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Tannehill named new city admin; councilors vote for ordinance changes

The Tahlequah City Council, during a July 3 meeting, approved an ordinance that amends the city’s Hotel/Motel Tax ordinance.

City Attorney John Tyler Hammons said the city has contracted with the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce to conduct tourism development services on behalf of the city since 1987.

“The structure of that relationship has proven sometimes difficult to work for both the city and the Chamber. The city and the Chamber sat down and proposed a new mutually beneficial understanding,” Hammons said.

Additionally, the city would need to update the ordinance in order to reflect the new role TACC will fulfill for the city.

According to the current ordinance, TACC was to act as the agent of the city, with the use of funds to be appropriated by the city. TACC was to submit a detailed account of the expenditures of funds disbursed at the end of the fiscal year.

“Ninety-seven percent of the net proceeds collected pursuant to the provisions of this chapter shall be used for the promoting, solicitation, and development of tourism within and for the city, including, but not limited to, contracting with external parties to achieve the same. Three percent of the funds to be retained by the city to meet necessary administrative expenses of enforcement of this chapter,” the ordinance stated.

Ward 3 Councilor Stephen Highers said the language in the proposed updated ordinance essentially strikes TACC out of the ordinance.

“I think certainly it could be read that way. The concern about allowing to go to a different agency, there’s no one [in] this administration proposing that,” Hammons said.

Hammons said the ordinance gives the city the ability to contract with who or what it desires. However, there is a provision in the Oklahoma Constitution that prohibits municipalities from levying taxes for the benefit of a particular business, company, or organization.

Ward 2 Councilor Keith Baker and Highers voted for the amended ordinance while Ward 4 Councilor Josh Allen voted against it. With that change, the board declared the ordinance an emergency.

“This ordinance must become effective immediately in order for us to sign the contract immediately,” Hammons said.

The approval of a Tourism Agency contract between the city and TACC for provision of tourism development services was granted.

In other business, the board entered into an executive session to discuss the employment of a city administrator. Compliance Coordinator Ray Hammons was appointed interim city administrator during a May 1 meeting after former City Administrator Alan Chapman was named as the city’s finance director the month before.

The employment contract for City Planning and Development Director Taylor Tannehill to become Tahlequah’s city administrator was approved, effective immediately. Ray Hammons will fully resume his duties as compliance coordinator.

Councilor Allen asked the council to consider an ordinance that would ban the use of shopping carts in public parks or on public streets and sidewalks.

Allen said he spoke with the Tahlequah Police Department and looked into other municipal ordinances throughout the country on the matter of homelessness.

“One thing I noticed immediately, especially in the winter right around Norris Park, we had a lot of people sleeping in the park and they almost always had a shopping cart right next to them, and everything that they had in there,” Allen said. “It was an issue and this is something multiple people have talked about.”

According to Allen, the ordinance states a shopping cart can only be used for its intended purpose.

“It’s a safety hazard and also I think, we need to address the problem that we’re having in a lot of different ways and I think this is just a another step to help us keep our parks not cluttered and discourage people [from] utilizing a shopping cart for something that it wasn’t intended in our city,” he said.

If passed, violations of the ordinance are punishable by fine through municipal court.

Tahlequah Sports League President Trae Ratliff presented the board with an update to the completed season per the Operation and Facilities Use agreement.

“For every game that gets played on Phoenix Park and Anthis-Brennan Sports Complex, the city charges us $5. In lieu of a payment to the city, we’ve worked out in that agreement essentially where we have the opportunity to reinvest our funds back into the city, back into the facilities,” Ratliff said.

TSL had 928 games played throughout the fiscal year as well as tournaments. Ratliff said $5,640 is what is owed to the city.

“I try to keep our spin, our reinvestment back into the ballfields pretty close to what we would typically owe the city that way it’s not real lopsided one way or the another,” Ratliff said.

While Ratliff still had the floor, he brought up issues pertaining to Phoenix Park and how accommodations are having to be met to ensure the safety of players and crowds.

“Phoenix [Park] is a problem for us, it was a problem four years ago. We’ve spent as far as city resources in the last four years, I think the city has probably spent closer to $60,000 or $80,000,” Ratliff said.

Issues with the lighting at the park made it to where games had to be held on Sunday’s. Tahlequah Public Works Authority deemed the lights as a hazard and not safe to use.

“One of the biggest inconveniences for us was having to switch and not being able to play night games throughout the week. Typically you would have say, eight games at Phoenix Park, eight games at Anthis-Brennan, and now we’re having to do somewhere in the neighborhood of 22-28 games on a Sunday,” he said.

Ratliff concluded that the players deserved better than that and called it a continual challenge.

After a lengthy discussion among councilors and people who attended Monday’s meeting, no action was taken when it came to the board approving or denying a loan for the Tahlequah Regional Development Authority with Local Bank in relation to the Economic Development Agreement.

What’s next

A special Tahlequah City Council meeting will be Friday, July 7 at noon in the Council Chambers at City Hall.


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