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Norman City Council debates public works facility, hears presentations, fills Ward 1 seat vacancy


Norman City Council meeting on Oct. 11, 2022.

Norman City Council discussed a 10-part plan for the remodeling and potential acquisition of land for North Base Facilities and decided Austin Ball will serve the remainder of former Ward 1 Councilmember Brandi Studley’s term Tuesday evening. 

The North Base Facilities is a 26-acre complex that houses four city public works departments: utilities, public works, fire and parks and recreation. The North Base Facilities Master Plan presented to the council aims to expand and move all public works departments onto a single piece of land on North Base. 

Currently, Norman’s street and storm owner divisions operate on a 5.2-acre section of Lindsey Yard. The rest of the land is owned by OU. 

Shawn O’Leary, director of public works, presented to the council the conditions of North Base Facilities. According to O’Leary, the facility was built in 1952 and has no insulation, poor ventilation, a lack of drive through bays and insufficient storage. 

Tony Blatt, principal at Blatt Architecture, presented the logistics of making the base more suitable for entry and refinement. He said fleet maintenance was only half the size it needed to be to operate efficiently. 

According to Blatt, it would cost $1.7 million to acquire the necessary 13.3 acres south of the base, as well as auctioning off the 5.2 acres of land already owned on Lindsey Yard for $1.4 million. 

The plan would span over the course of 30 years and cost $913.9 million to $1.3 billion. 

Councilmember Stephen Tyler Holman and Mayor Larry Heikkila were concerned about having multiple departments in one area, but Holman said the plan makes sense and needs to be executed as quickly as possible to limit cost. 

“You're gonna need more public works. You're gonna need more parks. You're gonna need more fire. You're getting more utilities. We're not getting any smaller and we're not going to last in a 72-year-old building. We've got to do this sometime,” O’Leary said. 

The council also addressed the vacancy left by Studley who resigned from the Ward 1 seat in January. 

The council decided to instate Austin Ball, winner of the Feb.14 election for the Ward 1 seat, for the remainder of Studley’s term where he will take an oath and will be sworn in again in July where his actual term will start.

The council also discussed a comprehensive plan for the ad hoc committee and Strong Towns ad hoc committee. 

Strong Towns is a nonprofit media advocacy organization that produces content to analyze the failures of the post-war North American development pattern.

Mary Elizabeth Mach, regional water director for engineering firm Garver, presented to the council a comprehensive plan that includes the housing market, affordability strategy, a comprehensive transportation master plan update, stormwater, sanitation and wastewater.

Mach proposed a committee split into a steering committee, a subcommittee and a strategic council that would be composed of all members of the steering and subcommittee groups. 

The steering committee would include 10 to 13 people to ensure the master plan works as a family of documents, reinforcing and supporting the plan for 2045. 

A subcommittee of 24 to 30 people would operate under housing, stormwater and transportation and include one to four members of the steering committee as subcommittee chair. 

In reaction to the plan, both Heikkila and Ward 2 Councilmember Lauren Schueler said the council should postpone the approval of the plan for a later date that yields the council more time to decide. 

The council also heard a presentation by the Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma, a nonprofit organization providing community outreach through training and organizational assistance. 

According to Georgie Rasco, executive director of Neighborhood Alliance, the program's goal is to create safe, attractive and healthy neighborhoods.

Rasco presented the organization's involvement in Norman and its desire to become more involved in community organization such as instilling crime watch patrols and community workshops. 

Ward 6 Councilmember Elizabeth Foreman asked if the Neighborhood Alliance has approached the Norman Police Department about contract work. Rasco said they have not discussed the idea with NPD but have been in contact with the chief of police.

Holman said the partnership with the police department is vital for connecting the community and getting the message out about what issues they are planning to address, what people may be concerned about and how to provide a better avenue for neighborhoods to talk directly with the police department about such issues.

This story was edited by Alexia Aston and Karoline Leonard. Ansley Chambers and Nikkie Aisha copy edited this story.

news reporter

Ismael Lele is a journalism sophomore and news reporter at the Daily. He started in the fall of 2022 and has previously served as a sports reporter. He is originally from Norman, Oklahoma.

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