Chandler Park

Commissioner’s learning curve very steep

Commissioner’s learning curve very steep


A county commissioner’s job has a steep learning curve and new lessons are experienced daily.

That is District Two Commissioner Karen Keith’s assessment of the job she started three years ago.

Now, as she starts her fourth year and prepares to run for a second term in 2012, Keith said that not only has the job been a welcome challenge, it also has been fun to represent people in her district.

“I love the job, the area and the people,” she said. “This job has been a labor of love, a joy for me, and the more I get to know people the more I understand its importance.”

As a group, the Tulsa County Commissioners work well together,” she said. That cohesiveness has been important because 2011 was a tough year. Despite the economic difficulties, no county employee was laid off.

“We run a lean, mean machine in Tulsa County,” Keith continued.

“Because of that, it has been possible to get through the year and are prepared for 2012.”

Tulsa County did very well during 2011 and was able to complete a variety of road projects.

“We continue to work on the Juvenile Justice Center issue and will continue that effort during 2012 to find a real solution to replacing the worn out center on Charles Page Boulevard.”

Keith said she also was very pleased that Tom Rains was selected as county engineer and was able to tackle the job that was opened by Ray Jordan’s retirement.

Looking specifically at District Two, Keith said she made maintenance and improvements of roads and bridges a top priority.

Crews worked tirelessly on Avery Drive during the construction season to mill out the old road to its base, repair the base and resurface it and upgrade the guard railing bordering the road.

In addition, a major upgrade to the infrastructure was completed for the 51st Street and 65th West Ave.

Old North Road in Sand Springs received a new overlay that will prepare the way for completion of the project to Triangle Park. County crews also completed work on an 81st Street intersection near the school, re-decked three bridges and through interlocal agreements began work on several area parking lots.

Work on key elements of the Jenks/Haikey Creek Levee system kept Tulsa County out in front of flood control work in Jenks.

In addition to completing a video inspection of relief wells within the system, the County also updated the main pump station for the levee, Keith said.

The County was responsible for inspection work of the draining aspects for the Village on Main project that included the road going over the levee.

Crews also completed four mowing cycles throughout the year while working specifically to clear timber and debris for the South Lakes addition.

Redistricting based on the 2010 Census data required a major accomplishment for the future of District Two road maintenance and improvements, she said. Previously, the District’s geological boundaries were a hurdle to efficient operation during ice and snowstorms and for mowing and debris clearing. The new boundaries should make this work more efficient.

“Snowpocalypse 2011” brought new challenges for District Two crews, Keith said. Between the two major snowstorms, crews treated approximately 1,000 miles of roadways, used, 1,114.5 tons of sand and 21.5 tons of salt to treat the roadways.

“The accomplishments of my team are made all the more impressive because they did the work with two graders, two large plows, one small plow and five sand trucks,” said Lewis Long, District Two highway maintenance superintendent.

Neighborhood cleanup projects were another of Keith’s priorities.

County resources were utilized to assist with neighborhood cleanup efforts.

The Mayfair neighborhood received help not only from the district, but also from the Tulsa Shock women’s basketball team.

A second project was the cleanup activities near the former Jane Addams Elementary School. Area cleanup efforts were enhanced when the county was able to contract for a major building demolition at 65th West Ave. and Charles Page Blvd.

Work on the Juvenile Justice Center continues as funding efforts are sought to help fund the project.

“We have continued a dialogue with various components of the Family Court System and other support agencies to develop a comprehensive picture of what the facility will include,” Keith said. “In the interim, the County has installed a fire suppression system in the existing facility.

Park improvements also were made during 2011.

Chandler Park Community Center saw a major improvement through the installation of an array of solar panels to help generate electricity for the facility, she said. The approximately $3 million project was completed with the help of grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy. The program already has begun to pay dividends by qualifying the County for rebates through PSO’s Model Cities Program of $175 per kW of peak demand reduction and $0.06 per kWh of first year energy reduction, resulting in an initial savings of $7,000 to $10,000 annually.

An extensive amount of work has been done with the Tulsa County Drainage District 12 to maintain and improve the operational efficiency of that district, she said. The effort was made in an effort to stay out in front of flood issues in the west Tulsa area.

