Photo Credit: 
Chronicle photos by Lisa Carroll

FLETCHER - Undergoing construction to provide residents with a smooth driving surface, the Town of Fletcher is nearing the end of an extensive paving project.

The main portion of the project consisted of laying asphalt on roadways and parking areas surrounding Fletcher Public Schools, from the railroad tracks on Cole Avenue to East Sycamore Street and the blocks of Martin, Hornaday and East Drive, courtesy of the Comanche Nation pilot program. A letter released on Nov. 15, 2019, by the Town of Fletcher and FPS states that while the Comanche County Eastern District 1 and the town itself would be providing the equipment and the labor to prepare the roadways before the paving could begin, two additional areas not covered under the project were recommended after reviewing construction plans. According to the information, paving the parking area from downtown Cole Avenue beginning at the railroad tracks to Central Street would be covered by the Town of Fletcher at an initial estimated cost of $50,000.

In order to create a "seamless transition between roads and parking areas," the second recommended addition to the project included laying 17,628 feet of three-inch asphalt around the school campus at an estimated cost of $35,000. The letter, addressed to the Fletcher Community and Fletcher Alumni and signed by Dick Herrin, Mayor of Fletcher and Shane Gilbreath, Superintendent of FPS, states the following: "The benefits of this project are very important to our town. Realtors have stated that a major downside of property sales is the condition of our main street. This completed project could potentially attract more home buyers to Fletcher, hopefully increase the resale value of our homes, and allow us to better compete with our neighboring communities. We feel this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our town, so let's come together and be supportive of this project."

With FPS currently committed to a 2019 bonds project for the elementary school roof replacement and with no extra funds available, the letter sought help from the community to raise the estimated $35,000 needed to complete the additional portion of paving. Superintendent Gilbreath says the community, alumni and local businesses have since surpassed the goal and have donated close to $38,000 so far. "We had areas with good covering, but not good asphalt," said Shane. "We have a lot of handicap parking in front of the ag building and we wanted it to be one smooth, level surface for better handicap access. This project leveled out areas and provided a cohesive look. "We did the roof on our elementary building and now we're doing this. It takes a lot of money to do a little bit of work. We're proud of our campus and we want others to see that."

Since the additional parking area paid for by the town came in at a bid of $41,000, well below the initial $50,000 estimate, Mayor Herrin said the council was not required to review other bids before hiring C & G Construction for the project. With asphalt officially down, brand new street signs being installed courtesy of a Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grant awarded through the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments (ASCOG) in 2019 and striping almost compete, the mayor says the Town of Fletcher's appearance is on the upswing. "It's absolutely wonderful. I've got comment, after comment, after comment, about how nice the roads are now," said Mayor Herrin. "The look it gives Main Street is just so nice."

Director of Comanche Nation Transportation, Adrian Tehauno, previously said last fall that the pilot paving program was initiated with Comanche Nation federal highway funds in an effort to provide a safe environment around public schools in three separate counties. "It's a benefit for the community, not just the tribal students, but for everybody," said Adrian. With the paving project at Elgin Public Schools completed earlier this year and FPS sitting at "99%" completion, Adrian said the Comanche Nation crew has currently moved on to Walters. Starting this summer, the Comanche Nation plans to continue into Caddo County, addressing the pavement needs of Cyril, Cement and Apache Public Schools.