City of Blackwell takes steps to expand city limits to welcome new industry

by Charles Gerian

The Blackwell City Council met last Thursday night for a productive meeting which held two executive sessions with a focus on major economic opportunities for the City of Blackwell including expanding the City of Blackwell’s corporate city limits to introduce over 600 acres of land for industry.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. with the council recognizing the 2023-2024 Leadership Blackwell Class which included class members from the City of Blackwell, Pioneer Technology Center, Kay Electric, State Farm, and the Blackwell Area Chamber of Commerce among other entities.

The first speaker of the night was Charlene Flanery, Executive Director of the Blackwell Industrial Authroity and the Blackwell Economic Development Authority or BEDA.

“Our Boost Blackwell survey has had some fantastic response so far,” said Flanery, “we are already analyzing the answers and cannot wait to share them with the public.”

Flanery also addressed the December 7 Blackwell Economic Development Outlook luncheon which will feature Lt. Governor Secretary of Workforce and Economic Development Matt Pinnell. The luncheon will be held at the Kay Room on Doolin from 11:30 a.m until 1 p.m. and will feature the results of the Boost Blackwell Survey and reveal Blackwell’s long-planned economic and industrial ideas for the future.

The BEDA is also in the early stages of organizing apprenticeships at local businesses with high school students.

Flanery stated that the Chamber and Blackwell High School are joining forces for a career fair to be held May 1 in the Blackwell Event Center.

Flanery then stated that the BEDA / BIA is working on the expansion of the industrial park and that housing is an issue that is being worked on as more industrial opportunities arise.

Moving onto business, the council approved the expansion of the city limits past 13th and Doolin. 145 acres of that is the Blackwell Industrial Authority’s while 500 acres is the Comissioners of the Land Office.

The approval Thursday night allowed the City of Blackwell to go before the Comissioners of the Land Office in December. If approved by the Land Office, the City of Blackwell will hold a public hearing and, ultimately, need the approval of the Blackwell City Council.

This land in question is encompassed by 29th Street, Adobe Road, 13th, and Highway 11.

“This would give us over 600 acres to open up to businesses,” said Flanery, “many places in Oklahoma are limited on land and this would attract business to the City of Blackwell that might not have the space anywhere else.”

Next the City of Blackwell approved updated transfer operation guidelines for the Blackwell Fire Department and EMS Services.

The background for the item was described by Fire Chief Cory Hanebrink stating that ever since Stillwater Medical-Blackwell redesignated as a rural emergency hospital, transfers to other facilities had dramatically increased leading to fatigue and wear and tear on Blackwell Fire / EMS’s already limited transportation options.

These new guidelines would limit transfers after 10 p.m.

“Our guys run hoses all day then transfer all night to places like Oklahoma City, Enid, Wichita,” explained Hanebrink. “There’s a lot of fatigue. This is for the safety of our EMTs and patients. Obviously we would still transfer if it was an emergency situation.”

“This is for patients we’d take down to one of these places at, say, 3 or 4 a.m. and they don’t see a doctor until 6 or 7 hours later. There’s no sense in us being there for that long. This gives us the ability to limit how long our ambulances are on the road.”

The transfers would be handled by Air-Evac, Tonkawa EMS, Ponca, Newkirk, Miller out of Medford, and other surrounding agencies.

“This is for patients that can be put in-patient until they can go to another location, if one of those aforementioned entities cannot take them immediately.”

“Our top priority is 911 calls, every transfer we handled takes an ambulance out of service here that could go towards helping Blackwell,” said Hanebrink, “our ability is limited by how many ambulances we have out on the roadwary. Sometimes we have an upwards of 2 or 3 calls at once, and we have had up to 4 which causes us to rely on help from outside of town to handle our own calls.”

“For example, earlier we had a call for a transfer. We left around noon Before they even made it to Oklahoma City, they had a call that there was a transfer waiting to go to Enid. Before they could even get back to then go to Enid, there were two more patients waiting to be transferred,” explained Hanebrink.

The stress of long-distance transportation also leads to frequent repairs and heavy usage put on Blackwell’s ambulances, leading to them being out of commission for maintenance.

Mayor Pat Hullett asked if the redesignation of Stillwater Medical-Blackwell to a rural emergency site had a direct impact on the transfer situation to which Hanebrink agreed.

“Before their redesignation we would transfer about 20 patients out a month,” he stated, “now it’s anywhere between 30 to 60 a month.”

Another item during the meeting was Blackwell’s continued work on rehabilitating and updating their Water Plant. The Blackwell City Council approved a $600,000 CDBG Grant Project Bid for the Water Plant.

This project involves among other things, 3 transfer pumps. The current pumps, being old and antiquated, are often under heavy repairs.

The work being done on the water plant will dramatically improve Blackwell’s water quality as the work includes drastically reducing the water’s content of trihalomethanes which the City of Blackwell had compliance issues with in the early 2010’s.

The meeting ended just before 8 p.m.