New Public Safety facilities to be built at former Gerdau site alongside retail development

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By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

The Sand Springs City Council unanimously approved a development agreement with OmniTRAX, Inc. Monday evening. Two weeks ago OmniTRAX announced their acquisition of the 146-acre site formerly owned by Sheffield Steel, then by Gerdau Ameristeel. OmniTRAX plans to demolish portions of the Steel Mill and develop the property for industrial and commercial use. In addition to developing a 25-acre retail area, the property will also be the home to the new City of Sand Springs Public Safety facilities. 

Tony Manos, Senior Vice-President of Industrial Development at OmniTRAX, provided a presentation on the project at the City Council meeting. 

OmniTRAX is the owning entity of the Sand Springs Railway, which was acquired in 2014 from Gerdau, and has been leasing portions of the Gerdau property since that time. The company maintains 20 short-line railroads in 9 states and 3 Canadian provinces and works in rail services, terminal services, logistics services, and industrial development. 

"We are a very invested company in our communities," said Manos. "(City-Manager) Elizabeth (Gray)'s team and the two Chiefs (Police Chief Mike Carter and Fire Chief Mike Wood) have been incredible, as well as City Council. This has been the smoothest transition I've ever been a part of in the real estate business."

The Steel Mill is expected to be demolished sometime next year and the new City public safety facilities will be built directly across from WalMart. OmniTRAX is also looking to bring quality jobs to the Sand Springs community, and announced that a new tenant will be moving into a 20,000 sq. ft. facility by April of next year, and will create approximately 50 new jobs for the community.

"We are so proud to bring something back to a site that has been so important to our town throughout its history," said Councilman John Fothergill.  "It really does mean a lot to our city." 

The effort to relocate the current public safety facilities began in 2013 when voters approved a proposition to demolish Fire Station 1, but voted against the corresponding proposition to build a new one. Luckily, there was no timeline for the proposition, and Sand Springs has retained their north side Fire Station. The proposition that failed would have been funded through a property tax increase that could amount to as much as $100 a year for homeowners.

The City gave the project another go in October of last year, when citizens overwhelming voted in favor of extending current sales tax levels. The tax money would be redirected from the previous allocation to a new building for police, fire, and dispatchers. This vote also nixed the decision to demolish Fire Station One, and called for a remodel of the facility to give the Sand Springs Fire Department three stations. 

The City purchased property from the Sand Springs Home in 2014 at the corner of 129th West Avenue and Wekiwa with the intent to build the facilities there, but was met with public concerns that the area was too far outside of town. 

At their last meeting, City Council unanimously approved a contract with Dewberry Architects for design of the new public safety facilities. Their construction will take approximately one year from the completion of the new designs.