Sunday, July 27, 2008

Finding Solutions

No doubt many of the readers of this update will have at some time visited the Oklahoma County Courthouse. Located in downtown Oklahoma City, the courthouse occupies two large, multi-story buildings and it is here that judicial and county government functions take place for Oklahoma County. A visit gives one a sense of how deep the resources of Oklahoma County truly are. But if I were to ask whether Oklahoma or Logan County had the most unincorporated residents who live in the county's jurisdiction without municipal government, would you believe that Logan County has substantially more unincorporated residents?

Because of suburban growth, there are now more than 20,000 residents in unincorporated Logan County. Logan County ranks number 10 in the amount of unincorporated residents when compared to the rest of the state, and more than twice as many residents live in the unincorporated areas than in the largest city in the county!

One neighborhood where I went door to door recently contained about 250 residents. But don't try looking this neighborhood up on Internet services such as Google Maps, because according to their latest satellite photos of the area, this neighborhood is still an almost empty field.

You can only imagine the havoc created on county services from this sudden growth. And because there is no city government to call for services, the majority of the calls for help go to county government. Some of the issues of concern that have been expressed in calls to my office have been storm alerts, water and waste water issues, police and fire services, traffic issues such as stop signs and speed limits, animal control issues, and of course road maintenance. Those who are charged with administering county government have their hands full.

The road issue is probably the most challenging, as Logan County does not have a single east/west county section line road that is paved in its entirety. With the rise in fuel cost (which makes it much more expensive for everything from transporting gravel to purchasing asphalt), the County Commissioners are pressed just to maintain the current road quality, let alone improve it.

You can also imagine how much the property tax revenue base increases when an empty field is suddenly full of new houses. While almost all of this money goes to local schools systems, around 10% of it goes to county government. Because of this influx, Logan County government has increased its budget by about 30% over the past few years. However, none of this money goes to fund road maintenance.

Many people have a hard time believing that their property tax money is not being used to fund roads. I feel it is important for Logan County to dedicate part of its increased revenue back to paving roads. It is only right that if people are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars into the county government, some of this money should be used for paving roads.

It is also vital for the State Legislature to properly fund road maintenance by redirecting the millions of dollars of motor vehicle user fees that are being used for purposes other than road construction.

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