July, 2014

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Water trust members taken by surprise


By Traci Chapman and Ray Dyer

Word that the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is launching a “comprehensive” study of a water basin that stretches from Yukon to Watonga came as a surprise to members of the Canadian County authority that has been searching for a water source.

Central Oklahoma Water Resources Authority, COWRA, has been working for years to find a “secure” water source for the area. The driving force behind the effort is the desire of communities to wean themselves of water dependence from Oklahoma City.

But the news that OWRB is jumping into the search for new water sources was described by one COWRA member as a “significant development,” a development several officials said they knew nothing about.

Canadian County District 2 Commissioner David Anderson was one of several members of the county authority who said they were not aware of OWRB’s intentions. COWRA has been following the lead of Oklahoma City lobbyist Shawn Lepard, who has helped guide the water expedition for several years.

It was COWRA’s payment to Lepard that caused El Reno Mayor Matt White to lead the effort to pull the town away from the COWRA table a few years ago. Two years ago, that decision was reversed by a new council that agreed to pay “back dues” of more than $100,000 to reactivate El Reno’s COWRA voting rights.

At the time El Reno left COWRA, Lepard was being paid about $90,000 per year. COWRA’s entire budget was less than $100,000. The money now paid to Lepard by the authority has been trimmed to under $50,000.

Recently, COWRA has been seeking a contractor to drill test wells between El Reno, Union City and Mustang in an effort to find a source for brackish water. The firm hired to help lead that effort, Guernsey Engineering, has been unable to find a drilling firm that will do the test wells at the cost it estimated.

“Our engineers gave us an estimate of the cost to drill the wells and the bids that came back were over half more than what they expected,” Anderson said.

El Reno City Manager Tony Rivera said he too was caught off guard by the OWRB announcement. In an email, Rivera said he was forwarding the inquiry to Lepard to “see if he knows anything.” Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney said Thursday afternoon he also did not know about the OWRB study until fellow COWRA members forwarded a press release concerning it to him. The press release was issued that same day. COWRA authority members received the release from El Reno Tribune and Mustang News reporters.

Lepard said he had been working with the state water board since 2010 and he is “glad to have their support. It’s awesome,” Lepard said. Even so, he said COWRA would continue to work on its own to find a secure water source for the county. He said the county should not look to the state to do for it what “it should be doing for itself.”

“Of course, we don’t want to go back to the Arbuckle days, when we were actually working against the state,” Lepard said, referring to the failed plan to build a pipeline and pull water from the southern Oklahoma water basin that exists in the Tishomingo area.

Cole Perryman, OWRB director of communications, said Thursday 12 “Hot Spot” basins were identified in a 2012 update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan. Those areas were identified as having the “most significant” issues pertaining to water supplies expected over the next 50 years.

Basin 51 is located between Yukon and Watonga and runs through El Reno. It will be used to study “marginal” water to prevent shortages in the future, Perryman said. Officials classify “marginal water” as treated or reclaimed wastewater, oil and gas flowback, brackish water, stormwater and sources tested with “elevated levels of key constituents,” Perryman said.

“Basin 51 was found to have a high potential, according to what we’ve seen so far,” he said.

The basin was pinpointed during several public meetings held during spring 2014. The OWRB representative said he was not certain if COWRA officials had attended any of the public meetings. Lepard said a meeting was held in Yukon and was “I believe lightly attended.” He said he did not attend, but “I believe Richard Raupe attended.” Raupe, mayor of Okarche, is the chairman of COWRA.

OWRB Executive Director J.D. Strong said the meetings generated a lot of interest. He said he did believe representatives from COWRA were there.

“We had strong attendance at each of our Hot Spot public meetings earlier this spring and that has assisted the advisory council in its mission,” he said. “The public meetings brought together agriculture producers, water providers and interested citizens residing in the state’s 12 Hot Spot planning basins.”

None of the COWRA board members contacted said they knew about the meetings or had been given a report about them by fellow board members or Lepard.

