Enid Mayor George Pankonin marked his first State of the City address by thanking Enid’s residents for doing their part to put COVID-19 in the rear-view mirror.
“We always stayed focused on protecting the community not only from the disease but from economic impacts on area businesses,” he said. “There was never a decision that would make everyone happy, so we kept our focus on what was best, not what was perfect.”
Pankonin said in hindsight, he believes the elected leaders of Enid City Commission made the right calls at the time, but said, “Not everyone will agree with me.”
The city’s ban on large, non-distanced gatherings also got in the way of his plans for more town hall meetings, but Pankonin said he intends to hold the so-called “coming attractions” in each ward later this year after meeting with fellow city commissioners.
Standing atop a riser at the front of Stride Bank Center’s Grand Ballroom, Pankonin led the celebration of Enid’s achievements on Tuesday, 786 days since he was sworn in as the city’s 47th mayor.
City employees, community leaders and commissioners both past and present were in attendance as Pankonin covered the city’s successes and highlights from both 2019 and 2020.
“As I look around this room, I’m reminded of what makes Enid the place to live. It’s the people,” he said. “Enid is truly boundless, vibrant and original.”
‘Paving our way’
Pankonin also touted the recent improvements to Enid’s infrastructure and water systems, including the city’s Kaw Lake Water Supply program.
“During the past two years, the city had made great strides in infrastructure and improvements throughout the community. We are definitely paving our way,” he said.
The 70-mile pipeline from the reservoir dam, in progress since 2014, is set to provide the city with 10.5 million gallons of clean water a day.
Commissioners this past year both selected a construction manager at-risk and established a guaranteed maximum price of $243 million. The city also has received most of the necessary environmental permits and governmental approvals, and has acquired 230 land parcels.
The project is now starting construction on access roads at its intake site, Pankonin said, and city engineer staff said they are planning $20 million of capital improvements in the next fiscal year.
City engineers have led rebuilds of several major city streets, including at Kennedy, West Maple and West Oklahoma. Mill and overlay projects were completed on Broadway from Washington to Van Buren and on University from Randolph to Maine, as was the widening of the Cleveland-Chestnut intersection.
Also in 2019 and 2020, city road crews filled a total 25,000 potholes, graded 1,890 miles of road, laid over 600 tons of asphalt and swept 3,240 miles of Enid roads.
After Enid traffic staff shadowed Stillwater’s personnel, the city upgraded its traffic management software to maximize traffic flow, according to the city. Crews also installed new traffic controls systems along Garriott and Van Buren, as well as a detection system at U.S. 412 and 42nd.
Pankonin hyped the city’s long-term relationships with the community — such as that with Vance Air Force Base, private organizations and the public school system — as one of the city’s greatest successes.
“Our community is not run by one person (the mayor) or even a small group of people (the commission),” he said, “it takes the concerted efforts of all of us.”
The city’s Meadowlake Golf Course partners with area golf team organizations, while Public Library of Enid and Garfield County is able to operate its Lunch Bunch program with aid from Enid’s Loaves & Fishes food bank and Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
The city allocates around $30,000 a year for educational and employment scholarships for spouses of Vance personnel. Vance airmen, meanwhile, serve their community in church, on boards or through community service.
Some clean a 10-mile portion of Enid’s Adopt-a-Highway, while other airmen clean city parks once a month on their own time.
On Memorial Day, the city in turn renamed two roads near Vance’s entrances in honor of the two pilots who died in a plane crash in 2019.
Pankonin himself retired from active duty as a major from the Air Force in 1994 before working as a logistics manager for several defense contractors at Vance. Upon full retirement, he stayed in Enid with his wife, Melody, a school liaison for the base.
In 2019, Enid was ranked the best city to live in in Oklahoma, according to ChamberofCommerce.org. It also was named the best place to live in in Oklahoma on a $50,000 salary by MSN.
“I love living in Enid — it was just a matter of time before others figured out that Enid is the place to be,” Pankonin said.
Article by: Alex Ewald – ENE 6.30.21
Photo by: Billy Hefton