Sand Springs

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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New members appointed to drainage committee


After a few appointments and several reappointments, made by Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith, the Tulsa County Drainage District 12 Advisory Board Members are now Todd Kilpatrick, Mike Lutrell, Wayne Hamilton, E. Bruce Ford, Mark Manahan, Mark Liotta, Montie Box, and Rick Tallent.

“It’s a new day at the levee, and we wanted to get some new blood and new faces,” said Keith.  “Now we have some fresh eyes on the issues impacting the levee and they can help get everyone newly and more engaged in the process.”

Approximately 50,000 people live in the floodplain and an estimated 25,000 work there.  These homes and jobs are in Tulsa’s Arkansas River flood risk area, along with several other critical facilities, hazardous chemicals and operations, schools, churches, railroads, and much more.  The main priority and responsibility of Drainage District 12 is to maintain the levees that protect Sand Springs and Tulsa, keeping the floodplain safe.

“We’re really excited to have this group of people.  Many are returning board members, which is great because they have experience and knowledge,” said Keith.  “They are going to be a great team.”


By Sarah Moody 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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Eyesore no more: Derelict domiciles demolished north of river


The rock house with its one-of-a-kind metal fencing sat empty for nearly a decade until Tuesday when a bulldozer razed it along with several other derelict buildings near the intersection of Charles Page Boulevard and W. 65th Avenue.

“The Tulsa County Health Department has been aware of this issue for years but simply doesn’t have the funds to address all of the buildings that need to be demolished,” said John Baker, long-time manager of engineering services for the TCHD.  “But, J.D. Smith (who owns land nearby) approached Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith who helped us move this along in putting together the grant so we had the $46,000 to proceed.  Claudia Brierre at INCOG was also helpful in getting the federal grant.”

The property is owned by Philip Wright who has been out of the country but is happy that the land is now cleared, Baker said.

Many people and organizations showed interest in obtaining the materials from the unique fence made out of oil-drilling equipment pieces including steel sucker-rods and drill-rods, said Baker.  However, Wright’s father (who had worked for the Sand Springs Rail Road) installed the fence by heating up the spear-tip of the metal and literally forging it in concrete and so it is not feasible to get it out in a re-usable manner.


By Tracy LeGrand of the Tulsa County News

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Workers demolish derelict house

Workers demolish derelict house


It took almost five years, but a derelict house in the 6300 block of Charles Page Boulevard, which had because a health and safety hazard, is gone.

As part of a Tulsa County cleanup project, a shovel excavator Tuesday afternoon knocked down the structure near Ziegler Park

J.D. Smith, Charles Page Neighborhood Association president, said the group started lobbying government agencies in August, 2006.

Smith said the house was originally built for an official of the Sand Springs Home in the 1920s.

“As time went by, it became run down,” Smith said. “It (the building) was a nasty place. It was empty for awhile and homeless people moved in. They absolutely trashed it.”

At first, the group approached the City of Tulsa only to find out the property was in an unincorporated part of Tulsa County. Then the group found out the county did not have the authority to condemn the unplatted piece of property.

“County Commissioner Karen Keith had them change the law so the county had the authority,” Smith said.

Tulsa County and the Tulsa City-County Health Department both worked on the  project. Cherokee Pride Construction was selected to do the demolition and site cleanup work at a cost of $46,000.00. The project is being paid for by an Urban County Community Development Block Grant coordinated by INCOG (Indian Nations Council of Governments), officials said.

“This has been a long time coming, and we are grateful the home owner cooperated in the demolition of this specific property,” Keith said. “It takes the passion of homeowners like J.D. Smith and Don Comstock to maintain the vitality of our neighborhoods.”

In addition to the demolition, Tulsa County will sponsor a fall cleanup effort to allow area residents to clear debris that has accumulated over time.

Flyers will be distributed by the County announcing the time of the cleanup and location of the dumpsters, Michael Willis, county spokesman, said.


