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Councilor: There ‘should have been’ facilities audit before Improve Our Tulsa

Tulsa Performing Arts Center CEO Mark Frie speaks to city officials during a tour of the facility in January 2023.
Max Bryan
Tulsa Performing Arts Center CEO Mark Frie speaks to city officials during a tour of the facility in January 2023.

A city councilor says an audit package to assess city facilities and infrastructure that was approved this week should have happened sooner — specifically, before the latest Improve Our Tulsa package.

Councilor Jeannie Cue has pushed for the city to assess the condition of its facilities. Her efforts correlate with a $2.2 million audit agreement approved on Wednesday for the company Terracon to do assessments of more than 700 sites throughout Tulsa, including city-owned buildings and infrastructure.

After the vote, Cue said the package "should have been" approved before the push for the latest Improve Our Tulsa package, which secured more than $814 million in existing bonds and sales taxes toward city infrastructure and facilities.

Jeannie Cue
City of Tulsa
Jeannie Cue

"We’re all at fault," Cue said. "There wasn’t a lot of things for facilities in (Improve Our Tulsa). We did small things, but this was to concentrate on facilities."

In the third Improve Our Tulsa package passed in August, voters approved more than $814 million for capital improvements throughout the city. About a third of that money will go toward facilities — most notably the Performing Arts Center, which will receive almost $80 million for structural improvements.

If the PAC were to be improved at all, it would become $25 million out of the latest ADA compliance criteria. In January, PAC CEO Mark Frie told councilors that guest speakers and performers who use the facility's backstage area have not felt accommodated — he mentioned Martha Stewart had to navigate the area while she was injured

Cue was a supporter of Improve Our Tulsa, along with almost all of the council. But she noted that problems with buildings like the Performing Arts Center could be avoided with an audit.

"When you hear Martha Stewart had to be carried up the stairs because it's not ADA (compliant), and you've been around enough — when it comes to things like ADA for our seniors, for our blind, I'm on top of that," she said.

In committee discussion the week prior, councilor Phil Lakin said the information from the assessments will keep them from having to do some items proposed for Improve Our Tulsa packages in the future.

"It’s unfortunate that [an assessment] hasn’t happened, but it’s fortunate that your department and your administration and the council is causing this to happen so that future administrations and councils don’t have to deal with it," Lakin told a city real estate manager in committee on Aug. 23.

Lakin and Cue were joined by six of the nine city councilors in supporting Improve Our Tulsa 3. Only city councilor Grant Miller opposed, arguing councilors didn't have enough time to review the construction contracts in the package before putting it before voters.

But after the vote, councilors acknowledged $75 million toward a brand new vaguely-worded city housing initiative included in the package — not the money for city buildings — was the biggest sticking point for residents who voted against it.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.