OKC Civic Life for Monday, June 29, 2020
'Level Red' effects worsen at Fire Department
Some Oklahoma City fire rigs are being idled due to staffing shortages as COVID-19's impact on the department deepens, firefighters' union President Cameron Weems said Sunday. Weems said by text the department has 14 COVID-19 positives and 67 personnel in quarantine. "The new issue is keeping rigs in service. We have had to drop some rigs from service but they are at stations with two rigs. That still leaves coverage for the district with the remaining apparatus." The department is operating at "Level Red," the highest alert level under protocols developed to address pandemic-related disruptions.
Voices: Police funding debate
Several dozen citizens commented on police funding during public hearings on the 2020-21 Oklahoma City budget. The city council voted 6-3 to adopt the budget as proposed by the city manager, including a 2.65% reduction in police operating expenditures, to $204.1 million. Here are three points of view:
"There's more we can and must do to end the injustices. I support the police department but want them to improve."
— Susan Schmidt, who described attending an environmental rally at the Capitol. She said she was intimidated by the presence of police officers armed with rifles who stood on the roof, looking down on the rally.
"Our budget is a matter of values. ... This is an issue of humanity. We need to be making sure that our communities, all communities, and particularly our Black and brown communities, are protected and safe just like the rest of us. So I would encourage you to re-allocate funding."
— Suzette Grillot, who said she had witnessed troubling interactions between police officers and homeless individuals in her neighborhood.
"It shouldn't take a video, it shouldn't take protests, it shouldn't take hours of people begging you at this meeting to do the right thing. If you believe the Black lives of your constituents matter you will not vote for this absurd police budget, ... instead for the urgent needs that actually create public safety."
— Nicole McAfee, Ward 6 resident, in Crestwood.
Of note: The 2020-21 budget year begins Wednesday. The overall city workforce is cut by 168 positions, a 3.5% decrease; police freeze 34 vacant uniform positions and cut 12 civilian positions.
Airport signs on hold
Airport trustees rejected the bids on an estimated $4.7 million project to replace signs along Terminal Drive, Amelia Earhart Lane, Air Cargo Road and Meridian Avenue. Not because the bids were too high — the best bid was 10% below the engineer's estimate — but because of the "sharp decline" in air travel related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant shortfall in revenue needed to fund the project.
Facts and figures: MAPS 3
• Installation of the MAPS 3 whitewater park's surf machine is now scheduled to be done Aug. 21. Permit delays due to the pandemic have set the project back. Originally, hopes were to have it ready in the spring. The taxpayer-funded $1.8 million attraction is expected to provide needed revenue for the Riversport Foundation, the private foundation that operates the park for the city.
• Bids will be due July 29 on a $2.5 million project to finish the second floor of the MAPS 3 whitewater park's main building and install a 1,045-foot zip line with capacity to carry four people at once. Capacity limits affect financial performance of the current zip line. The main building's second floor will be finished as a small conference center, with meeting rooms and a deck overlooking the new surf machine.
The mayor and all eight city council members attended the June 16 teleconference meeting at which the fiscal 2021 budget was adopted.
• Saturday is the Fourth of July. Fireworks are prohibited in Oklahoma City.
• The city council meets at 8:30 a.m. July 7 by teleconference. Find the agenda and instructions for dialing in under the Government tab at okc.gov.
Staff writer William Crum. Email email@example.com. Twitter:@williamcrum