Ward 4 City Councilor Trae Ratliff, head of the Economic Recovery Task Force team, said he wants to bring positivity to Tahlequah during COVID-19.
Ratliff was given the nod during an Oct. 5 City Council meeting to use $35,000 of the CARES Act fund for portable streeteries and park benches.
"This is something kind of on the rise throughout the nation, and the more I started to dig into it, the more I started to see these streeteries or parklets or outdoor eateries," Ratliff said. "The mayor, city administrator, and City Council have agreed to let me utilize some of those funds for mitigating some of the COVID-19 impacts."
The idea is to have portable parklets in front of restaurants that aren't currently equipped with outdoor eating.
As of Oct. 16, Ratliff said the person who is constructing the parklets has ordered the materials and hopes to have them ready by the end of the month.
"The city already had a streeteries or parklet ordinance; they passed this back in 2018, and a few months ago, we as a council passed a waiver," Ratliff said. "There were so many barriers. If you wanted a streetery, you would have to fill out an application and pay $1,000 to utilize that spot."
Businesses would then need to build their own parklets and purchase their outdoor furnishings.
"We removed the barrier of the fee, and we're going to supply them with the parklets. Really, all they have to do is get their outdoor furniture after they fill out and turn in the application," Ratliff said.
Five businesses have turned in applications to the city for parklets.
Ratliff said the main concern had to do with the limited parking on Muskogee Avenue. However, Code Compliance Coordinator Ray Hammons and Planning and Development Director Taylor Tannehill are working to identify additional parking on main street that's not being used.
"Some of those spots that have yellow lines, but not blocking a fire hydrant, are being looked into," Ratliff said.
Ratliff said the change to downtown will have a positive impact, and he expects there to also be negative aspects.
"Generally speaking, will the majority of downtown and the majority of the people in the community have a positive reaction to this? I hope so," Ratliff said. "We all know that change isn't widely accepted in Tahlequah. In my opinion as a councilor, I'm just trying to do what I can to help. I'm just trying to do what I can to make a positive impact."