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Freedom Town Board discusses sidewalks along Highway 50

• Considers hiring property code enforcer


December 19, 2019

At the Wednesday, Dec. 11, meeting of the Freedom Town Board, the project that would install sidewalks along Highway 50 was discussed at length by board member Randy Rhodes, Mayor Shad Brackin, and Town Clerk Cindy Reed. Board member Rolando Galindo was absent.

Member Rhodes has been working on the project, liaising with contractors and others. He asked Brackin if he’d heard back from Pioneer. He had.

“I talked to the guy who is in charge of their facilities,” Brackin said. After some discussion, Brackin paused and addressed the camera recording the meeting.

“For all those of you at home,” he said, the sidewalk project is for putting the sidewalk back along Highway 50 in Freedom.” Back in the 1950s or even earlier, the town had had sidewalks, he said. Some remnants of it still exist.

The sidewalks would be replaced through a federal ADA-compliance grant, Brackin said, “that would allow pedestrians and kids going to school to have a safe way to navigate along Highway 50 and then have designated crossings where they would cross.”

But putting in that sidewalk will not be as easy to do as it may seem.

“Part of the problem is there are four mailbox clusters along Highway 50 on the east side, and every time that you have to navigate around one of those clusters (i.e., constructing a sidewalk to go around the clusters while still providing post office vehicles to access it easily) you have to bring all of it up to standard,” Brackin said. “You only have so much room in an easement to put in a sidewalk, so you’re going along putting in a 5-foot-wide ADA-compliant sidewalk and you come to this post of rural mailbox clusters. So you have to get property from somebody and build curves and driveways to navigate all this. So we want to consolidate those mailboxes into one large mailbox fixture or, looks like, maybe two of those mailbox fixtures and save some of that money to where we could put in more sidewalk and less clusters.”

The post office has informed the town that while they don’t have a problem with relocating the mailbox clusters, they need any future clusters to have room for 45 mailboxes. They want each mailbox to be 19 inches long. And they want room for growth in the cluster.

“And the post office wants to know who is paying for the boxes and the construction of the platform that will hold all the boxes,” said Brackin. “I’m assuming that would be the town.”

Freedom’s mail delivery system is an unusual mix of things, he said.

“Freedom has an interesting system; I don’t know how it was set up,” said Brackin. “I know we’ve been a town since 1925, I know that we’re a certified city, but unlike most cities we’re classified as rural delivery. So in Freedom the only way you can get your mail is if you live on a street that has an address that will give you a box on the cluster. Other than that, all the businesses on Main Street have to get their mail in a PO box that they have to pay for.”

Freedom’s post office has never delivered the mail door to door or even by delivering it to a mailbox in front of a property “that I’m aware of,” Brackin said, because of being classified as rural delivery despite being incorporated as a town.

“I think it may have been an oversight decades and decades ago,” Brackin said. “I broached the issue and maybe the post office would be interested in updating that. It's different than anyplace I’ve ever been for sure, but it seems to work, and nobody’s ever questioned it before.”

Mailbox clusters are generally seen in subdivisions or in apartment complexes with community mailboxes.

“We have a post office that has a lobby that would be perfect to put a fixture like that in,” said Brackin, “but I don’t know if that’s anything that anyone wants to see done. I’m sure before it’s all said and done, we’ll probably do something for public awareness and try to get some kind of feedback before we make any decisions for sure. I’m definitely open to suggestions. I would think, and it’s just my opinion, for the safety of pedestrians and me not having to get wet mail out of my mailbox and everything else, it’d be nice if I could drive downtown, walk into the (post office) lobby and get my mail out of my mailbox. The post office would probably argue that if I want that service, I can rent a PO box.”

The mailbox cluster design the board looked at would only provide 30 mailboxes, and the post office said it needs 45 and room to grow. “So we’ll consolidate down from four clusters to two cluster” rather than only one cluster, said Brackin.

Rhodes suggested he communicate this problem to Pioneer and “have their engineer take another look at that before they get their drawings finalized.” He said he’d set something up with the engineers.

Trash Day to Change for Christmas

Because trash day is Wednesday, and Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, trash will be collected on a different day that week. The office manager has sent out notes in the utility bills. “Please watch your bills and look in the paper for notifications that trash days are being shifted,” said Reed.

“We also send a thank you to Bret Smith for picking out the tree that’s on Main Street this year – it came from his property – and to the cowboys for securing it and anchoring it down. It’s lasted the last couple wind events that we’ve had, so that’s good,” said Reed.

Property Code Enforcer May Be Hired

Reed noticed that the Oklahoma Code Enforcement Agency will be holding a basic code enforcement class Feb. 19-21 at Moore-Norman Technology Center. It’s a class that’s not offered very often – the last time was more than a year ago. This class provides an overview of policies and procedures, and it’s required to have been taken before a person can take the property management code class, “which is the one we really are interested in and going to,” Reed said.

She thought the board might want to hire someone whose time would be dedicated solely to property management kinds of issues.

“I didn’t know if you’d want to look at hiring someone just for this,” Reed said, “because they would be the person to come in and take letters of who needs their property cleaned up – who needs to mow, who has abandoned cars, the dogs, things like that.” That person could attend the February class and then be eligible for the property management class, which Reed thought was in August.

