By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Midwest City Mayor Matt Dukes presented his annual state of the city Monday morning in front of a packed house at the Nick Harroz Community Center.
Dukes provided a recap of the past year and highlighted accomplishments of city staff and departments as well as current projects. In a bit of a twist, Dukes concluded the speech by outlining a vision for the future of the city.
The event was sponsored by the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce.
Midwest City made big strides with its 2018 General Obligation Bond projects, Dukes said. The city celebrated the opening of three projects: renovation of John Conrad Regional Golf Course, the Multi-Purpose Athletic Complex or MAC and the Reed Ballpark.
In January, the city council approved a construction contract to upgrade the soccer complex with a few additional fields being added with improved drainage and lights for longer playing time.
Dukes said the city crossed another big one off their list last month with the opening of W.P. Bill Atkinson Park near Town Center.
The water booster station and storage tank project is complete, providing sustainability to the city’s west side. Dukes said they also had successful bids on such things as the design and construction services for the Mid-America all-inclusive playground and the temporary concessions at the ball fields this year. The city also expects to see significant progress on phase two of the street rehabilitation project and the police and fire training facility.
Dukes said the city is making progress on revitalizing the Heritage Park Mall area. The city attorney and city staff developed a blight report on the old Heritage Park Mall property. The Midwest City Urban Renewal Authority approved the blight report and it is now in the hands of the planning commission, Dukes said.
Midwest City economic development director Robert Coleman and community partners have developed the city’s third Tax Increment Finance District with the hopes of attracting businesses to the city’s north side, Dukes said.
The city saw a record number of new residential construction in 2022,estimated at over $40 million. Dukes said they are also experiencing strong commercial development. That includes the recent addition of Carter’s to Town Center and the future opening of Mathis Home store in the former J.C. Penney building.
“Even with the staffing and supply chain issues we saw in the post COVID world, we saw more ribbon-cuttings than closings,” Dukes said.
Dukes applauded the work and charitable efforts of city employees.
Last year, 911 dispatchers celebrated saving six lives through emergency medical dispatch and the passage of OK House Bill 3278, which officially recognizes them as first responders.
Dukes highlighted the newly formed engineering and construction department led by Brandon Bundy. The team is working to develop a more streamlined system for developers and people seeking permits.
“Even through this transition, they conducted over 5,500 inspections and issued over 3,500 permits,” Dukes said.
The fire department responded to 8,642 calls with 223 fire incidents. Despite an increase in call volume, Dukes said theylogged more than 24,000 hours of medical and fire training in 2022. They participated in two major cooperative training events including an active shooter event. Fire Prevention conducted over 1,100 inspections and investigated four adult protective service cause for abuse and 13 fires.
Midwest City’s finance team managed the largest budget to date of $209 million.
The fleet team disbursed over 270,000 gallons of fuel to the city’s fleet.
The grants management department secured over $11 million in grant funds for specific projects. They coordinated a new Head Start Program and had nearly 600 children participate in Boys and Girls Clubs.
Vision for the future
After looking back at accomplishments in 2022, Dukes glanced forward with a vision for the future. He said the city needs to continue growing and thriving to be “America’s Model City.”
“To cast a vision for our city, you need to look no further than the vision WP Atkinson had to make this America’s Model City,” he said. “We must continue to work toward making Midwest City walkable, livable, safe, and to have the amenities needed to keep residents.”
Dukes’ vision for the future included a number of ambitious goals.
One of the biggest was a pitch for a new city hall complex or major renovation to the existing one. Dukes said it would include a new jail, police department and municipal court. The current complex was built in 1970.
In the same vein, Dukes said the city needs upgrade its infrastructure and facilities. He pointed to the success of the new Multi-Athletic Complex or MAC and said they must complete the project by adding additional parking, fields and concession stand. He also pointed to the Senior Citizens Center which he called a “beehive of activity.”
“Seniors gather there daily to eat lunch and to socialize,” he said. “We need to look at expanding the building and services.”
Dukes pointed to a need for new housing and called on the city to work with local realtors and developers to create a plan to redevelop residential areas throughout the city. He said they must also work to improve the quality of life to attract and retain residents.
Midwest City has worked to revitalize different parts of the city over the years. Dukes said NE 10th Street needs to be next on the list. He wants the city to complete a study of the corridor and find ways to revitalize it.
“In what was once a bustling retail and restaurant area, is now only silhouetted by empty buildings and empty fast-food restaurants,” Dukes said. “This came about because of a decline and exodus of wealth from what was once thriving middle-class neighborhoods.”
The mayor said the city must do more to support local artists and called for a community arts council.
“We have many talented artists in Midwest City evidenced by the success of “Covered in Color” and other events,” he said.
Dukes challenged the community to preserve its unique history as a support community for Midwest Air Depot which later became Tinker Air Force Base. He said the city needs a historical society to perverse its history and teach generations to come.