Train overpasses, quiet zones and squirrels—the City of Claremore's number one and two hit all the hot topics during their State of the City address Thursday.
Claremore Mayor Bill Flanagan and City Manager Jim Thomas were tasked with providing a recap of the city's ups and downs in 2018, and a preview of the year to come.
Thomas went first, boasting that in 2018 the city saw 500 new jobs created and 56 new homes built.
He said 2018 saw the creation of 6,886 feet of new sidewalks, two miles of new road and dam rehabilitation projects.
In terms of retail and commercial development, Thomas said 2018 was a busy year as new retailers included: Cotton Patch Cafe, Aspen Dental, Doe's Eat Place, Cornerstone, Dollar General and 10Box Cost Plus.
"Economic development is the engine that drives our city," Thomas said. "Currently the city generates about $11.3 million in sales tax, which is approximately $375 million in total sales. CIEDA, under the leadership of John Feary, will assist with development efforts to help towards our goal of $500 million in total sales by the year 2023, which would give city coffers $15 million in sales tax support. These dollars will help us support transportation, capital improvements, parks, and the running of our police and fire departments."
Moving forward into 2019 Thomas said the city is approaching goals strategically and with future needs in mind.
Thomas continued in saying, "We are confident the dream of a destination shopping plaza will be accomplished as we open up the new Country Club Road bridging east and west."
"The city is still committed to quiet zones which will improve the quality of life for our citizens and bring that peace that comes with no horn blowing.
We are still committed to working with Rogers County and the City of Verdigris to develop a service road on the west side of Route 66.
We are committed to making our city walker friendly and will continue to build two additional miles of sidewalk tying our lake to your university, our parks to downtown development," he said. "The expo center and recreation complex are in their twentieth year of use. We will be evaluating their programs and uses of these facilities to determine our future goals and their use. What made good sense 20 years ago when they were first built may not be the same going forward."
He said new restrooms and pavilions will be built at Claremore Lake.
"We are committed to providing quality customer service in all areas of our city. Our electric department continues to address electric maintenance challenges in our buried and overhead electric lines. We have had many conversations and considered issuing a bounty on our number one enemy—the squirrel," he said.
He said the city will also continue to explore development west of Highway 20.
Citizens spoke and the city listened and made a Claremore dog park a top priority, Thomas said.
In terms of the city's financial standing, Thomas said, "We're not spending beyond our means. We're balancing our budget each year."
Flanagan began by talking about city leadership, applauding both city employees and council members.
Of the council, Flanagan said, "We do not always agree, but at the end of the day what's best for Claremore is what we all accept and work with. Our decision as a council is a consensus. no one person controls the city. We control it truly as a team."
Flanagan continued, "Regarding our financial status, we recently received our audit report for the period ending June 30, 2018 it shows that we're financially strong and in good shape for the future. We are making capital investments and planning for the future. Our revenues are stable, our expenses are controlled and we're reducing debt at $4.5 million per year. We are living well within our means."
He highlight a few infrastructure projects throughout the city, like the replacement of a 50 to 60 year old clay sewer line, a project that came with a $500,000 price tag.
Additionally, he said the city invested in 30 acres of land for the expansion of the city's industrial park.
"And we continue to make investments in our police and fire departments, and continue to make investments into our utilities."
Thomas concluded the presentation with a quote he recycled from last year's State of the City Address: "Plans and visions don't accomplish work. Goal charts on a wall don't complete projects…It is the men and women of Claremore who get the job done.”