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Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman says about 100 acres were involved this afternoon in a grass fire in Oklahoma City, just north of Mustang. Mustang firefighters assisted with the fire, which at one point extended from 59th north to 54th street, just west of Mustang Road. No one was reported injured and no houses were damaged; fire crews remained on the scene as hot spots continue to crop up.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang’s $1.52 million baseball complex is close to sliding home, after council approved one of the final components needed to finish the project.
On Tuesday, Mustang City Council members voted unanimously to award a $135,960 contract for the complex’s restrooms and concessions to Emmons Construction, LLC. The Tulsa company was the low bidder among five companies who vied for the project; one company, Ramey Steel Construction, was eliminated because its representatives failed to follow all of the city’s bid packet specifications.
The award, which garnered a 5-0 vote, with Mayor Jay Adams and Ward 6 Councilman Donal Mount absent, came as work is wrapping up on field fencing and the complex parking lot. Emmons’ bid was far less than the $180,000 estimated for the concessions and restrooms, said Justin Battles, parks and recreation director.
“All field fencing will be completed by March 7,” City Manager Tim Rooney stated in his Feb. 28 report. “Canadian County crews have begun working on the parking lot for the baseball complex and bleachers will be installed in mid- to late-March.”
Battles developed a list of local businesses that would help work on the project to keep costs down. Applauded by council members for his work on the project, Battles said he hoped to have it completed by April 1. Recent freezing weather, snow and ice have given officials headaches in trying to stick to that schedule.
Mustang residents and businesses will have an investment in a new $1.52 million baseball field complex when it’s completed, with some making a commitment with the gift of skills and talents to finish the job.
Justin Battles, parks and recreation director, told Mustang City Council members Tuesday local businesses had come forward to be part of the baseball field project, a move council members applauded.
“I like the idea of the public getting involved,” Ward IV Councilman Terry Jones said earlier this year. “They’ll have ownership.”
The baseball complex is the final component of a three-prong improvement package of Mustang Town Center. Voters in March 2012 approved a $3.6 million bond issue, which also added space to Mustang Public Library and the banquet hall, as well as provided funds for new paint and carpet of existing areas.
By Traci Chapman
Parents will have a chance to weigh in on Mustang School District’s upcoming redistricting plan at a special Thursday meeting.
Set from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the meeting will be held in Mustang High School Commons and is geared toward parents of elementary schoolchildren, said Shannon Rigsby, district public information officer. Redistricting efforts come as a new school is nearing completion and the district last fall passed 10,000 in enrollment. Mustang’s seventh elementary school is set to open in time for the 2014-2015 school year, officials said.
The district is growing rapidly, by about 300 students each school year, officials said. That growth is concentrated on the northern end of the district, with new subdivisions cropping up in the area all the time, they said.
“This redistricting will impact every school except the high school and pre-K,” School Board President Chad Fulton said. “It’s important that parents and students know what’s going on and what the outcome is expected to be.”
Deputy Superintendent Charles Bradley has spearheaded work on the redistricting plan, studying available options to shift students from schools that have large class sizes.
“We are looking at what options are available to reduce the number of students in high growth areas,” Bradley told Mustang school board members in December.
The district looks at building permits and enrollment at each site to determine where growth might be seen, Bradley said. A steering committee has been working to address the issue and come up with ideas for redistricting; the next step will move to an advisory board made up of members of the community, parents and district representatives, he said.
“Parents will have an opportunity to submit their concerns and thoughts on the proposed plan in writing,” Rigsby said Tuesday. “The comments will be disseminated to the advisory committee.”
Anyone who cannot attend the March 7 meeting may submit comments to the district via email at email@example.com.
The process began with a small committee studying the issue and parents’ comments will be submitted to a larger group, which comprises district representatives, parents and community members. The committee is tasked with developing a final plan for consideration.
Board members hope to vote on the issue during their March meeting, set for March 10.
The last time Mustang redrew site boundaries was in 2007, when Centennial Elementary was built. Bailey said the district had learned some things during that process and hoped to avoid issues that came up at that time. The district also allocated $800,000 for acquisition of “land for the construction of future schools and/or district facilities in the south and central areas of the district” in the $7 million bond issue passed by voters Feb. 11. Officials have not yet released any plans concerning specific plans for spending those funds.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang officials are counting down to a hoped July 1 launch of a new city website.
“We’re getting excited – it’s something we’ve needed for a long time and it will be a great resource for everyone across the city – citizens, businesses, all of us,” City Manager Tim Rooney said last week.
The first work in developing the new site started in earnest last week, when aHa! Consulting President Brian Gilday traveled from Oregon to meet with city staff to get input on the new site’s design. City Council recently approved the contract with aHa! To build the site, after sending the project out for bid.
Gilday said Monday he met individually with each department to get their insight on what they wanted to see, as well as holding an extensive meeting with department heads who gave their input, as well.
