MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

October 14, 2010

Mayor says tourism growth key

— As Muskogee seeks to be a “shining city on a hill,” Mayor John Tyler Hammons wants the city to benefit from people visiting this city.

And one of the biggest boosts the city gets comes when visitors pay the city’s hotel-motel tax, Hammons said.

During his annual State of the City Address on Thursday, Hammons touted the city’s hotel-motel tax revenue, but came shy of proposing an increase. The city charges a 3 percent tax on Muskogee visitors’ lodging bills.

“The hotel-motel tax is a gift from people who stay in our community,” he said. “It’s like Chicago paying our mortgage.”

After his address, Hammons said plans to propose an increase “some time in the near future” but would not say how much of an increase he would propose.

He said tourism is a key to Muskogee’s economic growth.

“A shining city on a hill doesn’t just happen,” Hammons said, reflecting a theme from his 2009 Address. “The word now is jobs. Just like in Branson, tourism brought economic development.”

Hammons said he also wants to find ways to make it easier for businesses to come to Muskogee.

“How do we as a government welcome jobs and make it easier for them to come here,” he said.

He said he plans to go through the city code book and remove regulations that are “burdensome on businesses.”

Hammons also called for stiffer penalties for businesses delinquent on paying sales tax to the city. He said he plans to propose to the city that businesses delinquent in taxes cannot bid on a city contract or get a city permit.

“The business has got to prove to us it has paid all of its taxes to receive any city benefits,” Hammons said after his address.

The mayor praised the city’s efforts to collect delinquent sales taxes. The City Council voted in March to prosecute those who do not comply with regulations to make monthly sales tax reports. In August, the city attorney’s office said it would send letters to businesses telling them to work out their sales tax reporting situation with the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

 Hammons said he also plans to propose that city candidates must disclose any contribution of more than $100. Candidates for state, county and federal positions must make such reports, he said.

“The public has an inherent right to know and I support that right,” he said.

Hammons praised progress made in several city departments, even as the economy went sour.

“There’s no secret we had a decrease in our budget,” he said. “But our employees continued to come to work and have a smile on their faces.”

No city workers lost their jobs and no city workers were furloughed, he said, praising what he called “the sound fiscal management of our city manager.”

He praised the Muskogee Police Department for its quick response to fatal shootings at Arrowhead Mall last April.

The city also is making improvements and additions to Robison Park, Spaulding Park and the Centennial Trail, he said. The trail additions soon could reach from the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame to the Arkansas River, he said.

A 3.2 percent sales tax passed in 2009 is helping pay for repairs to the Coody Creek sewer line.

“We’ll be able to start phase two and fix the line from the plant to Main Street,” he said.

A .25 percent sales tax is helping to fix  Muskogee streets, he said. He said engineering work has begun on major projects on York Street, 24th Street and Martin Luther King Street.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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