Growing pains for the city of Owasso

Saturday, May 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

You may have seen the signs yourself. Several small communities around Tulsa are seeing big growth.

In fact, many of the fastest growing towns in the state are located right here in our area. Claremore is the 9th fastest growing town, at 19%. Broken Arrow is number 6 at 29%. Number 3 on the list: Tahlequah, growing 39% in ten years. Number 2: Bixby at 40%.

And the number one fastest growing town in the state is Owasso. It's increasing at a rate of a whopping 65%! And as News on 6 anchor Craig Day reports, each town faces special challenges, from keeping up with traffic to schools and more.

This is what it often looks and sounds like in Oklahoma's fastest growing town. Red lights, green lights, stop and go, cars coming, cars going. It's enough to keep morning commuters on their toes. Everywhere you look, there are signs of growth. Evidence of a community bursting at the seams.

Owasso, is a town 65% larger than it was ten years ago. Where there were once fields and pastures, there are now new subdivisions and a new school. "She waved her hand like a magic wand. Presto you're a hard boiled egg." Debbie Landry teaches 2nd grade at Northeast Elementary. The school isn't even a year old. Already, most classes have 26 students, normal is 21. "We are just growing day by day. We add students nearly every day."

In fact, Owasso grows by more than 300 new students each school year. It's enough to keep superintendent Dale Johnson busy, keeping up. "We went from a little country school to a large metropolitan school in a very short time." A school bond issue is set for May 14th. It would raise $7 million for a new wing at Northeast Elementary, a new gym, an all purpose facility at the high school, and a site for another elementary school. "It's been an amazing and pleasant growth."

“Unprecedented, yes, tremendous." Assistant City Manager Tim Rooney says Owasso has built a new city hall and is working to improve traffic at intersections. But keeping up is difficult. "Sometimes we see growth before we see the revenue to pay for the growth."

Rooney expects the town to keep growing, mainly because of affordable housing and the town has space to expand. Another reason why Owasso is seeing incredible growth is its location, right along two major highways, 169 and 75. Both provide easy and quick access to the city of Tulsa.

And another road project is in the works that will make that commute even better. After the first of the year, 76th street will be four-laned from the Owasso City limits to the Cherokee Industrial Park, at a cost of $2 million.

While several demands that come along with population growth are being addressed, perhaps the biggest challenge will be for a growing community to keep its small town feel.