City Commission approves pledge resolution for Robin Hood murals

Ponca City Now - August 13, 2019 9:50 am

The Ponca City Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Monday night pledging $49,000 from the Hotel/Motel tax for a mural project on the Robin Hood elevators in downtown Ponca City, provided additional funds are raised by Ponca City Main Street and private donors to cover the remaining $31,000 cost. John McNeese has already pledged $20,000 for the project.

The commission chambers were filled with citizens both for and against the project and its designs. Proponent Kelsey Wagner said she had spoken with artist Rick Sinnett to get an additional $130,000 estimate to paint the other buildings in the elevator complex, making the last-minute estimate for all of the structures $230,000. 

Wagner also said Sinnett agreed to consider other designs for the mandala — the eight-section image for  the west face of the elevator — which drew the most objections from residents.

City Manager Craig Stephenson reiterated that the City Commissioners’ action is just a pledge until the remaining funds are raised. If the goal is not met, the City of Ponca City will not pay any funds.

Mayor Homer Nicholson said that in 2007, the year he first became Mayor, he got a quote to have a mural painted on one side of the elevator from muralist Bob Palmer. That quote was for $210,000, Nicholson said.

Ponca City’s Hotel/Motel tax is paid by those who stay in city hotels and motels, not residents. The funds raised are earmarked for tourism and recreation.

In the last comments before the board voted, Wagner said Ponca City Main Street is responsible for the maintenance of the murals and artist Sinnett guarantees the paint for 20 years. Both images that have been presented are stencils and use a simplistic color scheme. The mandala is a 1/8 stencil, while the “Oklahoma Sunrise” stencil, featuring the state butterfly, the state wildflower, the state bird, wheat, and the sun, is a 1/2 stencil.

Residents Steve Scott and Betty Scott spoke against the project, calling divisive, a surprise and a use of city funds that was “forced on us.” Steve Scott raised issues about Sinnett’s troubles connected to a similar project in Oklahoma City, with unpaid invoices. Wagner said the comments about Sinnett were true, but he has since hired a business manager to keep track of the finances and all past issues have been cleared up.

Mayor Nicholson also pointed out the Oklahoma City project was a silo, not a grain elevator, and it was Sinnett’s first mural.

Terron Liles, one of the supporters of the project, said he sees the project “as a merging of old and new. It is a vibrant mural, but I am OK with what the city wants. However, this is a big fundraising burden to put on a group, to ask for a public poll after the donors who already pledged funds approved this art as presented.”

Betty Scott said she “loves the fact we have these people dedicated to art.”

“Tweak the art to be more pleasing and more will accept it,” she said. “Work with the artist so it doesn’t look so psychedelic.”

Mayor Nicholson reminded those in the chamber that it would cost an estimated $1 million to tear down the elevators and leave nothing.

Commissioners then voted 5-0 to approve the pledge resolution.


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