By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Friday felt like Groundhog Day for many Del City residents and officials.
Several people turned out for a special meeting of the Oklahoma County Commissioners to oppose a possible location for the new Oklahoma County Detention Center at 1901 E. Grand Blvd.
It has been taken off the list of potential sites three times, including just two days earlier.
“What are we doing here at three o’clock on a Friday afternoon? What is this all about? Why did you bring us in here at three o’clock on a Friday afternoon to talk about an item that each and every commissioner has voted against this site at one time or another,” said Del City Mayor Floyd Eason.
The Grand Blvd. property is near the city limits of Del City and close to several schools including Crooked Oak Schools and Epperly Heights Elementary.
Several people said the addition of a jail would create safety concerns for children and residents who live near the property and stifle economic and residential development in the area. Many also expressed frustration about the process in which the Grand Blvd. site has been added and removed multiple times.
“It just makes me emotional at this point because I feel like we’re kind of getting poo pooed,” said Claudia Browne, Del City City Councilmember. “All three of you (commissioners) have said no to this at some point for all of the right reasons.”
State Rep. Andy Fugate said building a jail just outside of city limits would be a detriment for Del City.
“I have heard that it said that this would be economic development for Del City but quite frankly the only economic development I see coming from this would be the addition of bail bondsman,” Fugate said. “A combination of bail bondsmen and marijuana shops is not what we want for economic development.
Commissioner Myles Davidson requested that the county revisit the Grand Blvd. site after not being at the commissioners meeting on Wednesday.
Following an executive session that lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes, Davidson told the public that the item was added to the special meeting agenda by error. Davidson said he was using his cell phone on an airplane last week and mistakenly added the items on the agenda.
He said it was not meant to look shady.
“This is nobody’s fault but my own and there is nothing nefarious at hand,” he said.
Davidson believes they will continue discussing all potential sites for the jail. He said his deputy mistakenly voted to remove the properties at Wednesday’s meeting.
“My deputy did a great job telling me all about them [properties]. She did not have any direction from me about removing or entering any properties so that’s again an error on me,” Davidson said. “And the buck stops with me. We will continue to look at any and all properties that we possibly can to come up with a solution. It is a very difficult solution.”
Commissioner Carrie Blumert said she continues to oppose Grand Blvd. as a site for the new detention center.
The commissioners voted to remove properties at SE 29th St. and the Kickapoo Turnpike, Reno Ave. and Martin Luther King Blvd., as well as 1901 E. Grand Blvd. At Friday’s meeting, the Grand Blvd. site as well as the airport property and another at SW 74th St. and Rockwell Ave. were listed.
District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan strongly opposes building a new jail at the current location in downtown Oklahoma City. He also shot down rumors that developers are pressuring the
county to move the jail to allow for future development. Maughan said there is not enough available land near the current jail.
The commissioners met with the ARPA consultant last week and believe they will have time to be diligent in their search for a new jail site.
“We’re relieved after hearing from the ARPA consultant that we have a little more time,” Maughan said. “I don’t want to say that that’s a lot more time. But we really are trying to work with absolute due diligence in making sure that we get this right. And we need all of the options on the table in order to do that.”
Maughan said he understands that the process has been frustrating and confusing when some properties are removed and added to the list.
The potential jail sites will not be discussed at Wednesday’s regularly scheduled meeting.