Letter to the Editor
From Ron Boyer
As we enter another election phase, I wanted to provide those that don’t know me a chance to better understand who I am, what County Commissioner duties are and read about what I see as District 1’s future opportunities and some of the challenges ahead. With the pandemic behind us we are starting to get our lives back together. It seems misery loves company because on the heels of that crisis the economy takes a turn for the worse. We are all keenly aware of how the Federal Government has successfully put our economy and safety in jeopardy. These challenges have not only hurt each of you, but it has also impacted the operations of the County too. It seems that everything has doubled in cost, and it is getting harder to find the things needed for everyday life. I don’t want to minimize these issues, but I also don’t want to dwell on them either.
District 1 is growing and at times it seems at an expediential rate and that brings additional challenges of its own. Bryan County’s population increased according to the 2020 Census about a 9% rate between 2010 and 2020 and most of that growth was in District 1. (District 1 is slowly transitioning from a rural environment that was not densely populated with a typical single home residing on multiple acres in the unincorporated parts of the County.) Today District 1 is transitioning to a suburban environment where new homes are clustered in sub-divisions and the growth of the population directly effecting the area’s landscape and resources. Our needs are changing, we are hearing more about infrastructure requirements, the traffic is increasing, and our new residents bring cultures that until a few years ago were foreign to many of you. Along with this has come needs for new services for the County to provide to its residents.
I started my job as Commissioner back on January 1, 2015. What I never dreamed was going to be one of the worse flood seasons to hit the Texoma area. I was just barely in office before I realized something was in the weather. That year we not only had lake Texoma go over the dam’s spillway once but twice within 30 days. Then to add to the problems left behind by the flood waters, the area was succumbed by a drought, causing additional issues for the area. That was not the end of the weather issues, for in the coming years the area endured heaving rains continuously causing road issues. Then came the Pandemic beginning in late 2019 with the effects being felt in the spring of 2020 in Bryan County. During that time, I assumed an additional role, that of the Emergency Manager for Bryan County. I was charged with continuously monitoring the pandemic in Bryan County, while also providing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for the County’s employees and non-profit organizations in the County. I had no idea when I assumed the role of Commissioner that these events were in store for me. I didn’t realize that the experience I acquired while working in the private sector would prove to be so valuable. Real world experience is necessary for those who are elected to a public office. On the job training could lead to mistakes that cost the public excessive losses.
I have been the County Commissioner of District 1 at the end of this term for 8 years. Before this I was an engineer in the communications industry for better than 35 years. My last professional position in the public sector was with Time Warner as Corporate Director of Field Engineering for their fiber and data networks and logistics where I worked closely with the corporate attorneys. My responsibilities included finding solutions for franchise requirements, negotiating contracts and settlements with local governments around the United States (reference “linkedin.com/in/ronboyer”). This has afforded me the experience needed to help develop Bryan County’s step into utilizing new and exciting technology. In the brief time I have been the Commissioner I have helped transition the County’s network from a fragment of stand-alone networks to a fiber optic high speed network with all the County facilities on a common network utilizing Voice over IP phone systems and computing in the cloud resources. I recently directed the installation of stand-by generators which were installed at both the Courthouse and the Annex thereby minimizing interruptions to the services offered by the County. Others and I have been working to rebuild the 911 radio network, and it looks like this may be completed by the end of this year. Part of the process included my successful negotiation with the City of Durant for them to transfer ownership of 3 tower sites located in the County. I also successfully negotiated with Southeastern Electric and Midship Pipeline to allow the County to use their tower sites for the 911 network.