“And then we can get started cleaning up some properties around town that are needing major attention,” she said. “This wouldn’t have to be a full-time position, obviously, but I think it would be really good for one person to take and focus on and go with.”

Rhodes asked about the cost of the classes, but Reed said they were offered free of charge through the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML).

Reed suggested they might want to contact Northwest Technology Center to see if they have someone with some know how about to graduate.

“Or we could partner with some other town, maybe?” suggested Rhodes. Reed agreed that was another option.

Brackin thought it would be nice to find a way to get the training information in a PowerPoint they could use. “Given the size of our town, it seems like we would almost be exempt from certification,” he said. The classes provide a certification for class attendees.

Reed said that the OCEA is separate from OML, which does provide information for municipalities on the issues they face.

“We’ve definitely got to send somebody” to the class, Brackin said. “It would be nice to have somebody who specifically does just that. There are things that are in the legal definition of ‘health hazard’ that need to be removed.”

Rhodes suggested the group do more research to see what their options are, and the issue was laid to rest for the time being.

Baseball Field Repairs Discussed

The board discussed what needs to be done to repair the baseball field. Rhodes has been looking into the issue.

“There are things that need to be removed and replaced, and a storage building might need to be replaced, and we may need to put in a new chain-link fence,” said Rhodes.

Most of the work would be done in the spring, Rhodes said. But for now he thought the portions of the fence that needs to be taken out can be removed during the winter, and then those sections replaced with new chain link in the spring.

The field is primarily for community use, said Reed. It’s available for teams who compete at the rec center to practice on between games. Right now, those teams are using the school’s football field.

“If we have it, we need to be good stewards of it and repair it,” said Brackin. “I don’t know if the school would be interested in using it, but if they were, I’d be all in favor of doing some major improvements to it.”

The field was originally created by a Spirit of ’76 grant, said Reed. But before the town can apply for any future state or federal funding for the park, it has to be brought up to code, she said, “which means ADA parking and bathrooms.”

“Spend $200,000 for a $10,000 grant for new lights?” said Brackin.

“Basically, that’s what it boils down to,” said Reed.

Lift Station Generator

The group discussed various ways to handle an issue with the lift station generator, which has the incorrect voltage due to a contractor error. The town has a quote from AEC to change transformers at a cost of between $6,000 and $7,000.

Rhodes has been talking with contractors about the issue and is fluent in the jargon. “They’re going to change all three pots on the pole and re-energize the third leg on there,” said Rhodes. But he suggested another approach might be less expensive. However, he needs to get more information on the incorrect generator and communicate that to his expert sources.

Rhodes said he’d also like to get a “second opinion” from a different contractor.

Ultimately, the group decided to go ahead and have the current “wrong” generator listed for sale and attempt to sell it before purchasing a new one.

“You’re talking about taking a $2,000 hickey with a trade-off versus a potentially $7,000 hit” to change out a transformer, said Brackin.

“To me, that would make the most sense,” Rhodes said.

“We can list it and sell it as it sits and then buy a new one and put in. I don’t see any reason to put in a new unit and have the old one sit,” Brackin said. “I guess I’d like to know we can sell what we’ve got first.”

The board approved having Northwest Electric list the town’s “wrong” generator as being available for purchase.

Other Board Business

Highway Signs: Although Stuart Page, the maintenance director, wasn’t at the meeting (because he was in the middle of putting up the town’s Christmas tree), Reed did her best to update the board on the status of the highway signs installation.

“All of our street signs are up,” she said. “I think it’s just the Welcome to Freedom sign” that hasn’t been put up yet.

Brackin asked Reed to have Stuart call him about the signs.

Financial Matters: The board went into executive session to discuss staff Christmas bonuses. On return to open session, the board moved on to the town clerk/treasurer’s report.

That report boiled down to all the town’s finances being in the black.

“You need to work for Gov. Stitt,” said Brackin. “I don’t see how a town this size can run in the black for almost a decade consecutively. Kudos.”

After that, Reed asked the board for “a motion to establish a PO for Christmas bonuses for police.” That bonus PO was approved.

The board transferred $1,034 from the general fund to the MTA fund to cover the property insurance payment. “I take two payments out of MTA and two out of general, and this should have come out of general this month like the auto and liability did. That invoice came last month, and I didn’t verify it right, so I need to transfer that ($1,034) to make sure (the money) comes out of the right fund at the right time of the year,” Reed said.

“I suppose everybody makes a mistake,” said Brackin. The funds transfer was approved.

The board also approved the Nov. 13 meeting minutes, and the purchase orders for the general, fire and ambulance funds, with one exception.

OAOA Membership: As he went through the list of purchase orders, Brackin asked about the membership renewal of the Oklahoma Airport Operators Association. “I don’t think they’ve done much for us,” he said.

Reed, after looking through some paperwork, said that the membership meant they could send a representative to vote when the association has things to vote on. Members can attend the OAOA’s meetings.

“It’s not mandated that we’re part of this organization because we have an airport, is it?” asked Rhodes.

“No,” said Reed. It just gives you the ability to send a representative to their meetings.

Brackin said, “If we were going to pursue updating the airport and going the aviation route with it, it would be good to be a member for that, but if we don’t see that happening (soon), we could save $50” on the membership.

Rhodes agreed that with no real advantage to the town for being a member, “I don’t see the need to do it.”

The board approved the purchase orders with the exception of striking the OAOA membership.


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