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Cornett’s concerns



Voters approved the $777 million MAPS 3 program in December 2009, and each of the program’s eight projects is overseen by a subcommittee, which forwards its recommendations to a Citizens Advisory Board. The board sends its recommendations to the Oklahoma City Council for approval.

The MAPS 3 program is funded by a 1-cent sales tax increase.

At press time, Cornett said he was looking forward to hearing from those involved in a proposed timeline for MAPS 3 projects at the July 5 City Council meeting, where a recommendation on the location of the MAPS 3 convention center was expected to be considered.

The timeline has come under fire from several people at the subcommittee, advisory board and City Council levels, while defended by others.

The original timeline proposed by the consultant, Architectural Design Group, was scrapped when members of the convention center subcommittee requested a new schedule after seeing that the convention center — the most expensive project in the program — would be the last to be completed in 2021.

Critics of the most recent incarnation of the timeline said too much emphasis is being placed on the convention center, at the expense of projects that affect quality of life, such as the MAPS 3 park, which was broken up into three phases and had its completion date pushed to the end in order to expedite the convention center’s completion.

A park system study completed for the Oklahoma City Community Foundation in March stated that the park would require at least $2 million a year to maintain, and Cornett has expressed interest in starting a conservancy to help with park maintenance, although no plans have been finalized.

In an interview with Oklahoma Gazette, Cornett said taking a two-phase approach to the park was probably a good idea, but waiting until 2021 to complete the southern part of the 70-acre park, which will be linked to the northern section by the iconic SkyDance Bridge, raises some questions.

“In general, I think putting the park into two phases was probably the correct approach. I’m a little bit uncomfortable with the third phase,” Cornett said. “I am concerned about having an underwhelming park in 2014 (when the boulevard is slated to open). I know the consultant spent a lot of time on this timeline, the advisory board vetted it, and I wanted to keep an open mind until that process goes through. It could be that it is the best way to go forward.”

Cornett said he wanted to hear from both the advisory board and ADG at the meeting before deciding on how to vote on the measure.

In addition, Cornett said he was interested in hearing the process used by the consultant in prioritizing projects.

“Who did the consulting group consult with when they made the changes? What opinions were heard and which ones mattered?” Cornett said. “I don’t think all the subcommittees were approached in the same level. Maybe they were, but that’s one of the questions they need to respond to.”

Regarding the perceived conflict between quality of life and economic development, Cornett said he believed projects that fall in the former category have just as much economic impact as those that fall in the latter.

Cornett said he was pleased with the recommended site for the convention center — just south of Myriad Gardens — despite having expressed favoritism for another site south of where Interstate 40 currently sits.

“I think this site is really good. It’s a little bit landlocked and that concerns me, but I think it’s a great site for the convention center,” Cornett said. “We want to be sure a future generation could expand, if necessary. We want to have an idea how that would take place and make sure it’s cost effective.”

Around $30 million in MAPS 3 funds included in the convention center budget were set aside to relocate an OGE substation that sits next to the future MAPS 3 park location.

“The current plan is to get a cost for moving the substation,” Cornett said, adding that he thought the issue would have come before the council by now. “Until we get a cost, there’s really no conversation to be had on it.”

Overall, Cornett said the process of MAPS 3 implementation has worked well.

“The conclusion I draw is: so far, so good,” he said. “That is very exciting to me because we’re a year and a half into the process, and if wasn’t going to work, we’d begin seeing signs of that now. But it seems to be working very smoothly.”

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