By Paul Waldschmidt of the Sand Springs Leader

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Avery Drive closed to bicyclists and motorists while being rehabilitated


Under Avery Drive, workers have found car bodies, trees, and a cook stove.  Dale Blevins said when he started work with the county in 1977, he talked to an older worker who said the county started paving with a proper bed underneath, but ran out of the dirt, shale, and other rock, so they started using whatever they could find.

About that time, a worker found a rock with a 12 to 14 inch fish fossil in the hillside, Blevins said.

Over the years, the county has lowered the elevation of some of the curves of Avery Drive.

Blevins, a member of the county construction crew, started out at District 2, but now serves the whole county.

Back in the late 1940s to early 1950s, the road served the rock crusher operation on the top of the hill, according to Ray Jordan, retired county engineer.

A conveyor belt carried the rock to the railroad.  Blevins showed the reporter the concrete support for the conveyor which was still there on Thursday.  The view was less impeded in 1977.  “You could see the river a lot better,” he said.

He said back then the water trickled out of the rock year round, and the trains jiggled the road year-round.  Avery Drive has been worked on in several projects over the years, and water seeping under the road was stopped.

Jordan said in the early 1970s, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation was interested in four-laning River Road as it was called then.  But, cost-estimates for the project were prohibitive.  So, ODOT four-laned West 41st Street.

Blevins said the project will take several weeks because now they are putting down oil and fabric.  The oil comes from near the Port of Catoosa.  After that, asphalt, much of which will come from the Port of Catoosa, but some will come from Sand Springs.

Blevins said they have had some who are glad the road is being paved and some complaints.  “We’re dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis.  We try to accommodate them the best we can,” Blevins said.  He said in the first week 1,000 bicyclist wanted to come through the barricades.

Some businesses told the county Avery Drive is the way they travel.

Blevins said the west end of Avery Drive belongs to Sand Springs, but the county is going to repave that section as well.


By Anna F. Brown of the Tulsa County News

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Avery Drive – a whole lot of shaking going on


Winding through lush flora and bracketed by hills, river and railroad track, Avery Drive can seem idyllic.  But perpetual train-related circumstance mean Tulsa County must – every few years – commit resources and manpower to the road’s repair – despite any possible inconvenience to motorists seeking other routines due to construction of the nearby I-244 Arkansas River Bridge.  Avery Drive is currently closed and will be for the next few weeks.

“That road is impacted by the trains running down below it that it vibrates up the hill and the hills south of it so the ground shifts a lot,” said Lewis Long, Tulsa County superintendent of District 2.

The road was closed June 13, and about 35 workers – a combination of Tulsa County and Becco Construction crews – are working to mill the roadway surface to restore crown and correct the profile, repair the roadway base, seal cracks, fill some “serious voids” and make asphalt overlay, he said.  New striping for the road and bicycle lanes as well as replacing the guardrail and signs is being accomplished at the same time.

“These issues can cause accidents and it has gotten really bad and needed to be done,” said Long.  “We have to do this in the summer despite any inconvenience with all the bridge work going on.  Folks still can go over to West 41st Street on State Highway 97 and come across into Tulsa from Sand Springs.”


By Tracy LeGrand of the Tulsa County News

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County, city agreement may extend Avery repaving

County, city agreement may extend Avery repaving


Tulsa County crews resurfacing Avery Drive may push their work a little further by repairing the city’s portion of the roadway.

That’s if Sand Springs city councilors Monday approve an agreement that would have the city buying the materials needed for the work. County crews would then do the work, said District Two County Commissioner Karen Keith.

Councilors will vote on an authorization to spend up to $35,000 for the materials – about 800 tons of asphalt – needed.

Keith said the cooperative work on the repair was proposed by County Engineer Tom Rains.

County crews closed the drive, which connects Sand Springs and west Tulsa, June 13 to begin repairs, Keith said.

The $500,000 project included milling down the surface, overlaying with asphalt and some other work such as guardrail replacement on the county’s section of the road.

The proposal, if approved, would extend the resurfacing to include the city’s stretch, which is roughly 1,400 feet from about Highway 97 east to the Highway 51 intersection, according to city memos.

The city’s expenditure would be from the street improvement fund portion of the city budget, the memo said.


By Dustin Hughes of the Sand Springs Leader

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