“We had a chance to see what they thought would be best – we needed to make it easier to add documents to the website, improve citizen communication, improve the calendar,” Gilday said. “Everything will be integrated – parks and recreation, city council, all of it.”
The site will also be mobile compatible for phones and tablets, Gilday said. It will be readily updated and maintained, which in the long run will save money for the city, he said.
Over the next three months, Gilday will work to train city staff to use the site and add new content, with the aim of bringing it live on or before July 1, he said.
“Everyone here said they wanted to improve Mustang’s image and profile and promote open government,” Gilday said. “This will definitely do that.”
By Mustang News/El Reno Tribune Staff
Two El Reno teens have died and four others were injured in a two-vehicle accident that happened early Sunday, March 2.
El Reno High School sophomore Jesse Gorbet, 16, died from his injuries after being taken to OU Medical Center following the collision. Fifteen-year-old Karson Baker died at OU Medical Center early Wednesday, El Reno School Superintendent Craig McVay said. Two of their fellow EHS schoolmates –Connor Ryan and Taylor Maine – remained hospitalized Monday, while Abby Schwarz and Josh Castrop were taken to Mercy El Reno Hospital, treated and released.
As of Wednesday, Ryan was listed in good, and Maine in fair, condition, OU Medical Center officials said.
The collision occurred at 12:15 a.m. at the intersection of Manning and Britton roads, Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West said. Gorbet was driving a silver Chevy pickup truck and traveling southbound on Manning Road with his five passengers. The vehicle collided with a red Chevy pickup truck, driven by 20-year-old Ty Hood of El Reno. Hood, who was driving westbound on Britton Road, was also taken to Mercy El Reno and released. He was alone in his vehicle, the undersheriff said.
Both trucks were traveling too fast for the weather conditions, West said.
A “Pray for Karson Baker” page was set up on Facebook, which allowed family members of all of the injured teens to provide updates. A huge outpouring of concern and support on that page and other social media sites started up shortly after word of the crash spread through El Reno.
The community has rallied around the families hit by the tragedy. Sunday evening, a prayer vigil was held at First Christian Church. Tara Dew, youth director at First Christian, has set up a fund for Karson Baker at El Reno’s Bank of Commerce. Deposits should be made to “Tara Dew for Benefit of Karson Baker” and can be taken to the bank, located at 220 S. Bickford Ave.
A memorial fund has also been established for Jesse Gorbet at the Rock Island Credit Union.
“This is a small community and we love our kids,” McVay said. “El Reno Public Schools extends loving thoughts and prayers to all of our students and their families.
“Please know we value each and every one in our school, and as such, are focusing on providing support for each other,” he said.
McVay said the community has been hit hard by this tragedy and he and his staff will do everything they can to help the community heal.
“Counselors are available for our kids right now,” he said. “Something like this affects everyone.
“Our administration and staff are tuned into the needs of our kids and we will be available now and for as long as necessary,” the superintendent said.
Others in the community who are reaching out to the families, McVay said.
“The El Reno Ministerial Alliance, El Reno First Baptist Church and The First Christian Church have held or are holding events for the kids to help them heal through this tragedy,” he said.
The accident came at a difficult time for El Reno schools. McVay said he was on his way to a funeral for a spouse of an El Reno teacher who lost her husband on Friday. Also, another EHS student, Kali Daly, was involved in what McVay said was a “horrific accident” Friday evening.
The superintendent said Daly is also being treated at OU Medical. He said the senior was new to EHS this semester. McVay said he and Matt Goucher, assistant superintendent, plan to visit her later Wednesday.
“We had been walking by her room at OU trauma and didn’t even know it,” McVay said.
In even more tragedy for the school, Susan Veenker, a longtime EHS foreign language teacher, died Tuesday. Veenker had been injured in a traffic accident in late January.
Students had rallied around her, raising funds to help with medical expenses.
Funeral services for Gorbet will be at 3 p.m. Friday at Jenks Simmons Field House. A memorial fund has been established in his name at the Rock Island Credit Union in El Reno. Services for Baker and Veenker are pending.
By Traci Chapman
Oklahoma aviator Pearl Carter Scott now has a permanent place at the state Capitol.
A portrait of Scott, one of the country’s youngest pilots and a former Chickasaw legislator, was unveiled Wednesday in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The portrait, painted by Oklahoma artist Christopher Nick, was a gift of the Chickasaw Nation, Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Rep. Ray McCarter.
Although Scott lived and died long ago and never lived in Canadian County, her story has still touched the area. In October 2008, cast and crew of the independent film “Pearl” traveled to the county, shooting scenes in Yukon and El Reno, at that city’s airpark. The movie’s flight scenes were filmed at the airpark with vintage planes loaned to the production. During filming in El Reno, several local extras worked on “Pearl,” including Dane Holland and Evan Goeringer.
