With municipal, school district and county elections closing on Saturday, the Red Oak City Council heard several complaints from citizens on the voting process in Red Oak during the “Citizens to be Heard”at Monday’s city council meeting.

portion of Monday’s city council meeting.

Red Oak resident Chris Moses explained that he had received various phone calls from citizens saying they had been turned away at city hall when reporting to vote for city council.

“I got many calls from neighbors saying they were turned away,” Moses said. “It was a confusing election.”

City council election polling took place at the Red Oak Municipal Center during early voting and on election day. Ellis County held early voting at the tax office in the former junior high building during early voting and moved to the municipal center on election day. Early voting for the Red Oak ISD bond referendum was held at various locations during early voting and at Oak Leaf City Hall, Red Oak Elementary and Shields Elementary on election day.

“I feel that it’s a disincentive to vote, and I believe in the power of voting,” said Michelle Hanchard, a Red Oak resident who found the varying voting locations and times confusing. Hanchard said with the price of gas and the issue of pollution, she didn’t like the idea of driving so many miles to vote on three issues. Hanchard also said that information on voting given to her by city staff was incomplete.

“I hope in the future we could have all the voting in one place,” Hanchard said.

Another citizen living in county precinct 104 said that the confusing election process probably led to a decreased voter turnout. He also said that the room where polling was taking place at the Red Oak Municipal Center was too small and one could easily overhear conversation in the room.

Norma Lauer, who lives in precinct 105, came to Red Oak Municipal Center to vote for city council, but was sent to Red Oak Elementary to vote, which would have been the correct location to vote for the Red Oak ISD bond proposition. Upon arriving at Red Oak Elementary, she was told she needed to go to Ferris to vote, which would have been the correct location to vote for the county elections.

The Red Oak City Council approved City Manager Ken Pfeifer’s appointments to two city director positions, with Clifton Beck approved as personnel/human resources director and Gina Garcia approved as city engineer/director of engineering and community development.

“Clifton comes to us with great credentials. I would recommend this appointment to take place,” Pfeifer said. “Gina has a great background. She is a licensed engineer.”

In other business, city staff presented reports to council, updating the council on financial issues and economic development progress.

“We have a balanced budget and our total general fund revenues are on target,” said Laurie Smith, assistant finance director.

According to the presentation by Smith, the city of Red Oak’s total general revenue fund is on target at 69.66 percent through the month of April. Sales tax revenues are also on target, with a 7.5 percent increase compared to this time frame in 2006. Property taxes have seen a 13.1 percent increase compared to last year and the franchise taxes have increased 9.2 percent as compared to 2006.

Smith said permits are below projected numbers.

Goodwyn asked about the status of police revenues, which Smith said are on target with the balanced budget approved during the April city council meeting.

“There is no major deficit. We have a healthy, balanced budget as council approved last month. We will continue as we have for the last 12 or 13 years,” Pfeifer said.

Todd Fuller, director of economic development, presented facts and figures to the council on the city of Red Oak’s economic development.

“We’re the fastest growing city in Ellis County. We’re at a 16.3 percent population growth rate,” Fuller said.

According to Fuller’s presentation, the city of Red Oak ranked seventh in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in population growth in 2006 and 14th in population growth rate in the Metroplex during the 2000-2007 time period.

“Ten years ago Ovilla Road was a two-lane, chip and seal road,” Fuller said, giving council a picture of Red Oak from the past. “We had little retail or development and our only restaurants were Sonic, Denny’s and a burned down Dairy Queen.”

Fuller also noted that all the city departments, including the police and fire departments, were contained in facilities totaling 10,000 square feet. Currently, the departments are housed in 30,000 square feet, with 6,000 square feet under construction.

“We’ve got the biggest sales tax increase in the area,” Fuller said, saying that the city has seen an 80 percent sales tax increase in the years between 2000-2007. Fuller said the city’s retail sales are higher than Waxahachie, Cedar Hill, Frisco, Ennis, Southlake and Mansfield when their populations were at 9,000.

Fuller said that in the time period of 2000-2007, the city of Red Oak has experienced a 170 percent increase in commercial/industrial property values.

Fuller said that since 2000 the city has issued 38 commercial building permits and 416,000 square feet of commercial/industrial space has been constructed during that time.

“In addition, some of the ongoing projects include a Whataburger in the downtown area,” Fuller said, adding other projects such as: a mixed use development on State Highway 342; a contract with Applebee’s; a new Denny’s on I-35; an office space development by Stanley Construction; talks with Duke Realty; and the possibility of opening a Wal-Mart Supercenter in 2008.

Other future developments that could effect Red Oak are the Dallas Logistics Hub, which will be built on 6,000 acres and create 30,000 jobs over 20 years, directly impacting Dallas, Wilmer, Hutchins and Lancaster. Fuller said Ferris and Red Oak could also see benefits from this development in the future.

could also see benefits from this development in the future.

“We know that type of job creation will be coming and we need to keep our development standards up to quality,” Fuller said.

The Loop 9 project could also impact Red Oak, with the completion date changed from 2045 to sometime in the 2012-2015. The amount of lanes increased from six to 14 and will have an 85-mph design for large trucks. Loop 9 will also require additional right-of-way acquisitions than originally planned.

“That something we need to keep our eye on,” Fuller said.

Fuller said a list of public meetings regarding Loop 9 can be found at www.loop9.org.

In discussing the Red Oak Road project, Fuller said that TXU is currently working up an estimate on the total cost of placing utilities currently along Red Oak Road underground. Public Works originally received an estimate of $180,000 and the city council voted to use monies from the city’s reserve fund for the project. However, TXU failed to include the cost of equipment in the estimate.

“Our engineers have not missed a beat. There’s a process with every project,” Pfeifer said, addressing the schedule for the Red Oak Road project. “If we need to go through this with a fine toothed comb, we will.”

“Well, maybe we should,” said mayor pro tem Ben Goodwyn.

“We can set up an appointment,” Pfeifer said.

Pfeifer said that the Dallas water line project is under construction, on budget and on schedule.

“They are actually laying the pipe. This is a major accomplishment,” Pfeifer said. “This will be completed by June 2008. It is surface water, so our water wells will be on backup.”

In other business, the city council:

approved the minutes of the March 12, 2007, meeting as originally submitted approved the appointment of Ruth Douthit as a member of the Red Oak Library Advisory Board approved right-of-way purchases for the Red Oak Road project approved a resolution and an application for a grant for sidewalks for the parks and recreation department approved an ordinance adopting an updated city of Red Oak boundary and zoning map approved a resolution setting dates, times and places for public hearings regarding the voluntary annexation of 212.54 acres and 10.46 acres located west of I-35, south of Stephenson Road and abutting the existing city limits of Red Oak, requested by RSJK Investments, Inc. and Oak Hill Development, LLC.