The Tulsa City Council has been hosting town hall meetings to discuss the issue of street repair, replacement, and rehabilitation. There are five meetings left:
Monday, Nov 12th, 6:00 p.m., at Webster High School.I have not yet had the opportunity to attend any of the previous meetings but I plan on going to either this Monday or Tuesday’s. I have a feeling that they will be primarily discussing funding, but I hope is not the only issue on which they focus.
Tuesday, Nov. 13th, 6:00 p.m., at Memorial High School.
Tuesday, Nov. 20th, 6:00 p.m., at East Central High School.
Monday, Nov. 26th, 6:00 p.m., at Washington High School.
Monday, Dec. 3rd, 6:00 p.m., Hardesty Library.
While serving on the City’s Sales Tax Overview Committee, I have learned about two major issues, other than funding, that seriously threaten our ability to fix the streets. It is my opinion that unless these two issues are addressed, no amount of money in the world will be enough to fix our streets. At the heart of both issues is supply and demand. We have a high demand for street repair but a low supply of the available work force required to complete those repairs.
The first cause for this is the City’s strict bonding requirements. Only a handful of the larger local contractors can meet the City’s bonding requirements for large projects. As a result, the smaller contractors are unable to place bids for some of those larger jobs. While the bonding requirements are in place to protect the City from risk, perhaps we might reexamine and restructure these requirements so that smaller contractors might be able to bid on larger jobs without placing the City in undue risk. Alternatively, perhaps we should try to break larger jobs up into smaller pieces so that smaller contractors can share the workload.
The second cause surrounds the City’s requirement that at least 50 percent of the workforce come from Tulsa. While this is a nice sentiment, I think it sacrifices our ability to have great streets at the expense of protecting Tulsa jobs. The supply of Tulsa workers is limited, and since every contractor in town must have at least 50 percent of their workers from Tulsa, they are not only competing for contracts but workers as well. This is not helped by the fact that the migrant workforce in Oklahoma is dwindling. No contractor from out of state could come in and place bids for our contracts because there is no way they could meet the 50 percent rule, even if they could meet the bonding requirements.
Forget a new street initiative; we are having a hard time completing the work we already have on our plate. I have heard about projects that go out for advertisement without receiving a single bid. I have also heard of projects that only receive one bid, so much for competitive bidding.
If we want a new sweeping street initiative to fix all of Tulsa’s streets then we had better deal with these two issues first. The amount of work before us is insurmountable without more workers and contractors to do the job. I’m way more concerned about these two issues than I am finding the money required to do the projects. I have great confidence in our elected official’s ability to figure out new and inventive ways of taxing us.
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