Lepard said he planned to update the COWRA board at a meeting set for Friday in Yukon.

“I was planning to discuss this with them at tomorrow’s meeting,” Lepard said. He said he was unaware OWRB was planning to issue the press release about its plans.

Both the studies and meetings evolved from the Water for 2060 initiative, an offshoot of the Water for 2060 Act approved by the Legislature in 2012. The initiative set a statewide goal to limit water consumption in 2060 to 2012 usage levels. The Water for 2060 Advisory Council will issue a final report to state officials sometime in late 2015, Perryman said.

“The OWRB is doing this in conjunction with the federal government, which is providing some funding,” he said. “OWRB is providing in-kind payment through the services of its employees.”

OWRB and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were partnering to support the advisory council, Perryman said.

In addition to the Yukon to Watonga study, two other areas will also be studied, one near Duncan, the other near Altus.

Rivera later said it was most likely Lepard who helped get the Yukon to Watonga area included in the OWRB study. He added, however, that he was “peeved” that he or other members of the COWRA board were not told of the OWRB developments.

District 3 Commissioner Jack Stewart said he too was unaware of the OWRB plan or the public meetings, one of which, in Yukon, was in his district.

Strong, who lives in Yukon, phoned from a meeting in Minnesota to say COWRA should continue its independent search for a water source. He said OWRB could help finance the estimated $60 to $100 million project if it materializes.

“We did a $70 million-dollar project for Broken Arrow last year, so we certainly have the ability to help finance large projects.”

Communication missing from water hunt

By Ray Dyer

One word is obviously missing when learning how members of the Central Oklahoma Water Resources Authority, also known as COWRA, were taken by surprise by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s plan to study the same issues undertaken by the local authority.

That word is communication.

COWRA lobbyist Shawn Lepard said he was planning to discuss the OWRB plan with COWRA members at a meeting in Yukon last Friday. Lepard did not attend the public meeting held last spring in April that was hosted by OWRB. That meeting, also in Yukon, was to gather input from “stakeholders” interested in water issues. Lepard said he thought a COWRA representative was at the meeting, but wasn’t for sure.

J.D. Strong, the executive director of the OWRB, said he too believed a COWRA authority member was present, but again he wasn’t sure. Lepard said the Yukon meeting was lightly attended, while Strong said it had strong attendance, until told of what Lepard said, then backed away from his earlier statement.

Strong said he and Lepard have worked closely on water issues over the years.

But is Lepard working closely with COWRA, the entity that is paying him a handsome sum of money to help develop a “secure water source” for Canadian County?

When city managers and county commissioners who serve on the COWRA board don’t know what’s going on until contacted by reporters, the answer may not be yes.

The people who serve on the COWRA board, in my opinion, deserve credit. They are taking on a task, whether right or wrong, apparently without seeking compensation. It appears they are people who are trying to make a difference.

Hats off to that.

Can the same be said for the paid lobbyist?

Don’t know. Hope so. But don’t know.

Strong and Lepard both said COWRA needs to continue its independent work at finding a source of brackish water. Lepard said the local folks, meaning COWRA, shouldn’t expect the state to do for it what it should be doing for itself.

At the same time, Strong said the federal government is no longer interested in building a lake or reservoir so that option is off the table. He agrees, a body of water would produce a far greater economic impact than simply drilling holes in the ground.

“The low hanging fruit is gone,” Strong said, referring to a lack of federal support for such an undertaking.

So, COWRA is supposed to be independent, but OWRB isn’t? Is that what I’m hearing?

One point that did stick out, at least in my mind, that causes me concern, is that no one from the Oklahoma Water Resource Board or COWRA, from what I can gather, has ever picked up the phone and called the Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders to discuss water.

Oklahoma City is involved in a lawsuit with two powerful Native American tribes over an effort to pull water from lakes in southeastern Oklahoma. How long will it take to get that resolved?

