Eco developer wants Exit 65 atop needs list
Clinton’s next big road pro-ject – the reworking of Exit 65 on Interstate 40 – should have top priority, the city’s new economic developer indicated Tuesday in an open meeting with his board of directors.
Looking at 2023 as the target date for that project to be bid by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Roland Mower spoke well of Division 5 Engineer Brent Almquist and his people but indicated the city needs to stay on it too.
Mower said that after a meeting last week with ODOT, a comment was made that Exit 65 was on the state’s eight-year plan.
“That’s great if the legislature funds the eight-year plan,” he said. “We need to make sure somebody is protecting our interests.”
And the secret to doing that, he said, “is having a single message when you go to Oklahoma City.”
But Mower also said Thursday that he’s pleased with the way the project is being handled by ODOT.
Almquist’s 11-county division gives him a lot of roads and bridges to be responsible for, said Mower. Of the Exit 65 project, he added, “They’ve got a lot of enthusiasm. It’s a very critical project that’s been in the works a long time.”
Contacted Thursday, Almquist said his crews had worked all night Wednesday in the cold and ice keeping roads in the 11-county district as clear as possible. Conditions in the district were worst in Dewey and Blaine counties, he said, but with less traffic they weren’t nearly as bad as they were further east closer to Oklahoma City.
“We really appreciate our crews,” he said. “They worked all night getting things ready to go.”
Mower’s meeting Tuesday with the Clinton Economic Development Authority preceded that night’s City Council meeting. Without directly asking for one, he hinted that having a “government affairs person” on the payroll might not be a bad idea. He said that when he got to his last job at Port San Antonio, Texas, which basically called for conversion of the former Kelly Air Force Base to civilian usage, it had gotten $16 million the year before in state and federal grants. With the help of a government affairs person after he arrived, the total shot up to $25 million.
Having a great looking community is important in recruiting new businesses too, but Mower suggested it should not be the be-all-to-end-all.
Told that several years ago Clinton had 700 people volunteer their time for a weekend to help build Acme Brick Park when it was being formed, he was impressed. He also said when federal and state grants are handed out, it helps to be able to show significant hours of community participation, even if it’s just picking up trash.
Mower said he himself picks up trash almost every day and added, “If we’re going to have a great community, we have to do it ourselves.”
One of his committee members wasn’t so sure.
“Our mission is to increase jobs,” said Russ Meacham. “Everything else will fix itself.” He said in his opinion the committee should be focusing on jobs, housing and then retail.
Mower did not disagree. “If the first six months all we get done is clean up the community, we’ve committed a great crime,” he said.
Mayor David Berrong, who has made beautification a major endeavor since taking office two years ago, said one of the city’s economic leaders, Bob Lorenz, is talking all the time about making Clinton a place where people want to live.
“Aesthetics goes hand in hand with wanting to live here,” said Berrong.
Mower said he hates to see children picking up trash without gloves.
City Manager Mark Skiles said somebody had donated gloves and some of them were still available.
“I’m glad you’re interested in beautification,” he told Mower. Skiles said he had driven around Clinton to see what it looked like when he was interviewing for his own job here.
“Businesses you’re going to recruit are going to treat us the same way,” he said. “We can be a Wal-Mart community or a Nordstrom community. We can compete on cost or quality. Quality companies want quality communities. They want quality parks.”
Meacham had a very basic question. Referring to some budget charts Mower had passed out at the beginning of the meeting, he commented, “You’re asking us to set the expenditure side. How do we derive $92,000 to fund next year? What kind of support are we going to get on the revenue side?”
“You are right on track (in asking that question),” replied Mower.