The movie won a “Best of Show” award at the 2009 Indie Fest.
Sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation, the film depicts the life of Pearl Carter Scott, a Marlow native who was the youngest person to ever earn a commercial pilot’s license. At the age of 14, after meeting Wiley Post, the young girl turned her love of flying into a profession, appearing in air shows and working as a stunt pilot across the country.
Scott was a unique woman, far beyond her time, line producer Amy Briede said. Born in 1915, she was one of only three people allowed by Post to fly his signature plane, the Winnie Mae. The two maintained a friendship until Post’s death in 1935, Briede said.
Scott was a woman of many “firsts,” Briede said. Scott’s mother, Lucy Carter, was an original enrollee of the Chickasaw Nation. Scott returned to those roots in 1972, when she became one of the tribe’s first community health representatives. In 1983, she also embodied another first when she became the first woman elected to the Chickasaw Nation Legislature, serving three terms before her retirement.
Scott was inducted in the Oklahoma Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. She died in Oklahoma in 2005 at the age of 89 years.
“Pearl,” like its subject, also claimed a first as the inaugural film to qualify for the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program. The program offers a rebate of up to 37 percent on expenditures made by a production company during filming in the state, as long as at least $25,000 is spent in Oklahoma. Other local filmmakers, like Mustang’s Jeff Robison, have taken advantage of the tax credit to make films in the state.
“Pearl’s” producers used several sites throughout the state, including Guthrie, Macomb and the Harn Homestead in Oklahoma. Briede said El Reno’s airport was “perfect” for the production because of its grass landing strip and the surrounding rural landscape.
“The airport was perfect, and the buildings were also great for the time period. We also had a wonderful experience with the airpark and the entire community, so it made the filming a wonderful experience for all of us,” she said.
The Indie honor is not “Pearl’s” first. In March, the film was selected for screening during the American Film Institute Dallas International Film Festival.
By Traci Chapman
Crews are busy on concrete and steel work as they look to a December completion date for Mustang’s St. Anthony Healthplex.
Darin Miller with Miller Neff Development said Tuesday the 80,000-square-foot building was on track. With a target completing date of Dec. 15, officials hoped to open the complex in early 2015, Miller said.
Located at state Highway 152 and Sara Road, the healthplex will include a full-service emergency room, diagnostic imaging, breast center and suites for medical procedures. A second floor will house primary care and specialist physicians with St. Anthony Physicians Group, and additional space will be available for commercial lease, officials said.
Mustang’s complex will look similar to projects built by Miller Neff in east and south Oklahoma City, Miller said. His firm has worked with St. Anthony’s for several years but just became involved with the firm’s healthplex construction about five years ago, he said.
The healthplex design differs from traditional medical and hospital accommodations, Miller said.
“It gives a feeling more of a hotel than a clinical setting,” he said. “It really is a very updated kind of design, compared to an ordinary medical office or emergency room.”
The healthplex will be operated by SSM Health Care Oklahoma, which administers all of St. Anthony’s operations. The project was the culmination of several months of discussion and negotiation between SSM and Mustang city officials, they said.
“We have enjoyed working in collaboration with the visionary city officials in Mustang to develop a medical campus model that will provide accessible health care with attention to high levels of customer service to the community,” SSM regional president Joe Hodges said last year.
For their part, Mustang officials said they were excited about the services the healthplex would offer and appreciated the smooth progress of construction.
“A facility of this nature will have a significant impact on the quality of life and Mustang’s economy,” Mayor Jay Adams said. “It’s a very positive development for all of us.”
Miller and his partner, David Neff, worked from design stage to development on the project, and Jason Givens has worked as project manager for Miller Architects on the healthplex. Once concrete and steel work is complete, crews will turn next to the building’s plumbing and electrical components.
“For us it’s a project moving through its phases, but for the people in Mustang, the important thing to know is everything is going as planned,” Miller said.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang residents who have suffered the loss of their home will now have the opportunity to stay on their property while repairs are completed.
The city ordinance change goes into immediate effect, thanks to a unanimous vote by city council Feb. 18. The new ordinance allows a resident who has suffered significant damage – such as fire, storm or other issues – to stay in temporary housing on their property while repairs or replacement of the original home are completed.
Ordinance No.1100 allows residents to permit a travel trailer for a limited amount of time, which would allow them to stay on their property – something that could help residents both financially and emotionally, City Manager Tim Rooney said.
The ordinance came about after Ward 6 Councilman Donal Mount was approached by Dale and Kim Duncan, whose house was damaged in a January fire. The couple attempted to stay in a travel trailer on their property, then learned it was against Mustang ordinances.
“These people are hurting and need some help,” Mount said. “I see a real need for something like this.”
