Rural Oklahoma Mayors Eye Stimulus Dollars

Monday, January 12th 2009, 4:37 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

WAGONER, OK -- As President Bush winds down his second term, President-elect Barack Obama is pushing for his trillion dollar economic stimulus plan.  Congressional leaders hope to come up with a plan to present to Mr. Obama shortly after he takes office.  A group of mayors from northeastern Oklahoma is working to make sure small towns with big needs aren't left out.

With federal leaders hammering out details of a trillion dollar economic stimulus plan, mostly for infrastructure needs, at the civic center in Wagoner, another meeting is taking place to make sure towns in northeastern Oklahoma aren't left out.

"Rural areas of northeastern Oklahoma is just as important for economic development as your metropolitan areas," said Pryor Mayor Jimmy Tramel.

Mayors from a dozen communities, plus area elected leaders, are joining together to come up with a federal funding wish list of projects.  It includes things like $8 million for road repair in Pryor and $15 million for capital improvement projects, including upgrades to the police station and city hall.

"It's all about job creation, infrastructure and improving the quality of life for all of our citizens," said Pryor Mayor Jimmy Tramel.

Wagoner hopes to get $10 million, mostly for street projects.  Backers say many small towns simply don't have the tax base to do the projects on their own.

"As far as replacing some of the old infrastructure, there's just not a lot of dollars to go around," said Wagoner Mayor James Jennings.

The preliminary wish list from the northeastern Oklahoma towns is already nearing $40 million, but since about two dozen communities are represented at the meeting in Wagoner, the amount expected to grow significantly.

The mayors all hope the money is awarded directly to communities rather than being disbursed by states.

"Not meaning anything bad about it, but some of the larger cities, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, they get their lion's share and we just want to make sure our voice is heard and hopefully we can get a piece of the pie," said Wagoner Mayor James Jennings.

The mayors plan to finalize the list within two days before sending it to Washington.  In addition to street projects, many smaller towns say they are in desperate need for waste water treatment facility upgrades.

Related Story:

01/09/2009  Final Tulsa Stimulus List Released