Claremore Mayor Bill Flanagan and City Manager Jim Thomas declared it’s a “new day” during Thursday’s Claremore Chamber’s annual State of the City address.
Flanagan said although the city is still recovering from the passing of Mayor Mickey Perry in December, “as Mickey would say, the city needs to go on.”
Flanagan pledged to work with the city manager and city council to lead the city forward.
“2013 was a year of many changes and challenges,” he said. “The administration worked diligently over the passed year to improve our financial position and we are seeing early signs of a recovering economy.”
The city’s sales tax revenue increase for 2013 was approximately 2 percent higher, equating to nearly $200,000 in new tax revenue.
“At the end of fiscal year 2011, we had a general fund of $600,000,” Flanagan said. “At the end of fiscal year 2012, we had increased that balance to $1.9 million, and as we close out 2013, we will add another $1.5 million to the undesignated fund balance — a total of $3.4 million.”
He said that 2013, the city also refinanced several large bonds, resulting in an interest savings of $3.4 million. The city council met in January 2013 for a retreat to begin the development of a strategic plan with Jeri Koehler of Rogers State University’s Innovation Center.
“As a result, we were able to develop ‘Claremore 2020 — It’s A New Day,’” Flanagan said.
Thomas expanded on the Claremore 2020 plan. Its five objectives included hiring a city planner, promoting economic development and tourism, addressing transportation, developing and executing a water plan, and developing partnerships.
Thomas, who has been city manager for 14 months, said the mayor, city council and administration are now “speaking with one voice.”
“We have good department heads,” he said. “There is no way one individual or one elected official or one mayor could do it all. Each one of us are ambassadors for the city of Claremore. And I can tell you that as I move around the state, we are getting recognized.”
With the foundation laid, Thomas said he expects steady growth ahead.
“I sense from the business community that there is confidence in the City of Claremore, in its government. And that’s when you start seeing the kind of economic development that we’re going to see — when business has confidence in that partnership that’s being built. It is a new day,” he said.
As the city moves forward, Thomas stressed it is important not to focus on past mistakes, but learn from them, build for the future and “be proud of where we’re going.”
“Economic development and tourism is going to be one those new cornerstones in this administration as we go forward and work in trying to bring people here,” he said. “I truly want Claremore to be a regional leader for our industries as well as our retail, because every dollar you spend in the city of Claremore is turned over seven times, and that is what economic development is all about. That’s our engine.”
Three new hotels — Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn and La Quinta Inn and Suites — are coming to the city.
In addition, St. John recently purchased a five-acre lot next to Lowe’s in Claremore Plaza to construct its first urgent care center. The 23,000 square foot facility will employ approximately 50 people.
Baker Hughes will be cutting the ribbon in February for its new research and development facility, an investment of more than $40 million, according to Thomas.
“AXH continues to grow and expand,” he said, noting they have purchased the Burgess Norton building and are investing capital in their expansion project.
NXTGEN Filterworks has their equipment in place and will soon open for business.
“The administration and the city council are open to working with existing businesses and home builders in trying to facilitate good economic development that will reap us benefits well into the future,” Thomas said.
Current projects for the city include King Road improvements, a Smart Grid for electricity and water, and major upgrades to the water treatment plant.
He called another project — the SH-20 realignment at Country Club Road — “a game changing event.”
“It’s going to open up 1,000 acres that are landlocked right now. I believe we need an east-west corridor. It’s going to provide public safety for us. It’s going to provide a good transportation (system) and it’s going to give us some economic development,” he said. “The council voted unanimously — 100 percent — and they said ‘go get it done.’ And we’ve been working diligently.”
A environmental study on the project is being completed.
“I just emphasize that there is one voice, that we are 100 percent behind this. This is going to help the university grow. It’s going to help the business community. It’s going to help with city put itself on the map,” he said.
“I understand there’s times to talk and then there’s time for action and Claremore’s in that mode of action right now...We’re going to help ODOT make this a reality as we go forward because it’s going to open up a lot of opportunity.”
Thomas said that with those projects, as well as recent enhancements like the splash pad and new recreation center equipment, and an ongoing community branding initiative, Claremore has a bright future ahead.
He encouraged the audience to attend council meetings, get involved and “champion their issues. “This is our community. We’re all part of it, all of us have a stake in its success,” he said. “It’s been a great year. I look forward to 2014.”