From what I understand, Concho, home of the C&A tribal headquarters, sits on about 6,000 acres. Under this land that runs along the North Canadian River are natural springs. The springs supplied water for cattle drives that moved through here in the 1800s. It gave water to Native Americans and early settlers. From what I’m told, the springs are still running. And yet, no one has picked up the phone and invited the C&A to the water talk table.

Of course, Oklahoma City hasn’t been invited to the COWRA table either, even though it’s the largest city in Canadian County.

Communication is a big deal.

Hightower – the unsung hero for Mustang basketball

Geoffrey Hightower Two

By Kyle Salomon,

Mustang senior forward Geoffrey Hightower is entering his final year at MHS with high expectations for himself and for his team.

With highly recruited teammates such as junior guard Jakolby Long, junior guard Curtis Heywood II and junior forward Austin Meyer, Bronco boys hoops doesn’t lack any star power, but Hightower takes a backseat to no one when it comes to team leadership.

The 6-foot-6 post player said he has been working hard this summer to improve his overall game as well as playing with his AAU team, the Oklahoma Wizards.

“I want to improve my leaping ability,” he said. “I want to become more explosive off the floor. I also am working on improving my ball-handling skills and my quickness.”

Hightower said he knows and respects his role on the team.

“First and foremost, I want to be a leader on the team,” he said. “I want to be a guy that encourages my teammates and pushes them to be at their best all the time. I am counted to go inside and give a lot of energy in how I rebound, play defense and my overall hustle.”

That style of play is exactly what another power forward in this state does for his team down on the low block. That player, who resides in Norman and plays for the University of Oklahoma, is Ryan Spangler.

Spangler and Hightower are similar players in the way they approach the game and the way they use their bodies to push opposing players around in the paint area.

Hightower said he agrees with the comparison to Spangler.

“I like it,” he said. “I’ve gone down to OU and watched him play several times. He’s a guy that gives full effort all of the time. He never takes a possession off. He defends and rebounds with a lot of intensity. He’s not worried about the numbers he puts up or anything like that. That’s the way I like to play.”

Hightower averaged 10 points and nine rebounds last year for the Broncos, which is a solid year for high school basketball, but he said he expects more out of himself this upcoming season.

Hightower has traveled to numerous places throughout the summer competing in AAU tournaments, trying to improve his game and be seen by college recruiters. The MHS senior has played in St. Louis, Texas several times and Arkansas.

With the majority of the roster coming back and getting Heywood back from having to sit out last season, this Bronco squad is one of the favorites to win the 6A state championship next March.

Hightower said it’s important for the team to play together if they are going to achieve their goals.

“We need to listen to our coaches more,” he said. “We don’t need to try and play one-on-one. We need to talk more on the court and put the team first. We are all good friends off the court, so we talk a lot about what we can do to win a state championship.”

Mustang head coach Terry Long will enter his third year as head coach for the Bronco boys basketball program. Earlier this summer, Long was addressing his youth summer camp at MHS and told the campers of all the guys on his team he would draw up a play to win the game in the final seconds, it would be Hightower. Hightower said playing for Long is a great honor.

“He gets everything out of you,” he said. “He pushes you to be the best you can possibly be. He’s done so much in this state in high school basketball and for him to say that about me is truly an honor.”

Kyle Salomon is the sports editor at the Mustang News and can be reached at ksalomon@mustangnews.info

Douglas John Burkert

Douglas John Burkert, Sr. was born Oct. 3, 1932 to Lebo and Annette Burkert in Clinton, Iowa.

Douglas John Burkert, Sr.

Doug was raised in Rock Island, Ill. He was the youngest of five children: William (deceased), Betty Jane Mankoski (deceased), Rosemary Johnson, Moline Ill.; and Norma Jean Pierson, Pueblo, Colo. He was a graduate of Rock Island High School and Black Hawk College.

He married Ruth Wisdom from Geneseo, Ill. on June 5, 1955. They were married 59 years. They have two children, Douglas Burkert, Jr., wife Mary and three daughters – Lauren, Elyse and Brianne, all living  in Richardson, Texas; and daughter, Nancy Rateliff, husband Jeff and their children, Jacob and daughter Jamie, living in Mustang.

