Tech center $12 million bond issue heads to voters April 1
By Traci Chapman
May 31, 2013, started out as a normal day at Canadian Valley Technology Center’s El Reno campus.
By the time the sun set, all nine of the buildings on that campus would be destroyed in an EF-5 tornado that would break records as the widest ever recorded – at 2.6 miles – and logging wind speeds as high as 296 mph, according to National Weather Service data.
On April 1, technology center officials hope voters will approve a $12 million bond issue they say will help the campus get back on track. Although some concrete and iron supports remain of the buildings at the campus, located on state Highway 66 on the far-east edge of El Reno, the complete rebuild of the campus is not covered by insurance settlements received by the school, Superintendent Dr. Greg Winters said.
“This would help pay construction costs and would add less than $1 per month in ad valorem taxes on a $100,000 home or property,” Winters said.
Voters throughout the county are eligible to participate in the election, Canadian County Election Board Secretary Wanda Armold said Tuesday. Anyone who lives within a Canadian County school district also lives in a Canadian Valley Technology Center district, which extends beyond Canadian County, she said.
“There is Okarche and Geary – those are not in technology center districts, and areas like Deer Creek and Cashion are in Francis Tuttle’s area,” Armold said. “Every one of our precincts will be open.”
As part of the planned center rebuild are safe rooms that could protect about 1,200 people, Winters said. Between 1,000 and 1,200 people attend classes or visit the campus on any given day, the superintendent said.
The May 31 tornado first touched down at 6:03 p.m. southwest of El Reno, demolishing houses south of El Reno Municipal Airpark as it traveled what would eventually be 16.2 miles, ending at 6:43 p.m.
Four other tornadoes occurred at the same time or shortly after the El Reno twister, all in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, including south of Mustang and Moore, which had suffered its own EF-5 tornado just 11 days before. Two of those were assigned EF-0 classification, while the others garner an EF-1 rating.
Although more people were killed outside Canadian County than inside its borders, Oklahoma City police said flooding – not tornadic activity – led to those deaths. Two families were found drowned after taking refuge in storm drains.
All of Canadian County’s victims were in vehicles, either on Interstate 40 or on or near U.S. Highway 81, Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West said. Those killed were 67-year-old William Rose O’Neal, a retired federal prison counselor from El Reno; Hinton rancher and truck driver Richard Charles Henderson, 35; Maria Pol Martin, 26, and her 1-year-old son, Rey Chicoj Pol, also of Hinton; Wilburton oil field equipment manager Dustin Heath Bridges, 32; and three professional storm chasers – 55-year-old Timothy Samaras and his son, Paul Samaras, 24, both of Bennett, Colo., and their partner, Carl Richard Young, 45, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
More than 120 homes and businesses were destroyed or seriously damaged as a result of the tornado and accompanying rain and hail, with the technology center and OKC West – located across Route 66 – taking a direct hit from the storm. No one taking refuge at the school was injured, although several teachers and students were there when the tornado struck, Winters said. Proposed tornado shelters would ensure that would be the outcome should the center ever be hit again.
“After all, it’s safety we are thinking of,” he said. “All of these other things – it’s difficult to replace them but they can be replaced.
“You can’t replace people,” Winters said.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Armold said.