District 12 is faced with post-Katrina flood mitigation standards that are far stricter than in past years.

Underscoring the seriousness of the situation, the U.S. Army Corps of engineers deemed the Tulsa and West Tulsa levee system “unacceptable” which placed it at risk of decertification and de-enrollment from the National Flood Insurance program.

Commissioners unanimously named Todd Kirkpatrick as levee foreman, Keith said. Kirkpatrick already has begun a pilot inspection program that will put the levee system well on its way toward a better understanding of what that system needs to stay in compliance with FEMA’s regulations while west Tulsa business and citizens for the next 60 years of its life cycle.

Burn bans were common because of hot, dry weather during 2011, Keith said. The existing statute and information collection process generated confusion amongst area fire chiefs as to whether they should vote for a burn ban despite agreeing the County needed to have one in place.

“I have been working actively towards improving that process with which the County decides to declare a burn ban,” she said. “My office has drafted and submitted proposed legislation for the coming year through the Coalition of Tulsa Area Governments (CTAG) that I firmly believe will improve that efficiency and provide clarity of the process that will benefit Tulsa County as a whole.”


By Ralph Schaefer of the Tulsa Daily Commerce & Legal News

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Bales thanked for 40 years of parks service


There are few better examples of how County government can make a difference in the lives of its citizens than its parks system.  The parks offer open spaces where families can gather, or individuals can go to enjoy a slower pace for a while.  For nearly 40 years now, our parks have been at the forefront of this benefit to our community thanks in large part to Parks Director Richard Bales and his staff.

In 1970, a then-18-year-old Bales who had worked some as a part-time stock boy, etc., for a local QuikTrip store close to his home, was hired on as a part-time recreation leader for O’Brien Park.  According to Bales, “In those days, the County parks had a lot of land but very few facilities.”  A positive attitude, stellar work ethic, and enthusiasm for physical fitness propelled Bales quickly up the ranks of the park system.  In 1972, he was hired as a recreation leader at O’Brien, then promoted to activities director in 1975, and in 1976 he was promoted to the parks administrative staff, located in the courthouse.  In 1978, Bales earned his degree in health, physical education and recreation from the University of Tulsa, leading to his being promoted to recreation superintendent in 1979.  By 1989, Bales was leading the program as its director.

During his tenure, Bales has seen many changes.  According to Bales, however, one thing remains constant.  “The parks still provide a place where kids can come and learn teamwork, sportsmanship, and citizenship.”  As an example, Bales points to the recent success of the revitalized youth baseball program centered in the Watts Complex at Chandler Park.  “Back in the early 1980s, it was the home of the Westside Kids Baseball with 55 to 60 teams.  Over time, however, that program disappeared.  For the last two years, our new program has been a huge success.  In fact, the Drillers organization has sponsored us both years and upped their second year donation because they like what we’re doing.”

Bales considers the revitalized youth baseball program just one of several examples where Tulsa County parks help give kids opportunities to get involved with an active lifestyle.  He recalls the parks collaborating with the city to help give the area’s high school golf teams a place to practice.  “Before we did that, only kids that attended Tulsa Public Schools within Tulsa city limits could use city golf courses, but we broadened the availability of those courses to include all schools public and private within Tulsa County.”

Along those lines and close to his heart, Bales points to examples like Buford Colony Park.  Located just northeast of the intersection of West 61st Street South and South 105th West Avenue, Bales explains that “that park has truly made a difference to the neighborhoods which surround it.  Being located in a somewhat economically depressed area of the county, it means that much more for those families to have a clean and safe place in which to enjoy time together outside.”

Over the years, Bales maintains that his favorite aspect of his job is serving the people of Tulsa County.  Everyone has a need of a place to walk the dog, fly a kite, play with their kids and enjoy nature.  Parks make our county a better place to live.

But I would like to add that they do so thanks to the hard work of Richard Bales and his devoted staff.


Karen Keith
Tulsa County Commissioner

Article compliments of the Tulsa County News

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Cyclists can expect new smooth feeling ride on 21st Street to Oklahoma 97

Cyclists can expect new smooth feeling ride on 21st Street to Oklahoma 97


A three-mile stretch of Avery Drive that’s popular with bicyclists is getting a smooth new look.