Douglas and his wife Ruth were small business owners, running Annette’s Interiors until 1978, when he closed the business and went to work for John Deere, retiring in 1987. To keep busy, he worked for Project Now Community Action Weatherization Program through 1993, then Rock Island Public schools a short time before retiring and moving to Oklahoma to be closer to his kids and grandkids.

Doug loved bowling, golfing, fishing and watching his grandchildren compete in various sports. He attended Mustang United Methodist Church. He also loved traveling, particularly to family reunions.

A memorial service is planned for Thursday, July 24, at Mustang United Methodist Church, at 3 p.m., with a reception following. In lieu of flowers, we ask donations be made to Mustang United Methodist Church, in care of Skyline Ministries, or United Methodist Women, for their care and support of other families in their time of need.

Four arrested after alleged Walgreens burglary, high-speed chase


By Traci Chapman

Four Fort Worth men are in custody after an alleged burglary of Mustang Walgreens and high speed chase.

The call came in at 4:35 a.m. July 19, when a resident called Mustang Police Department, advising he or she had seen four suspects leaving the Walgreens store.

“The citizen reported seeing suspects exit the store, enter a white vehicle and leave eastbound on East state Highway 152,” Capt. Dennis Craig said in a release. “Officers located the suspect vehicle in the 900 block of East state Highway 152 and attempted to make an investigative stop.”

The driver would not stop for officers, and a high-speed chase began, running eastbound from state Highway 152 to Interstate 240, east to the Interstate 35 turn-off, Craig said. At that time, the car crashed into a concrete barrier as the driver attempted to take the southbound highway, the captain said. Officers logged speeds over 100 miles per hour during the chase, Craig said.

“During the pursuit, occupants were throwing items from the suspect vehicle,” Craig said. “Officers recovered items, clothing and prescription medications stolen from Walgreens,” Craig said.

One man was arrested at the scene, while three more were found and apprehended with the assistance of Oklahoma City Police Department’s Air-1 and K-9 officers, Craig said.

In custody Monday were Kenneth Wayne Tolbert, 23; Hylon Alford Solomon, 23; 24-year-old James Richard Wooden; and Christopher Allen Williams Jr. All four men listed Fort Worth, Texas, addresses, Craig said.

The case is still under investigation and prosecutors have not yet filed charges, according to Oklahoma State Court Network.


Richard Elmer Phillips

Richard Elmer Phillips age 61, died Sunday, July 13, 2014 after a year-long battle with cancer. He was born May 12, 1953 in Portland, Ore. to Richard Edgar and Beulah Marie (Kirkendall) Phillips.

Richard Elmer Phillips

As a young man, Richard enjoyed fishing off the coast of Oregon. He went on to farm for 12 years and worked for Cascade Diesel in Moses Lake, Wash. He received a degree in computer software engineering from Eastern Washington University, and his degree afforded him the opportunity to work in jobs located in Virginia, Arizona, California and Oklahoma. He currently was employed at Boeing as a software engineer. Richard was a very spiritual and thoughtful man who, with his wife Linda, enjoyed serving in their church callings, such as Boy Scouts and Primary.

He was preceded in death by his mother and sister, Phyllis.

Richard is survived by his wife of 35 years, Linda (Duvall); six sons, David and wife Tara, James and wife Melissa and their daughter, Ellie, Thomas and wife Kristen and their children, Kylie, Sariah and Natalie, Peter and wife Rebecca and their children, Pierson, Nathan, Emmett, Felicity (and one on the way), Paul and wife, Eva and their daughter, Carlie, Richard A. and wife Alyssa and their daughter, Ariana; and one daughter, Gina and her fiancé Travis Johnson. He was also survived by his father, Richard Elmer; brothers, Randall and Craig; sisters, Cherie and Patt; as well as many other family and friends.

Public viewing will be held on Friday, July 18, between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. at McNeil’s

Mustang Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, July 19, at the LDS Chapel, located at 925 W. Kentuck Drive in Mustang, with interment in Rexburg, Idaho.