With normal funding not being adequate to support the needs of the County, I am continuously looking and applying for grants that will provide some additional funding relief. Both the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations have given generously to projects within Bryan County. Several grants were awarded by ODOT to major road and bridge projects in District 1. Also, with the recent pandemic have come Federal relief funds (grants) from the Federal Government. I initiated the process to acquire both the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant. These grants totaled close to $12 million for the County to provide financial assistance to various First Responders organizations, non-profit community organizations and for the County to fund much needed facilities improvements. For example, the County was able to fund renovation of the security cameras and other needed security upgrades in the jail. The Sheriff Dept acquired security enhancements, such as vehicle and body cameras and other needed items. (The 911 radio network used by County law enforcement agencies, volunteer fire departments, emergency medical services were provided the funding to finish its completion this fall). County owned facilities were provided needed funding for repairs and renovation; the funding for the Federal Building renovation will come from the ARPA funds. County roads and bridges will receive much needed funds to improve the roadways throughout the County. Without these grants the County would not have been able to fund the above-mentioned programs and many others. Having my corporate background enabled me to manage these funds and adhering strict Federal guidelines and rules concerning utilization and documentation.
My projects have been many. Some of them involve roads (more about this later), some involve the acquiring of equipment/vehicles necessary to do the continuous road maintenance needed to support the growing population and others involved renovating the facilities used by the County for the Courts, Sheriff Dept, Jail, Clerk, Treasurer, Election office, Court Clerk, Assessor, and District Attorney. Most if not all the County facilities (Courthouse, Annex, Sheriff Offices, Jail, Investigator Offices, and current DA facilities) have had numerous renovation projects that I managed over my last 2 terms as the Commissioner of District 1. Most recently I negotiated with the Choctaw Nation for them to gift/donate the Federal Building in downtown Durant to Bryan County. This generous gift, when fully renovated (estimate 18 months to 2 years) will provide the needed space to allow the needed growth within the County departments without requiring excessive commuting by the County employees between the County facilities, as well as convenience for the public to conduct business with the County. The County will effectively have a multi-facility campus in downtown Durant.
I have learned that many that live here have a limited understanding of a commissioner’s duties. It is very common to hear from the public that the County Commissioner is only responsible for the roads, while the roads are an important part of the job, there are more areas of responsibilities entrusted to the Board of Commissioners. The Board of Commissioners consist of three Commissioners, each presiding over a District in the County. The Bryan County District lines are drawn based on population numbers. Each District’s population must be within 5% in total from the other districts. Today District 1 has approximately 2,650 more individuals than the other two districts but is roughly 70% the size of the two other districts, because the population density of District 1 is much higher. Some of the duties that are required of the Board of Commissioners besides the ones I already mentioned are:
The board of County Commissioners plays an integral part in the receiving and expending County funds. As the County’s chief administrative body, the three County Commissioners must make major financial decisions and transactions. Also, the board of County Commissioners has the official duty to ensure the fiscal responsibility of the other County officers who handle County funds. Unlike the misconception that County Commissioners are only elected to build and maintain County roads and bridges, as members of the board of County Commissioners, they are foremost policy makers and business managers for the County. All the review and approval procedures empowered to the board are a means to provide the public with a fiscally efficient system of County government.
Where does the districts receive the funds for maintaining the roads and bridges in their district? It is a very common misconception by the public that road maintenance funds come from the Ad-Valorem taxes (property taxes). In Bryan County that is not correct. These taxes primarily go to support the other various services in the County. For example, if you live in the Durant School District your County Tax Levy (millage*) might be (a) COUNTY GENERAL FUND** 10.22 mills (b) HEATH DEPT 2.56 mills (c) EMS 3.07 mills (d) SCHOOL DIST. 89.88 mills
* The millage rate is the number of dollars of tax assessed for each $1,000 of property value. A rate of 10 mills means that $10 in tax is levied on every $1,000 in assessed value. A school district typically will set the millage rate each spring as it calculates what it needs to fund its final budget. For comparison purposes treating millage like percentage will give you an idea of the ratios
** County General Fund support the Sheriff/Jail approximately >50%, portions of the Clerk, Treasury, and Assessor’s annual budget, OSU extension office, County Administration and facility Maintenance and Operations expenses
So where does the district get their roads and bridge maintenance funds? They primarily come from fuel taxes, vehicle tag fees, and raw fuel products taxed by the Tax Commission being transported through pipes and drilling within the County. You can see that there is a basic problem with this method of funding in that the revenue stream is subject to fluctuations. The revenue received does not keep pace with population growth, fuel is taxed by the gallon not the dollar paid. So high pump prices don’t increase revenue received by the County and to compound the issue as electric vehicles usage increase fuel taxes will decrease along with that the road and bridge maintenance funds will also decrease.
