Committee reviews proposed contracts with city

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star

On Thursday, Shawnee's Community Service Contract Review Committee gathered to discuss three potential contracts with the city, as local groups seek the city's help with funding.

Shawnee's Community Service Contract Review Committee gathered to discuss three potential contracts with the city, as local groups seek the city's help with funding.

Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency/Central Oklahoma Transit System (COCAA/COTS), Safe Events For Families (SEFF) and Shawnee Forward are seeking the city's aid financially in running particular programs or events.

All three entities had contracts with the city last year.

• COCAA/COTS is asking for $79,000 for drivers so it can expand its transportation services.

“COCAA only received $63,000 of its request for $70,000 last year due to city revenues being down because of the COVID pandemic,” the agenda reads.

The committee unanimously voted in favor of a $75,000 recommendation regarding the contract.

• SEFF is requesting $73,000 for use with next year's events, $10,000 more than it received last year, according to the agenda. In previous years, the city has agreed to directly pay invoices tied to SEFF events — up to a set amount each year; SEFF has not actually received money. Trail Days, Boo on Bell and the Christmas Parade are among annual festivals SEFF puts on each year.

However, after much discussion, the committee determined it couldn't make a recommendation at this time because SEFF failed to provide an audit, as is required. City Attorney Joe Vorndran said in past years an audit has not been offered because SEFF does not actually receive money; the requirement has been a recent addition, he said.

“I feel like if they had a more specific budget and it was very clear this is what this actually goes for, and there was a mechanism that when those payments come in, this is this and that goes along with the budget received, then I wouldn't want an audit,” new committee member Erica Bass said. “But, as it stands, I think the city should have an audit from them, because of how little information there is from them.”

The committee decided to allow SEFF a few days to come in and answer questions before or when they meet again at 3 p.m. Thursday at City Hall for a final vote on a recommendation.

• Shawnee Forward is asking for $325,000 for economic development work, plus $102,000 for a proposed incentive plan.

Written monthly reports of activities are required to be provided to the city or as part of its monthly board meeting.

Shawnee Forward requested a change to that practice.

“We would like to recommend this be changed to a bi-annual executive session at a City Commission meeting to keep the commissioners informed without risking the release of confidential recruitment and retention details to the public,” the agenda reads.

Committee members chose to reject the change for the time-being — striking the item until a final interpretation of the request can be assessed to determine if it violates any Open Meeting and Open Records laws.

Economic Development Director Tim Burg explained to the board that an incentive plan for years has been an item the city expects from them as part of an existing agreement, but adequate funds have simply not been available to create one yet.

“We're at somewhat of a disadvantage as a community because we don't have one,” he said.

Shawnee Forward's Economic Development Director Tim Burg answers questions during a contract review meeting last week.

That lack of extra funding may continue for awhile longer.

Shawnee Assistant City Manager Ashley Neel advised the city is currently able to offer $295,000 toward a contract, but anything more than that would be extra funds that would have to be pulled from somewhere else.

So, the committee unanimously voted in favor of a $295,000 recommendation regarding the contract.

The review committee's recommendations on the contracts will be taken into consideration soon, as Shawnee city commissioners should be gearing up to vote on next year's budget proposal in June. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Watch for updates.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at vicky.misa@news-star.com.