By Rhett Morgan
Story originally published in the Tulsa World
CLAREMORE — City Manager Jim Thomas calls 2014 a “defining” year that the municipality can build on.
“Our economy is the strongest it has been in a decade, and collaborations with business, education and community groups have made 2014 a year for momentum,” Thomas said Thursday during the “State of the City” address at the Centennial Center at Rogers State University.
Mayor Bill Flanagan said Claremore last year experienced a 30 percent increase in construction permits and a 78 percent increase in the value of those permits.
In the area of industry, oil services company Baker Hughes Inc. invested $60 million in its Artificial Lift Technology Center, which opened in February. Also, AXH Air-Coolers pumped more than $14 million into facility expansion.
St. John Health Systems expanded into a new 20,000-square-foot facility. Three new hotels scheduled to be completed in mid-2015 will add a total of 240 rooms.
Thomas noted the community’s progress with Claremore 2020, a plan that outlines its strategy for growth, economic development and infrastructure needs.
Construction on a new $20 million water treatment plant could begin in late spring. The facility will double the current plant’s capacity of 4.1 million gallons per day, Thomas said.
The city also has purchased a church that is being converted into a fire department administration building and senior citizens center, he said.
“It will give the seniors a little bit bigger space, and it will give the fire department a training facility,” Thomas said. “The chief will have a bigger office than the closet he is staying in now.”
The city announced that a public auction will be held next month for Claremore Plaza, a 110-acre development that never got off the ground after being announced more than seven years ago.
The property eventually was foreclosed upon by Spirit Bank, which was ordered by federal authorities to get out of the development business.
Claremore has completed $2 million of infrastructure improvements at the site.
“That is something that’s been sitting idle since 2007,” Thomas said. “We hope 2015 is the year we jump-start that.”
The city manager also mentioned that the community’s rainy day fund has grown from $600,000 to $4.5 million since fiscal year 2011.
“That’s a credit from two standpoints,” Thomas said. “One, we’ve been realistic in our revenue projections. Two, it’s a reflection of the department heads. They’re spending what they need to run their departments.
“I’ve been in a community where we’ve had some serious disaster. … It’s nice to have those reserves.”
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395