Claremore Daily Progress

September 20, 2012

LETTER - Commissioners need to take initiative and retool road fund

Staff Reports
Claremore Progress

CLAREMORE — Dear Editor:

It is so disheartening to read the positive stories about Tulsa County Commissioners and then have to stomach the actions of a couple of our current Rogers County Commissioners and several of the past ones. 
Tulsa County is working on a 0.6 percent Vision2 sales tax extension with improvements for its airport, cities, and an allocated sum to help with incentives to companies considering locating in the area. This is all within the scope of the City of Tulsa’s 8.517 percent sales tax (Owasso’s sales tax is 8.35 percent).
So, what are we doing in Rogers County? We are increasing our sales tax in Claremore to 9.33 percent, the highest in the area, in order to pay for a judgment created by the incompetence of past commissioners and district attorney’s office. This will cause undo harm to our retail stores in Claremore with the big retail outlets in Owasso less than 20-miles away and sales tax almost 1 percent lower.
Commissioner Mike Helm even wants to bypass Claremore with a new Highway 20 alignment to make it easier on his Owasso constituents.
Our current commissioners could have bitten the bullet and absorbed this judgement within their exorbitant road fund budget. But then how would they be able to buy expensive vehicles, equipment and an alleged unnecessary $900,000 piece of equipment that nobody knows how to use? Now, we learn that they are going to use reserves to balance the budget because they have added additional departments? Enough is enough.
Our road fund (1 cent sales tax) which now amounts to almost $8 million annually, was originally approved by Rogers County voters in the early 1980s. 
It was an initiative proposed first by the Rogers County Homebuilders Association and some local banks in order to improve county roads. We were not able to obtain FHA financing on lots in our rural subdivisions with gravel roads. 
The economic conditions had mad it almost impossible for developers to carry the burden of asphalting these roads. I do no recall that we ever intended the tax to last for ever. And to be abused the way it has been.
These guys and our new Rogers County Clerk are totally out of control with all of their antics involving alleged illegal expenditures on private property, double dipping on FEMA funds, illegal dumping, kickbacks, unnecessary travel expenses and so much more. It is true that one of our commissioners turned down FEMA fund to rebuild Keetonville Road in its current alignment? I am afraid to hear how the new courthouse and 911 center will turn out. I’m sure we are not hearing the whole story about expenditures, budgets and quality of construction.
Tulsa’s commissioners, Chairman John Smaligo, Karen Keith and Fred Perry exude professionalism and thoughtfulness. At least two of our commissioners exude stubbornness and an attitude that they are above the law. And, not too long ago, one of our commissioners was sent to prison.
I would encourage all of you to ask questions and take an active part in our county government before we become the laughing stock of the whole state. this 1 cent “road fund”  sale tax will again be up for extension soon. These commissioners should take the initiative to propose reallocating the fund for industrial development and incentives, possible capital improvements, together with roads and an allocated amount to more swiftly repay the judgement, so the extra 0.333 cent sales tax can be quickly dropped. Otherwise, we should vote NO to the extension.
Sam Cowherd
Claremore