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Council agrees on 2015 Capital Improvement Project, residents to vote

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LAWTON, Okla._The Lawton City Council voted unanimously in favor of a final proposal for the 2015 Capital Improvement Project.

The current plan is slated to bring in millions of dollars for improvement projects citywide, if Lawton voters approve. It was only Tuesday when the city council was so divided on this proposal, they avoided a vote. By Friday, it’s a different story at city hall. The council has reached an agreement and if voters approve it, 70 percent of the money generated will be directed toward public safety.

A unanimous vote was followed by cheers of excitement inside city hall. The council made a final decision on how to best spend the money the city will generate, if voters approve extending two existing sales taxes.

"A great program, it's going to address so many needs in this community," said Ward 2 Councilman Keith Jackson.

The new proposal won’t add to the current sales tax, but rather extend it and change where the generated revenue would go. It’s an agreement that could bring in more than $100 million.

"This will address what most people believe is the number one issue in our community, which is crime and public safety," said Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk.

Councilman Burk, along with Jackson and Doug Wells created the list of projects the plan will fund, but it's been an uphill battle.

"Selling it to the council, as everyone's noticed has not been easy," said Burk.

The council has been divided on the 2015 C.I.P. for nearly a month, but even those who were originally opposed to the plan gave it their stamp of approval, including Rosemary Bellino-Hall who says bottom line, this plan puts public safety first.

"We can not recruit to a city when you pull it up on the Internet and it says we're an unsafe city," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Bellino-Hall.

She's in full support of the $29.5 million in place to give police officers and firefighters a pay increase, as well as another $29.5 million for the construction of a new public safety facility.

"You have sewage from the jail floating into offices below," said Bellino-Hall.

Lawton Police Chief James Smith, happy about the possibility of change within his department, adding this is more than just throwing money at a big problem.

"It gets us better equipment, gives us better facility, help us get some things to help us fight crime in this community," explained Chief Smith.

In all, nearly $69 million will go towards public safety. Lawton Public Schools will also benefit by receiving $12.5 million. $10 million will also be spent on road improvements and other money is in place for water line maintenance and library and recreational services.

"This addresses the most critical needs this community has," said Jackson.

The toughest part for the city still lies ahead, selling this plan to city voters. One way they plan to do so is by stuffing information flyers in residents’ monthly water bills.

The election is scheduled for August 26.

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