Rooney said his staff and City Attorney Jonathan Miller looked at ordinances in Piedmont and El Reno. Robert Coleman, Mustang community development director, said El Reno passed a similar ordinance after a structure fire.
In the past, Mustang residents had to go through the city Board of Adjustment to put a travel trailer on their property.
“That can take a lot of time,” Rooney said.
Temporary occupancy permits are valid for up to a year, and city officials may extend the permit another six months, if needed. City council must approve any extension beyond that time, to a maximum of two years. Residents must fill out an application and provide site plans, photos of the travel trailer and a statement stating residents intend to rebuild a permanent home on the site, Miller said.
While the ordinance includes RVs, travel trailers – such as fifth-wheels and pop-up campers – it does not include mobile homes, the city attorney said.
The ordinance, which was passed with an emergency clause allowing it to go into effect immediately, would help people who need help after a disaster.
“This is a good thing, it’s a way for people to remain with their home and oversee the rebuilding effort, as well as defraying the expense of having to stay somewhere else,” Mayor Jay Adams said last week. “It’s difficult enough to deal with a situation like this – whether it’s a tornado, a fire or anything else like that.
“It’s good that we can help give our citizens some relief,” he said.
By Traci Chapman
Work is going on behind the scenes to find an independent water source in Canadian County.
That was the word last week, when members of Central Oklahoma Water Resources Authority met to discuss the status of the organization’s Phase II – negotiating with landowners for test well sites, officials said.
Seeking to help member cities – Mustang, Yukon, El Reno, Okarche and Calumet – become water independent, COWRA officials said a $425,000 plan to locate sites for testing was on track. All of those municipalities, as well as Canadian County, take part in the water-hunting effort.
Phase II is a nine-step plan, which organizers hope will culminate in locating the well with the smallest level of salt in local water. Members have been studying the feasibility of treating the brackish water, rather than continue the dependence of many members on Oklahoma City for water. A source of water about 800 feet deep contains enough water to supply Canadian County for 100 years, some have said.
The first necessary step was to determine the test well location and then which of those wells was the most promising, Karl Stickley with Oklahoma City-based Guernsey said. The engineering and architectural firm was hired by COWRA and has worked with the organization’s consultant, Shawn Lepard, to move the project forward.
“This is the first step, and it’s an important one,” Stickley said. “Everything we do from here depends on this.”
Test wells have been proposed along SW 29th Street on the eastern border of the county, as well as a fourth well just west of U.S. Highway 81 between Union City and El Reno, Lepard said.
Being at Oklahoma City’s “mercy” for water gives local officials an uncomfortable feeling.
“What happens to us and the other towns if Oklahoma City decides it needs all its water,” El Reno City Manager Tony Rivera said recently.
“This is our effort to do something today that will help the county for years to come,” Yukon City Manager Grayson Bottom said.
Should the plan proceed to its conclusion, officials estimated the brackish water treatment plant could run between $60 million to $100 million to construct. An updated report concerning well site negotiations was expected at COWRA’s next regular meeting, scheduled for March 21.
By Traci Chapman
A lot of warm hearts heated up a cold event last weekend to help Mustang’s special athletes.
The annual Polar Plunge, held at Whitewater Bay, brings together a disparate collection of people from very different places across the area, but each had a similar goal – to help others.
Those kids are Mustang’s special education students, many of whom compete in Oklahoma Special Olympics. Juniors and seniors in Greg Oswald’s SAS class – Students Assisting Students – spend time with and help those in special education, giving them a link to the rest of the school’s student body, plungers said.
“We love them,” Ashton Evans said.
That led the group to the Polar Plunge, an annual Special Olympics fundraiser. Held at locations throughout the country, in Oklahoma City the event was held last Saturday at Whitewater Bay. Plungers came from several schools, joined by members of law enforcement and individuals who wanted to lend a hand. All plunged into the 40-degree water to help raise funds and awareness for Special Olympians.
“It’s a great experience,” Oswald said. “I am so proud of all of these kids and how they’ve worked to help their fellow students, both in and out of the classroom.”
Mustang students were not alone in their representation of the community. Police Chief Chuck Foley took a dip in his second plunge, sporting a Duck Dynasty motif and raising about $1,100 in the process. His goal was $1,000, and he collected $775 last year, he said.
“I was never able to take part in the Polar Plunge until last year,” Foley said. “It was a chilly experience, but there’s so much festivity going on, it’s just a great, great thing.
“We have several Special Olympians in Canadian County and particularly in the Mustang School District,” the chief said. “I want to do this for them, to help raise money and also to support them in their efforts.”
Those Special Olympians do a lot more than compete in the games, their champions said. While jumping into a cold pool to raise funds would be both fun and rewarding, it was nothing compared to their interactions with their friends in special education, she said.
“They are definitely amazing – they take for granted things we do without thinking every day,” Alexa Elders said. “They change your life.”