By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
City officials handed over the keys of the Army Reserve Armory on North York Street to the state Department of Public Safety on Wednesday.
The armory will be used as a headquarters for several divisions of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the driver compliance division of DPS. Once the headquarters is operational, the city-owned facility will house 33 full-time employees and 62 transitory workers.
In addition to Troop C, which has been located here since 1974, OHP will use the facility as headquarters for its lake patrol, special operations and bomb squad personnel. OHP also plans to use the former armory as a regional training center.
Former Mayor John Tyler Hammons and Deputy Mayor David Jones said the 25-year partnership will be “good for the city” and “good for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.” Hammons said the deal, which was initiated during his second term, exemplifies the priority placed on public safety by city and state officials.
Public Safety Commissioner Michael C. Thompson said the move is a “great example of a partnership between the city and the state.” The move is expected to ease frustrations for applicants seeking a driver’s license by improving efficiencies and enabling the issuance of drivers’ licenses in a more timely manner.
Col. Kerry Pettingill, the OHP’s chief officer, said the move is necessary because the needs of Troop C has outgrown its existing headquarters. The former armory provides the additional space needed to accommodate the DPS division’s expanding needs and the additional resources being moved to Muskogee, he said.
An agreement approved Tuesday by city councilors authorizes a 25-year lease of the facility to the state for $1. DPS will be responsible for the costs of insurance, maintenance and any improvements that might be needed during the term of the lease. Proposed improvements must be approved in advance by city officials.
City Attorney Roy Tucker said the city should experience an indirect financial benefit from “the anticipated spending of dollars by those employees who work and travel here.” The additional activity, Tucker said, could bolster the tax base.
The former armory, Tucker said, was built on undeveloped land owned by the city. It was completed in 1961 and was occupied by the federal government for that purpose until 2011. The 22,275-square-foot facility, an unattached 3,315-square-foot maintenance shop, and the 5.55 acres upon which those structures were built has a “fair rental value” of $235,000 a year.
It was unknown Wednesday when the facility will be fully operational.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.