garage. Gone. You know, I’ve lost thousands of dollars. I totally feel you,” he said.
Baldridge suggested filling vacant positions at the police department and adding more patrols as a way to mitigate the problem.
Councilman Marcus Jeffrey suggested the resident start a neighborhood watch.
Later in the meeting, Rose Lynch, Chair of the Okmulgee County Democratic Party, offered a few statistics about the increase in drug overdoses – particularly fentanyl – and provided a number of harm reduction services for the council and general public to look into, such as the informationals provided by the Muskogee Creek Nation Tribal Response Opioid Team and other groups.
“I’d like to remind everybody that being an addict is not a crime,” Lynch said. “These people that we keep calling ‘these people’ are our neighbors, our children, sometimes our parents and friends, and what I’d like to do is address that issue and see how maybe we can work together to help it.”
Councilman Baldridge said that the health department has to step up in these areas, adding “that’s what they’re designed for because we’re not health experts.” When the discussion shifted to how these efforts would be funded, the only suggestion was a utility bill increase that would provide money to law enforcement patrols.
Before returning to her seat, Lynch provided the council with the website Okimready.org, which helps provide substance abuse resources like Narcan. There was more discussion about the process of applying for these state resources, with a few councilmembers voicing their support for the harm reduction methods.
In a related note, Councilmember Marcus Jeffrey stated there will be a community event and presentation on Fentanyl and its affects, along with the information on Narcan. The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 5th and Seminole. Facilitator will be Rick Sturman who will present a power-point on the drug and its dangers, and there will be an opportunity for questions from attendees. More information will be available soon.
— Municipal Code Changes
The Okmulgee City Council also voted to approve an amendment to the municipal code that addresses the storing, parking or abandonment of inoperable vehicles, and repealing all ordinances to the contrary. According to section 040, owners will receive a 20 day notice.
City Attorney Lou Ann Moody explained that the council would be able to extend that time if need be.
“From the time that we determine that there is a need for it to be removed, they can appeal – not after it’s been removed,” she said.
Two other agenda items were approved which addressed the rezoning of properties in the 500 block of North Wood Drive from Residential Single-family (RS-2) to Commercial General (CG).
Next, the council approved an amendment that creates a section for “Lot Adjustment” or joinder. This adjusts the existing lot lines of two or more adjacent lots, allowing them to be merged into one larger lot.
— American Legion Sundays
Mayor Mickey Baldwin was joined by Commander Pete Rogers of American Legion Post #10 as he read a proclamation recognizing November 24 and December 29 of this year as “American Legion Sunday.” Commander Rogers expressed to the council his hopes that next year, the last Sunday of each month can also be recognized as such.
“We have always wanted to get the word out about the American Legion more and more and more, especially in this community,” Rogers said.
— Also approved at the meeting(s):
• The minutes from the previous meetings.
• The payment of claims.
• A resolution calling for an election for councilmembers from Wards Three and Four.
• A resolution acknowledging and reaffirming agreements for equipment leasing and contracts for services executed in prior fiscal years and carrying said agreement forward into FY 2023-24.
• Public contracts between the Okmulgee Municipal Authortiy and the City of Okmulgee, under which the city agrees to purchase equipment, in accordance with the approved plans for the construction of hangars at the Okmulgee Regional Airport. This also appoints Jim Cooley Construction LLC. a contract, and its subcontractors as purchasing agents, and authorizes the mayor and city clerk to execute the contract.
The council also received the monthly reports. A brief overview of these reports can also be found in next Wednesday’s edition of the Okmulgee Times.