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Chicken Talk and Taxes

Bison Blinds

Luther – The Luther Town Board of Trustees met over a week ago. The Chicken Shack was on the agenda. Your reporter, if you’re reading this, attended but struggled to find the time to write about the meeting, until a Facebook discussion today.

The post asked folks to choose between Eischens of Okarche on the far west side of Oklahoma City or The Chicken Shack of Luther on the east side. Both are iconic chicken joints.

The FB discussion sent me into gear, in a Mama Bear sort of way to cheer for our town and clarify some mis-information. It reminded me, with a pang of guilt for not getting a story written, that there has been developments to the ongoing issue of the Shack’s growth issues, namely – sanitation and parking. (Writer’s block is real, folks).

The Town hadn’t shared information about the issue regarding the Shack’s growing pains, since its October meeting. Nor has the Shack. But the issue did reappear on the December meeting agenda.

The item stated:

Presentation by representatives of The Chicken Shack and the Childs Law Firm pertaining to operations, economic development activities, necessary infrastructure, including the sanitary sewer system, as well as the proposed Property Improvements Agreement Between the Town of Luther and the Chicken Shack, to include related discussion and possible action.

Town of Luther, Board of Trustees Agenda, Dec. 8, 2020.
From the Luther Register archives.
Luther Register Archives

The Facebook commenter did not have the information that was revealed at the December meeting. Might I mention it was a two plus hour meeting, chock full of drama (see below)? Since I now have to hustle out of work in the city and get to a town meeting back in Luther by 7 pm, I have a new appreciation for our Town Trustees who volunteer their time to power through those long agendas. How do they fit in dinner? 

The Chicken Shack has growing pains and the Town has made some demands and offered a white flag of some willingness to try to help. Vague sales tax rebates have been mentioned, along with the mention of installing sewer and water lines across Route 66 from the Town’s system, in exchange for a demand that the Shack keep its overflow parking off of Route 66 and off of private property. Also stated in the Town’s proposed “Agreement,” excerpts of which were shared with The Luther Register, were demands that the Shack not drag in any structures like boats or sheds to its back yard that is in a flood way.

The Shack’s General Manager, George Jacobs, and a consultant representing the Town were to begin discussions about flood ways, lagoons, safe groundwater, engineering, aerobic septic systems, permits and the Department of Environmental Quality.

Jacobs told the four Trustees present, and the mayor who was listening on the phone, that data from receipts shows that 125,000 visitors made their way to the Shack since March, many from nearby areas, coming to the Shack located in a Town that does not have a mask mandate.

My Comment on the FB page, Oklahoma Day Trips (and side stops), on a post asking about a preference for The Chicken Shack or Eischens.

Why not both? Here’s some backstory for what it’s worth. The tops to the information about the Shacks’ sanitation system is the Shack is in talks with the Town and other regulators to find a solution to the property that is busting at the seams with customers because of its popularity, Shack seekers, who come from all around, and then come back. That gives some evidence of its quality. Repeat customers! The place is consistently packed. It’s on a beautiful piece of property that features both Route 66 and the Deep Fork River. The property is also challenging because of its location, and limits on space and infrastructure, to accommodate growth, and share the property with the town’s only dispensary, and one of only two gas stations. The challenge of sanitation with a lagoon system or other solutions is problematic and expensive, but the Shack seems committed to working it out to keep a good thing going. Navigating through bureaucracies from DEQ to a small town government, add in the health department and the rest, and you realize it’s not for the weak, but determined with cash on hand to deal with backhoes and dirt work, permits and licenses, not to mention lawyers, engineers and contractors. Trying to grow a new business is hard; throw in a pandemic and it is terrifying. The Shack is just four years old, and Eischens is generations old. It’s worth it for all of us to try them, and support them, if we want to and can. The Shack has an outdoor window for ordering; there is a covered porch area with heaters and a large backyard that helped the Shack slay during the warmer months of Covid and offer an opportunity to dine and have space and hear live music and drink beer and eat chicken. With the success came the issues of growth – plus parking issues! Both Eischens and Shack are Oklahoma treasures. (I operate the Luther Register News here and have tried to cover/monitor this issue as the publication itself struggles to survive.)

Jacobs said the Shack is on track to repeat or exceed the same traffic next summer, and the Town of Luther and other businesses could also benefit in more ways than visitors coming to eat chicken. 

Town Clerk, “Screwing Me Over, Again.”

In other meeting news, the proceeding was held without a Town Clerk after an incident that occurred during the Luther Planning Commission meeting that was held right before the Trustee meeting. This volunteer group deals with master planning, buildings codes, permits and such. The members were asked to consider a proposed ordinance to clarify the number of ex-officio (non-voting) commission members, basically removing the current town clerk-treasurer from the body. The reason was given that the ordinance would line up with state statutes.

The clerk stated during the meeting “they’re basically kicking me to the curb, screwing me over, again.” He said the Trustees could take their minutes all by their “damn self,” and left the building. His departure was moments before he was to conduct his elected duty to take minutes. He resigned the next morning, sources said.

Raising Taxes? And an April Election

A Town of Luther election will be held in April. Candidates who wish to run may submit filing paperwork for four offices between February 1 – 3, 2021, at the Oklahoma County Election Board. Up for election will be the at-large trustee seats currently held by Jenni White, Trandy Langston and Terry Arps, as well as the paid Town Clerk/Treasurer, an office held by Kim Bourns.

It’s possible something else could be on the ballot for Town of Luther voters. A sales tax increase? A paid consultant presented a report to the Trustees outlining the town’s need for infrastructure improvements like water, sewer and roads and ways to raise money either through utility rate hikes, a sales tax hike or even a general obligation bond. The Trustees are expected to develop a needs list and strategy. Luther has the lowest sales tax in Eastern Oklahoma County at three-and-a-half cents per dollar (the other four cents per dollar goes mostly to the state). A penny hike would raise an estimated $150,000 a year in taxes, said the consultant, Municipal Finance Services, Inc. 

From the Luther Register archives.

Surrounding sales tax rates. June 2018

Another way to raise revenue for the town, the consultant said, was to lure more retailers to Luther. He said even one new medium-sized box store would make a big difference, but acknowledged that the town’s closeness to the city makes it challenging to attract retail. No kidding.

By the way, the post prompting the chicken discussion on Facebook garnered almost 300 comments. When you think about it, extolling the deliciousness of two of Oklahoma’s favorite chicken joints is better than some of the divisiveness on social media. We’ll see if the Shack gets a boost in visitors because of it.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you Dawn for updating us all on this crazy situation. Hopefully the town can work it out and we can get more money coming into the town

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