City of Tulsa to Allow Private Developers to Build, Get Reimbursed for Some Public Projects

Nov 9, 2018

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa has changed its policy on building public improvements to foster new development.

Previously, the city would do the work, paid for through an economic development fund. Now, officials will allow private developers to do the work and pay them back out of the same fund. Chief of Economic Development Kian Kamas said that won’t be the default approach.

"I think the intent would be to, as much as possible, still utilize the process that we’ve been going through but provide us an opportunity that, when it makes sense, to go through a reimbursement method," Kamas said.

Director of Economic Development Jim Coles said the change allows more flexibility than requiring the city to do the work in all cases.

"We’ve has a couple of occasions now after in retrospect working with the companies as they go through construction where that’s caused not necessarily a problem with us bidding it, but just the timing challenge or the finances, that we’ve committed X amount and then they have to pay the rest," Coles said.

Economic development officials said the city has struggled to accommodate projects with short timelines, like the Amazon fulfillment center.

Deputy Chief of Economic Development Michelle Barnett said the new policy also aligns with Mayor G.T. Bynum’s goal of making the permitting process more efficient.

"Water line one through three has one set of design criteria because it’ll be built by the contractor. Sections three through five, if they’re built by the city, have a different set of design criteria, and it makes it very confusing and difficult in our permitting process," Barnett said.