Adda Leona Bortz – September 13, 1920 – July 16, 2014

Adda Leona Bortz was born near Wagoner, Okla. to Fitzhugh and Lydia Lancaster.

Adda Leona Bortz

Adda was the oldest of six siblings born of Cherokee Indian decent. Her family lived in the country outside of Wagoner until 1928, when they moved to Oklahoma City for work. Adda married Dick Mauldin and had her daughter, Phyllis, in 1941.  In 1946, Dick died suddenly in an oil field accident. Adda went to work with her dad, Fitzhugh Lancaster, at Lancaster Grocery Store and had lots of great memories of that time. She then went to beauty school in the early 1950s and opened “Adda’s Beauty Shop” on 34th and Byers in the house her brother Pete built for Adda and Phyllis. She beautified lots of neighborhood ladies for many years there.

In 1973, Adda married Alva Bortz, who she had known from church. They enjoyed years of traveling, gardening, doing woodwork, painting and teaching children’s Sunday school at Central Pentecostal Holiness Church. They moved to Mustang in 1990, where they attended The Bridge. After Alva passed away, Adda moved to The Arbor House in 2005, where she was a much loved member of that community.

Adda was preceded in death by her parents, Fitzhugh and Lydia Lancaster; first husband, Dick Mauldin; second husband, Alva Bortz; sister-in-law, Martha Lancaster; favorite and only son-in-law, Lee Holley; and younger sister, Patricia Geurin.

She is survived by her daughter, Phyllis Holley of Mustang; her granddaughter, Tammy Bales and husband Brian of Mustang; her great granddaughter, Lindsey Pittman and husband Philip; and great great grandson, Carter Pittman of Fort Gibson, Okla.; siblings, Verona Hunter of LaGrange, Texas, Pete Lancaster of Del City, Faye Mathis and husband Leroy of Oklahoma City and Bev Huston and husband Fred of Edmond; a brother-in-law, Ron Geurin of Oklahoma City; many nieces and nephews whom she adored; and many loving friends and employees of The Arbor House of Mustang, along with many loving friends and employees of Crossroads Hospice.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, July 21 at McNeil’s Funeral Home Chapel with Pastor Kenneth McGee of The Bridge Church officiating.  Burial will be in Mustang cemetery. Online condolences may be made at www.mcneilsmustangfs.com.



Ronnie Lynn Smith

Ronnie Lynn Smith, age 53, of Southlake Texas, passed away on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 of a tragic car accident in Little Rock, Ark.

Ronnie Lynn Smith

Ronnie was born on May 19, 1961 in Bentwaters, England to Homer and Sue Smith. He graduated high school from Western Heights in 1979 and continued his education at Southwestern Oklahoma State University with a degree in economics and business. He was married to Christine Aragon on July 23, 2000 in Laguna Beach, Calif. He was employed by Gallo Wine for 20 years and continued his career at China Mist Tea. Ron was a chef at heart and loved spending time in the kitchen. He enjoyed entertaining and spending time with friends and family. Ronnie was an incredibly loving, attentive, and supportive husband and dad. He will be remembered as a wonderfully caring son to his parents. His beautiful mind and heart will be missed and remembered forever.

Ronnie is survived by his wife, Christine and daughter, Lauren; parents, Homer and Sue Smith; sister, Latrisha Elders and brother-in-law, Jeffrey Elders; and nieces, Lauren and Alexa Elders.

He was preceded in death by grandparents, Roy and Flora Willis and Minnie and Homer Smith, Sr.

Funeral arrangements are provided by McNeil’s Funeral Service and will be held at First Baptist Church of Mustang at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 18. Online condolences may be made at www.mcneilsmustangfs.com.






Hickman achieves professional milestone

hickman designation

By Traci Chapman

Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman in July accomplished something only 961 of his peers have achieved worldwide – designation as Chief Fire Officer by the Commission on Professional Credentialing.

