New Pawhuska City Manager Dave Neely said in a conversation Friday with the Journal-Capital that he is aware transparency on the part of municipal government has been an area of concern in the community, and he’s interested in addressing it.
Since taking over Aug. 1 as city manager, Neely has appeared on a local social media page to dicuss power outages and the cutting of cemetery grass. He has also added department head reports to the Pawhuska City Council agenda as a regular item, in an attempt to increase public awareness of what various city departments are doing. The first council meeting at which the department head reports were to be given was Tuesday evening of this week.
Neely explained he is doing more than just talking about power outages and limbs that get caught on power lines, and other nuisances such as potholes along city streets. He is trying to improve the level of service.
Neely said that in response to power outages last week, the city put out three crews to restore service. As an example of the cooperative effort, Neely mentioned that the cemetery crew took a bucket truck and helped the electric department. He estimated that the outage problem lasted about six to seven hours rather than as many as 18 hours.
“I know we’re way behind, and one of my pet peeves is potholes,” Neely told the Journal-Capital. He emphasized that he wants tree limbs cut away from power lines and potholes filled. In regard to road conditions, he explained that he welcomes cooperation with Osage County officials and crews to get repairs made promptly.
Another point Neely made regarding roads was that he would like to see lines and arrows used on Kihekah Avenue to clarify the intended flow of traffic and make it less confusing.
Neely has also already implemented a policy that firefighters will respond in support of ambulance crews, anytime an ambulance rolls. His intent is to ensure that additional staffing is on-hand, if needed, when emergency medical technicians provide care to patients.
Yet another area of city governance where Neely has been busy getting up to speed is seeking grant money through INCOG, the Indian Nations Council of Governments, for improvements to municipal infrastructure. He said that he had spoken with INCOG official Barbara Albritton about Pawhuska’s efforts to obtain grant funding to address problems with its two-million-gallon water storage tank.
Neely said that he and Albritton had also spoken about Pawhuska applying for a Rural Economic Action Program, or REAP, grant. The REAP program is a state-level grant program designed to enhance the economic viability of rural communities. It can help communities with infrastructure improvements, and with the delivery of services such as firefighting and emergency medical care. There was an item on the Tuesday city council agenda calling for discussion and possible action regarding the submission of a REAP grant application.
Neely said he had also been reviewing damages to Pawhuska facilities and infrastructure caused by the spring 2019 flooding for which the city might be reimbursed.