By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Two Enid men have announced they will run for open city commission seats.
The filing period opens at 8 a.m. Monday and closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Enid native Ben Ezzell said he will be a candidate for the Ward 3 seat, while businessman Joey Meibergen said he will file for the Ward 6 position.
Seats in Wards 3, 4 and 6 are open this year. Lewis Blackburn is the incumbent in Ward 3, Drew Ritchie is the Ward 4 commissioner and Todd Ging is commissioner in Ward 6. Blackburn and Ritchie said they will not seek new terms, and Ging is term-limited. The election will be Feb. 12.
No one has announced as a candidate for the Ward 4 seat yet.
“This is an exciting time for Enid,” Ezzell said. “Anyone would be thrilled to be involved with what’s going on. It’s an exciting time to be involved.”
The city needs to work on its parks, he said.
“We need to replace facilities, and it will take a fair chunk of change to do it,” Ezzell said.
City officials have introduced a plan to renovate neighborhood parks and build new parks. The work would be phased in over a 10-year period at an estimated cost of $50 million. The project would be financed by a 20-year extension of general obligation bond issue approved for bridge work and a five-year, half-cent increase in sales tax.
Ezzell said the financing option gives the city flexibility.
“I’m a bankruptcy lawyer, and I’m aware that plans don’t often happen the way we expect,” he said. “We need to plan for that, but we have to plan and avoid bad situations.”
Ezzell said there has been a failure to maintain the city infrastructure during the past 20 years, which is why the city has failed to keep up parks.
During the next 10 years another large issue will be water. After facing water rationing this past summer in part because of the extended drought, Ezzell said people must realize we may face that situation every year. Enid needs to establish a plan to prevent sudden shortages, he said.
He also cautioned about riding the good times from the oil boom without planning for the eventual bust.
“We live in an oil- and gas-rich area, and our tax base will change when that changes. No one knows how long it will last,” he said.
“We have to continue to develop Enid and grow the tax base so we can fund future issues as they arise,” he said. “The better funded you are, the easier to handle things that just pop up.”
He said he is confident Enid will continue to do well because of the number of successful industries already here. Both of his parents also served on the city commission. His father, David, served two terms, and his mother, Cheri, served one term. Ezzell has lived in Enid all of his life, except during his undergraduate studies at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. He recently obtained his law degree from the University of Oklahoma School of Law.
Meibergen is executive vice president of W.B. Johnston Grain Co. He said Enid has the chance to take advantage of opportunities for growth, but should not neglect infrastructure needs along the way.
Meibergen admitted his job keeps him busy, but said Enid needs the type of leadership that will look at long-term issues, while maintaining the city’s infrastructure needs.
“We need to continue to take care of our roads and bridges and utility needs,” Meibergen said.
He said he also is running for his children. Meibergen said there has been discussion about bringing Enid’s youths back to town, an area in which the community has not been successful.
“You have to have something more than what used to be,” he said. “We must provide a quality of life to bring families back.”
He said he also is running because he was asked to by people he respects and from whom he has learned a lot. Meibergen said he feels he would be letting them down if he did not run.
“It won’t be easy, but I wish more people felt the call to serve like they used to,” he said.
Meibergen is a third-generation Enid resident. He employs a number of people and said he understands he is fortunate to do that. He wants to help other businesses to have the infrastructure to grow and have a better quality of life.
He has briefly seen the parks master plan and said the newly reopened Convention Hall will be an asset for the city.
Discussing the parks plan, he said he has not studied it in detail, but said some of the older parks in town have served their purpose and changes can be made.
“We need to create a better quality of life, create a classy venue,” Meibergen said.
However, he wants to be certain the city takes care of its infrastructure needs and supports the local businesses, too. He would oppose going into long-term debt to accomplish that.
“I want to take a strong look at it,” he said.
One of the city’s major infrastructure needs is water, and Meibergen said he is concerned about the supply of water coming to the city. One of the problems with last summer’s water rationing is not that there is not enough water, but the facilities to get it to Enid were insufficient to meet the demand, he said.
Given Enid’s water history, Meibergen said there is a need for a long-term water plan.
“If you don’t have water, you don’t have anything. We need to continue to focus on a long-term water plan and don’t lose sight of that,” he said.
The city bridge plan approved by the voters several years ago was a good investment, because industry depends on roads and bridges. However, he contends water is an important issue. Meibergen said the drought took its toll on many areas, including his business, due to the drop in volume.