Tourism Commission to ask for special legislative session

Thursday, July 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission has approved a resolution calling for a special legislative session to address needed repairs at state parks.

The resolution, drafted by Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, was approved on Wednesday.

Commissioners received a letter from state House Speaker Larry Adair and Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor encouraging them to use revenue bonds for funding.

``We don't have money in any secret place to afford a revenue bond issue,'' said Fallin, who chairs the commission. ``Were we to issue these bonds, it would take us 25 years to pay them off at a cost of $1 million a year.''

Fallin also said paying $1 million annually on the bonds would lead to layoffs and closed parks.

``I want this bond issue settled now before there is a new governor and Legislature,'' she said.

The commission did reach an agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality regarding sewage lagoons at Sequoyah State Park, Tenkiller State Park and Lake Texoma State Park.

The DEQ issued orders in June to close bathrooms at those parks, which would leave campers without the ability to shower and force them to use chemical toilets instead of permanent facilities.

The DEQ order also would close the 101-room Western Hills Guest Ranch and 54 cabins in Sequoyah State Park on July 10. More than 350,000 people visit Sequoyah State Park near Wagoner annually, and 22,000 to 25,000 are expected over the Independence Day holiday.

As an emergency measure, the commission approved the emergency spending of up to $400,000 to keep Western Hills Guest Ranch and its related cabins open.

Tourism officials said they were able to adequately repair a sewage land application system, which will keep the lagoon levels low enough so they can continue to be used.

Adair, D-Stilwell, and Taylor, D-Claremore, have rejected the idea of a special session.

``Tourism already possesses the tools it needs to address this problem,'' Taylor said. ``We think it could implement a solution in a much faster and cheaper fashion than the Legislature could.''

A special session would be costly and offer little to address the agency's problem, he said.

But tourism commissioner Boyd Lee said the Legislature has a duty and obligation to fund the system.

``It is not acceptable or right for them to forgo these responsibilities _ even at the risk of closing the ones that are in trouble now,'' Lee said