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September 30, 2012

Thacker: Keep economic development in Rogers County

CLAREMORE — Rogers County Commissioner Kirt Thacker fighting to put $5 million in funding to work for the citizens of Rogers County as he opposes a project that could redirect economic development.

“My opposition is looking down the road because it hurts Rogers County,” Thacker said. “This plan does not address the future needs of Rogers County.”

The Circuit Engineering District met at the Port of Catoosa, Thursday to review the proposed realignment project for Keetonville Road that will join to 86th Street North that was previously proposed by Commissioner Mike Helm.

The proposal was tabled after much discussion.

Thacker opposed the project on the basis that the roadway would only increase traffic to Owasso and provide an opportunity to connect that area to the Port of Catoosa.

“I am trying to look at this 10 to 15 years down the road,” Thacker said. “For economic reasons we need to looking at development, this Port is growing tremendously.”

There will be a lot of jobs brought to Rogers County, Thacker said.

“For Rogers County we need people living in Claremore not Owasso and working here, we get very little tax money out of Owasso,” Thacker said.

It is a dual issue, the roadway connects people to Owasso and the citizens that live in that area do not support that connection, Thacker explained.

“Have the citizens been notified, were they made aware of this,” Thacker asked. “Because they have been calling me all morning and they are not interested in this at all.”

Engineer Brian Kellogg explained that the NEPA process has not been done and no official notifications have been sent to the citizens impacted.

Citizens object to projects all the time and then later realize it is better for the county, Kellogg explained.

“That is my opposition, which county are we concerned with,” Thacker said. “I am concerned about Rogers County, not Tulsa county and Owasso.”

“At the time you start playing politics you start running for office. I already ran for office and won,” Helm said.

He then explained that this project was already approved.

“The city of Owasso is in my district,” Helm said. “The people in Owasso they have not called me to disapprove.”

The 40 people that opposed the past alignment they were in Thacker’s district, Helm said.

Owasso is a part of our area and support this, according to Helm.

As a year ago this board approved the $5 million project to build a bridge across the Verdigris River and connect to Hwy 266, engineer Kellogg said.

“Due to some political pressures and some upset concerned citizens the project was requested to be relocated.” Kellogg said. “Where we stand today we have absolutely no funding for Keetonville Road.”

Kellogg then outlined a number of options that had been considered and submitted through the years.

The current proposal is to connect 86th street to Keetonville Road.

“It is not the ideal connection or the fastest connection,” Kellogg said.

He said a number of alternate routes have not been approved for various reasons.

 “In my opinion we are down to one of the last avenues for getting this project done. We have exhausted the existing road that is there.” Kellogg said. “Yes it can be repaired but to the tune of $13 million.”

Helm received approximately $11 million in funding from FEMA for an alternate project that resulted after Helm determined that Keetonville would cost too much to fix.

“He [Helm] was awarded and campaigned on getting $13 million from FEMA, you [Kellogg] just said it would cost $13 million to fix the road, he [Helm] could have fixed the road.” Thacker said. “It is simple.”

Kellogg then made a request on Helm’s behalf that the CED board approve funding for the $5 million project.

“There is always somebody opposed to something,” Kellogg said.

Thacker addressed the board and made a motion to table the item so that it could be dealt with on a local level.

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