For the past month, Tulsa County highway crews have been milling bumps, sealing cracks, stretching fabric and laying asphalt along the 32-foot-wide road from 21st Street to Oklahoma 97 in Sand Springs.

“The way that thing (the road) is on the side of the hill, it is continually slipping and settling,” said Tulsa County Engineer Tom Rains.

“I fully expect it to settle again, but this fix will hold for a while.”

When the road is reopened early next month, it will again include 5-foot-wide cycling lanes on either side as well as new guardrails.

That’s good news for the local bicycling community.

“It’s a very important corridor for cyclists to get to that part of town … and to those who want to get to low-traffic arterials,” said Adam Vanderburg, owner of Lee’s Bicycles and the Trek Store of Tulsa.

Rains said the repaved road will retain the old road’s flashing signal lights. The lights are triggered when a cyclist rides by.

“That kind of alerts people that there is a bicyclist ahead,” Rains said. “It’s on both ends” of the road.

County road crews are responsible for maintaining 725 miles of roads in unincorporated Tulsa County.

Funding for the roadwork comes primarily from state fuel taxes and other dedicated sources.

Repaving Avery Drive – with its 15,000 tons of fresh asphalt – is expected to cost a little more than $700,000, with Sand Springs paying about $35,000 for work done in Sand Springs near Oklahoma 97.

The county’s annual Highway Department budget is about $7 million – a figure that has remained steady for years, Rains said.

The county repaves an average of nine to 12 miles of road each year.

For the past few years, the county has benefited from a joint venture with the Cherokee Nation.

Under the program, the tribe pays for materials and the county does the work.

Still, road-work funding is tight.

“As costs go up, salaries and benefits go up. We really have less dollars to do maintenance and operations,” Rains said.

About 25 county employees were working on Avery Drive on Monday.

Four or five workers operated the lone paver.

Fifteen more kept the huge machine inching along by filling it with fresh loads of asphalt from their trucks, and three followed in rollers to give the roadway a smooth finish.

The fresh asphalt hits the ground at about 300 degrees. Add the 100-degree-plus temperatures outside, and it’s a hot, sticky job.

But Bill Duncan, 61, said it hasn’t really been that bad.

“It’s been pretty easy,” he said from the driver’s seat of the paver. “When we get parking lots, that’s when we get a little hectic, going around islands and stuff like that.

“These straight runs are like gravy to us.”


By Kevin Canfield of the Tulsa World

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Chandler Park Community Center to be powered by solar panels


TULSA COUNTY – A Tulsa community center is turning to the sun for its energy needs. Chandler Park in West Tulsa is using a big federal grant to install more than 250 solar panels and the cost savings is a shining bonus.

The Chandler Park Community Center will soon generate its own electricity, thanks to solar power.

“We are so excited we got federal grant money, INCOG helped us do that,” Karen Keith, a Tulsa County Commissioner, said.

That grant was worth $265,000 and is paying for 252 solar panels that will go on the upper and lower roofs of the community center.

“It’s going to cut our bills significantly,” Keith said. “We’ll save $15,000 to $17,000 a year and it’s about half of the energy needs of this building.

The center will still need to buy 50 percent of its electricity. Commissioner Keith says solar energy is widely tested now, so they know it’s going to work.

“If you look at this building, it’s absolutely ideal. There’s nothing creating any shade over these solar panels. So it’s going to really work well here,” she said.

Especially during the summer months, when the sun beats down and air conditioners work overtime just to keep up.

“Anytime you can cut your costs and make your building more sustainable, you’re moving in the right direction,” Keith said.

A local company is installing the panels and says this will be the largest solar collector in the state. Each panel generates about 230 watts of energy.

“The total energy consumption when we finish with this particular grid that we are working on will generate almost 54,000 watts of energy into the building,” Amos Adetula, with Amos Electric, said.

The county hopes this project is the first of many to come.

“We are looking forward to seeing more federal grant dollars come in so we can do this same application elsewhere,” Keith said.

The solar panel installation should take a couple of days.

Commissioner Keith says several of the county’s community centers are structured the same way as Chandler Park, so they’re hoping to outfit those buildings with solar panels if they can get more federal money.

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