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Division Among Residents Over Rezoning Request

 

November 5, 2020

Jennifer Pitts

Tecumseh Mayor Eddy Parker, left, poses with a giant $20,000 check presented to the city by Palma Lough, right, of the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority Competitive during Monday's meeting of the Tecumseh City Council. The presentation and monetary award was for certification in the OMPA's Competitive Utility Program (CUP) for the 19th consecutive year. The program provides OMPA members with a way to evaluate and improve the operation of their electric utilities, and make them better able to compete in the electric utility industry. Lough congratulated Tecumseh on their work towards continued re-certification and said, "a lot of things are involved in making it happen."

Tree trimming, a rezoning request for a wrecking service and other issues drew seven residents and business owners to the podium to voice their concerns during this month's meeting of the Tecumseh City Council Monday. The council also discussed and approved items related to the widening of Highway 9, the city budget and repairs to the city water tower.

There were a few slightly-raised voices, a couple of harsh words and perhaps even a tear or two, but for the most part all parties remained civil during the hour and a half long city meeting.

A rezoning request, which revealed a clear division among residents and at least one City Council member, was for 18905 N. 13th Street, Shawnee, from agricultural to commercial. Mayor Eddy Parker said the Tecumseh Planning Commission voted to recommend denying the request. When asked if letters of opposition had been received, Walter Rose said, "Yes. More than we've ever had."

A representative for the property, Brittany Fafard, and neighbors stepped to the podium during a public hearing that followed.

Fafard said her mother, co-owner of the business, was unable to attend Monday's meeting because she is an RN and could not leave work on the two-hour notice she said her family received prior to the council meeting. She also stated they had requested the Planning Commission postpone an October discussion and vote on their rezoning request due to her mother testing positive for COVID-19 four days prior the meeting date on Oct. 15.

City Attorney Michael Warwick said he had recommended the commission postpone the meeting, but due to what officials discussed as being a breakdown in communication, it was not postponed.

After about 30 minutes of further discussions, Ward 3 Councilwoman Linda Praytor made a motion to table the item and waive the $300 fee for a new hearing before the Planning Commission to allow the property owners to attend. Ward 2 Councilwoman Sharon Stewart voted against the motion. All others voted in favor.

Under the general public comments portion of the meeting, any member of the public may speak; however, officials cannot take any action other than to direct the city manager to take action or schedule the matter for a later date. Four men stepped forward. Three stated they were fairly new. The first man said he was an OG&E lineman of eight years and pleaded with the city to address the overhanging limbs on a more regular basis to avoid bigger issues later. The third asked the council to consider changing the name of the Tecumseh School mascot from the "Savages" out of respect to Native Americans, and the fourth voiced concerns with tall grass on the south side of town.

Plans for the widening of Highway 9, from Tecumseh to Highway 102, were also discussed. Stokes said the project is not scheduled to begin until 2024. The council approved an agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for the Highway 9 widening project with an estimated cost to Tecumseh of $28,000.

Under the Tecumseh Utility Authority portion of the meeting, officials discussed the scope of work needed for the city water tower to repair large rust spots on the top of the tower and pipe. Superior Services and Supply LLC was approved for the job at a cost of $56,441.50.

The city budget for fiscal year 2021 was also discussed and a public hearing set for 6 pm on Monday, Dec. 6.

In other business, changes in the cost of setting light poles was approved and the council discussed the 2020 midterm financial report of the Pottawatomie County Soccer Association and questioned if the group had continued to maintain insurance. It was later clarified to a member of the group that insurance is required for the group to use the city property.

The council also re-approved annual contracts and agreements, with only date changes, for:

• City Attorney Mike Warwick.

• The Tecumseh Chamber of Commerce

• Youth and Family Services Inc.

Tecumseh Historical Society

Tecumseh Youth Sports Association

• Robert Reeves, Tecumseh Lake Caretaker

• Youth and Family Resource Center Inc.

Pottawatomie County Soccer Association

All other votes during the meeting were unanimous.

 

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