Stillwater News Press

October 11, 2013

Oklahoma State president: ‘Our Stillwater’ is about pride

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Burns Hargis sounded more like one of Oklahoma State University’s coaches exhorting a team to victory instead of university president Friday at the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce’s Business@Lunch program.

Hargis was one of eight city leaders discussing the Our Stillwater capital improvement plan propositions. OSU’s president closed the presentation with a rousing get out the vote speech.

“If you’re a business looking to locate your business somewhere,” Hargis said, “the pride that community shows in the community says a lot.”

United Way giving is a good window into a community’s character, Hargis said.

“How it takes care of things is just as revealing,” he added.

Hargis was involved in Oklahoma City’s MAPS campaign in the 1990s that revitalized the Bricktown area. He said he thought planners were crazy when they proposed a riverwalk around a then-dry Bricktown Canal as one of the main attractions.

They envisioned a riverwalk and a navigable Bricktown Canal with cruise boats.

“What are you going to look at?” Hargis said. “You can fish. You can catch a computer monitor coming in from a creek during a big rain. I just thought it was nuts, and I promise you nobody ever mentioned the word rowing in connection with that river. Sometimes mowing, but never rowing.”

Oklahoma City was deteriorating.

“We couldn’t have been more desperate than we were,” Hargis said.

MAPS saved downtown Oklahoma City.

Stillwater isn’t in dire straits, Hargis said. The Our Stillwater propositions will make the city more attractive for economic development and have something for everybody.

“The propositions cut across the panorama of what a community needs to show its pride,” Hargis said.

The Our Stillwater proposals include an athletic complex with baseball, softball and soccer fields, an amphitheater and boardwalk at Boomer Lake Park, a new fire station, additional police cars, emergency communications improvements and transportation improvements.

Voters will be asked to increase property taxes $90 annually for every $100,000 in property value for 10 years. The property tax will fall to $54 annually per $100,000 in property value for the second 10 years.

The property taxes will be used to retire a 20-year, $20 million general obligation bond for the sports complex and Boomer Lake Park upgrades, and a 10-year, $7.5 million general obligation bond for the public safety improvements.

 Stillwater Mayor John Bartley said the property taxes on a $150,000 home in Stillwater would be $1,769. The state average property tax on a $150,000 home is $1,770.

“We can do these wonderful things for our community and our property tax rates are at the state average,” Bartley said.

If Proposition 3 is passed, the city’s sales tax rate will be 9.316 percent. It will raise $7 million annually for transportation projects in Stillwater.

The fates of Stillwater and OSU are connected, Hargis said.

“Whatever’s good for Stillwater is good for OSU and vice versa,” Hargis said.