Dog training

Commission Rejects David Hooten’s Proposal to Use ARPA Funds for Dog Training Center

Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten has requested that an item creating a dog training center be placed on the agenda of the Board of County Commissioners on Monday, May 2, 2022. (Facebook)

Following a terse and at times awkward exchange with Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten, the Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners took no action regarding a proposed K-9 training center that would be run by a non-profit organization co-founded by former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry. Swiss.

Hooten asked that the item be placed on Monday’s meeting agenda for discussion. He called for approval of up to $25 million in county American Rescue Plan Act funds to be spent on building a K-9 training facility to be operated by nonprofit Ground Zero. which trains dogs for search and rescue efforts. Ground Zero was founded in 2017 by Barry and Becky Switzer.

Hooten is currently running for state treasurer, and Barry Switzer donated the maximum $2,900 to Hooten’s primary campaign in August. According to a report by KWTV, Switzer has appeared in digital video ads supporting Hooten, who is also an accomplished trumpeter. Hooten performed at a Swiss-hosted Donald Trump fundraiser in Norman in 2016.

“I put this on the agenda primarily because the fiscal council approved this funding on July 15,” Hooten told commissioners on Monday. “It’s a huge opportunity to have (a) Ground Zero emergency training facility, which most of you know, training K-9s to rescue humans and working with firefighters and police. To have this in Oklahoma County and be the cornerstone of the entire United States and the world would be a tremendous opportunity for this county to have started, so I respectfully put it here for discussion.

Calvey: It’s too early to fund a project

District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey — who endorsed Hooten for state treasurer — praised Ground Zero before saying it was too early to allocate funds to the organization.

We want to see what we do with ARPA funds. We have a good plan rather than piecemeal, one project at a time, especially a suggestion for this amount which I think will be more than any entity will receive,” Calvey said. “So I would have a concern about the item being approved at this time. In no way does this reflect on the work the Ground Zero Foundation is doing or the possibility of anything in the future at a lesser amount, but I would have one concern about that for now.

Hooten, who does not typically speak at County Board of Commissioners meetings, fired back, citing the Oklahoma County Budget Board’s prior approval of ARPA funds to be spent on the project.

“I understand that, but realize that was the very first thing we approved for use of ARPA funds and we hired a company that worked with the principal BOCC deputies,” Hooten said. “I haven’t met them in person. I tried. But I remind you that the whole budget committee approved that, except, I know, (Commissioner) Carrie (Blumert) that you didn’t. It was 8-1, but of course you know that. It was up to $25 million. That doesn’t mean it’s $25 million. It was at your discretion.

District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert echoed Calvey, citing the need for a more cohesive long-term plan for the use of ARPA funds and the current involvement of Accenture, the consulting firm. hired by the county to help understand ARPA spending guidelines.

I think I have to agree with Commissioner Calvey that I know the budget committee voted on this last summer, but now that we have Accenture on board and we’re trying to come up with a plan for the $154 million , I would rather wait to vote on individual points,” Blumert said. “But if you all know me, you know that I love dogs more than anyone. If I see a dog on the street, I have to say ‘Hi’ to him. I have two dogs myself, and I have two friends who volunteer for Ground Zero, and they love it. But I agree that for me it’s premature. If we give money to this organization, I would like it to be part of a larger plan that we will vote on with all funds.

Hooten: “You’ve all already approved $10 million to spend”

Hooten pressed further, again citing the Budget Council’s vote to approve AARPA funds for the training center.

“Thank you for those comments,” Hooten said. “I will also say that you all have already approved $10 million to spend. How is this not done piecemeal? »

District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan – who also donated to Hooten – said the Budget Council’s top priority was the jail, not a new dog training center.

“That’s exactly what was clarified in all these briefings, and it was explained,” Maughan told Hooten. “And also, the Budget Council voted entirely to make the prison a priority and so we are obviously doing everything we can with existing funds as a first priority to consolidate the prison. We have a very important vote coming up on June 28th. We are asking people to present an amount of money that is not sufficient, so we will have to have additional funds.

Hooten then asked if the proposed $310 million bond issue on June 28 would be enough for the new prison before it was fixed.

“It’s actually for $260 million,” Blumert said.

Calvey then sought to move the discussion to the present.

“I think we’re going far on the agenda item,” Calvey said.

Maughan and Calvey told Hooten that the Budget Council does not have the final say when it comes to ARPA funds.

“I’m just pointing out that for all this talk of ‘budget committee approved it,’ the budget committee also signed off on this other deal,” Maughan said. “We had several meetings, Mr. Hooten, that you were invited to attend, and if you had participated in those briefings and those calls that your staff participated in, you know, we also have to find out if the law allows that. We need to find out what the cost per dog is. We haven’t recovered that. We were looking to see if he had connectivity to COVID that would meet US Treasury guidelines, Accenture was involved in all of this, which I don’t haven’t received anything yet.

Calvey again said it was too early to allocate ARPA funds.

“I would also like to point out that it is this body, the Board of County Commissioners, that has decision-making authority over ARPA funds, not the Budget Board,” Calvey said. “So, like all three of us mentioned here, I think this article is, you know, definitely premature.”

The commissioners then elected to take no action on Hooten’s budget item.