CPC is part of the Center for Public Safety Excellence. The organization announced the chief’s achievement after a July 8 meeting. Hickman is one of only four individuals in Oklahoma named CPC Chief Fire Officer. Mustang’s chief joins Terry Ford with Tinker Air Force Base, Midwest City Fire Department’s Jarett Metheny and Jeremy Moore of Tulsa Fire Department on the “distinguished” list, according to CPC records.

To be designated a Chief Fire Officer, individuals must meet extensive criteria, CPC officials said. CFOs are assessed on their professional development, experience, contributions to their profession, education, community involvement and technical competencies. Hickman and his fellow CFOs were also required to develop a future professional development plan as part of the designation process.

Hickman was surprised during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, when Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney presented him with a framed copy of his CFO designation. Joined by the chief’s wife, Jana Hickman, and several Mustang firefighters, Rooney said the chief was a significant asset not only to the department and city, but also to the community at large.

“Chief Hickman has a rich knowledge of the emergency services profession and has far surpassed critical core competencies for personnel serving in senior fire officer positions,” Rooney said.

Hickman has been a member of Mustang Fire Department for nine years, Rooney said. The city manager also praised Jana Hickman, who Rooney said has been an integral part of her husband’s commitment to Mustang, as well as his success.

“When you work in public service, it’s not just the employee who serves but also their spouse and their children that serve too,” Rooney said. “Many dinners alone, late nights followed by early mornings, and community events that you get sucked into too.”

Rooney took the reins as Mustang city manager in August 2013. He said Hickman was part of a team that made that transition a smooth one.

“I want to congratulate you, Chief Hickman, on your dedication to your profession, your education, and those you serve as an example for following in your footsteps,” Rooney said to the visibly moved chief. “I’ve been with the city only 11 months, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not impressed by something that you do or the positive attitude that you bring to the table. Your can-do attitude is unmatched, as is your character.”

“I’ve never experienced this – I’ve got to say that,” Hickman said. “Thank you, thanks a lot for this.”






Learning curve – Emily Helms has successful freshman year at OSU


By Kyle Salomon

The freshman experience can be a roller-coaster ride for first-year college students, even for eight-time state champion Emily Helms.

Helms graduated from Mustang High School in 2013 as the most decorated athlete in the history of Bronco sports. The cross country and track star won eight individual state championships and signed to run cross country and track at Oklahoma State University.

Helms said her first year went well for the most part once she got used to the training regiment of college sports.

“The biggest challenge was dealing with the time management,” she said. “Everything is up to you. You decide when and how much you need to study for your tests, you decide when you do your homework, when you eat, sleep and do your laundry.”

Helms red-shirted as a freshman this past year, but she said she used that time to her advantage.

“I was able to get used to the new training schedule,” she said. “I went from running 40 miles every week in high school to around 60 miles every week in college. I got to run during the winter indoor season. I would say I had an average year, but the most important thing as a freshman is to stay consistent.”

This summer, Helms has been prepping for a bigger role on the cross country team this fall for the Cowgirls squad. The former Lady Bronco said she has been training hard for the cross country season by bumping up her mileage as the summer progresses.

“It’s important to stay injury-free while you’re training,” she said. “I went to the USA junior track meet and competed and then I took a short break. I started training again this week and will continue for the remainder of the summer.”

The USA junior track meet takes place in Eugene, Ore., for high school runners and college freshmen. Helms said it was good for her to get some experience and compete.

“The meet is only for people 19 and under so the older, more experienced college runners can’t compete in the event. It helps a lot mentally going against runners that are more your speed.”

One thing college is always good for is showing someone their strengths and their weaknesses. Helms said she knows what she needs to improve on before she heads back to Stillwater in August.

“Mentally is where I need to make the biggest improvement,” she said. “I need to learn to stay more positive and develop more confidence. I need to become mentally stronger. I believe with more experience I can get to where I need to be.”

When asked to compare high school to college in one word, the word Helms chose to use after several seconds of thought was “freedom.”