Accomplishments within District 1, I have successfully replaced/upgraded their heavy equipment fleet over my two terms as Commissioner and was able to add paving equipment. It currently consists of five motor-graders, five 10-wheel dump trucks, one 18-wheel belly dump, two tractors with mowers, specialize equipment for paving roads. The current District 1 staff/road hands consist of 15 individuals with various skills and experiences, providing maintenance on over 350 miles of roadways.
District 1 has resurfaced and/or paved many miles during my 2 terms including portions of Sand Point Rd, Streetman Rd, Leavenworth Trail (Chickasaw Grant), Kersey Rd (ODOT Grant), Orchard Rd (Bureau of Indian Affairs, BIA) ,Ury Rd (Choctaw Grant), Silo School area (Chickasaw Grant) and Bryan Rd bridge at Little Blue River (ODOT Grant), There are many more smaller paving projects that have been completed too. District 1 continues to plan and schedule paving projects when funds or Grants are available. District 1 also works with new sub-division developers on encouraging them to pave their roads for their new homeowners. The County hasn’t got the funds available to do this after the fact. County road funds received are primarily for maintaining the road surfaces, funds are very limited for doing many improvements. Today District 1 has approximately 350 miles of road surface consisting of gravel, chip seal, and asphalt.
In the last several years I have developed and activated two new departments within the County. They have assumed duties that were being done by third parties previously. One being the Floodplain/Stormwater Run-Off Administrator and the other Emergency Management/Storm Spotter group. The County now operates these groups internally to help ensure the public’s safety. The County is in the process of implementing a more robust emergency communication system that will permit messages to be simulcasted as a texted message, an email, social media message and FEMA IPAWS. The public will soon be able to sign up for the free service.
In addition to my regular duties, I am currently an active member on many boards for various organizations in the County. For example, Chamber of Commerce, Volunteer Fire Department Tax and Fire Chief Association, Imagine Durant, State Health Dept, and others. I also have several additional duties I perform outside the normal role as a commissioner, they are Assistant Emergency Manager for Bryan County, Geographic Information Mapping System (GIS) County Administrator/Operator. Network Administrator for County email, Eagleview Pictometry, VoIP, and physical local area network (LAN).
I hope this information may have helped you get to know me a little better and understand the services and duties I perform daily. I am at my office daily 8a to 5:30p, except for meetings and other obligations. My main number at the shop is (580) 924-5814 (Athena Office Manager) and (580) 366 1020 my cell phone. I also have an email firstname.lastname@example.org you can use. I can usually be reached at one of these numbers. My office address is 1809 South 9th Ave. Durant, OK 74701; feel free to come by for a visit if you are in the area.
FYI, one of the earliest challenges I took was developing the Official County Seal. (NOTE: each item on the seal has a meaning behind it)
One out of many events I was passionate about was organizing and partisipating in was the 100th anniversary of the Courthouse in 2017 Where we recoved and opened the 100 year old time capsule. This prove to be a great celebration for the community and I was able to accomplish this with donation funds only.
I have been endorsed by the Oklahoma Second Amendments Association (OK2A) The State’s Leader for the 2nd Amendment (https://bitly.is/3N1ORuP).
I am proud of the progress District 1 has made in the maintaining of the road surfaces during my terms as Commissioner. There is still much work to be done and the team of professionals that I have assembled are second to none. They take pride in their work and in helping the community. I appreciate the trust you have placed in me and my crew.
With this information I hope I have illustrated my ability to serve as one of the leaders for Bryan County and my passion for the County. As I have stated I have completed many projects to date; I also have many underway now, and more that are being planned soon. I ask for your vote to re-elect me on the June 28th Primary so that I can continue to serve you and the needs of Bryan County, as well as prepare our County for a bright future.
I give all the glory to God for my success; He is the one that has given me the talent, skills, and passion to do these things, He provided me the opportunity to serve Bryan County.
Thank you and God bless,