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City needs voters' support to fund long list of projects

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LAWTON, Okla._ The City of Lawton has a long list of projects that need immediate attention and not nearly enough money to pay for it all. That’s why they’re asking voters on Aug. 26 to approve $100 million in funding to make some much needed progress.

Nearly 70 percent of the 2015 Capital Improvement Project is directed toward public safety upgrades, including funding to build a new police station and give police officers and firefighters a pay increase. City leaders say this sales tax extension affects nearly every area of the Lawton community, including the city’s parks and schools.

“These are by no means funds that will help us do extravagant things, but these are funds which will help us make our district at the bare minimum in some areas,” says Dr. Tom Deighan, Lawton Public Schools superintendent.

If the sales tax extension passes at the polls, LPS will receive $12.5 million. Deighan says he’s happy to be included in the deal, and says the money will be used in large part for safety upgrades district-wide. That includes fencing around elementary schools and increased security systems at the entrances of the district's middle and high schools.

"Of course anytime that we can control and help make our schools safer, that's a priority,” says Deighan.

The plan also puts $4.5 million into building upgrades and recreation. Ahlschlager Park, on the corner of SW 17th and G Avenue, is in dire need of improvement, according to Kim Shahan, Parks and Recreation Director. He’s hoping to install new lighting, new bleachers and a sprinkler system to keep the grass green. It’s a project that will cost more than $800,000. Other recreation items include the installation a large splash pad at Elmer Thomas Park.

"It says to our children and it says to the people that are here that we value the things that the children want to do,” says Shahan.

Two other big ticket items are a new roof for the Lawton Public Library and Museum of the Great Plains, where they say the roof on their current building, which is city owned, is unreliable.

"[The city has] really tried to take care of the leaks that we've had, but I think it's just gotten to the point where they can't keep up with it,” says John Hernandez, executive director at Museum of the Great Plains.

There is also $9.5 million for road work on West Gore Boulevard and Rogers Lane, as well as more than $4 million for water and sewer line maintenance issues citywide.

City leaders have scheduled two open forums before Election Day to educate the public on the sales tax extension and to give residents the opportunity to ask questions. The first forum will be held Thursday. Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Eisenhower High School Auditorium. The second forum will be held next Monday, August 25 at 6 p.m in the MacArthur High School Cafeteria.

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