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Tech center $12 million bond issue heads to voters April 1

(Rendering/courtesy MA+ Architecture)

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.”

CANADIAN COUNTY PRECINCTS AND POLLING PLACES

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.

(Photo/Glen Miller)

(Photo/Glen Miller)

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.

(Photo/courtesy)

(Photo/courtesy)

“You can’t replace people,” Winters said.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Armold said.

Educators to take funding case to Capitol

school funding

By Traci Chapman

A rally Monday is expected to bring thousands of educators, parents and students to the state Capitol with one goal – get legislators to take seriously the need for increased public education funding.

Mustang Public Schools will be at that rally in a big way, Superintendent Sean McDaniel said Tuesday. The issue is critical for both district and student success, as Oklahoma continues the battle to prepare upcoming generations for their adult lives, he said.

graphic rally.qxd

“Our hopes are to accomplish two things; one, we want legislators to understand our local plight as a result of inadequate funding, and two, we want a substantial increase to common education funding this session as well as a viable long-term plan for funding common education moving forward,” McDaniel said.

Funding cuts have been an ongoing problem for several years, but the problem has recently intensified, McDaniel said. If education budgets are slashed further, those cuts could impact students in the classroom.

Sean McDaniel

Sean McDaniel

“Significant challenges that Mustang faces due to continued cuts to funding are inadequate staffing that will very quickly result in larger class sizes and cuts to programs and resources,” the superintendent said. “Additionally, our students in Mustang will begin to miss out on small group and one-on-one instruction as our class sizes get larger.

“Research is very clear that smaller class sizes do make a difference for students,” McDaniel said. “When you combine a large class size with a teacher who is less than a superstar, it will affect kids.”

Another side of that coin was the ability to attract – and keep – quality teachers. Offering competitive pay would mean educators would pick Mustang as their home, which would be the greatest benefit to students, McDaniel said.

“Reasonable pay – which I would define as the regional average as a start – would keep our teachers here and it would be a significant step in the right direction for our state,” he said. “The teacher is the single most important factor in a child’s success.

“By increasing teachers’ salaries to at least the regional average, we stand a better chance of recruiting and retaining our very best,” he said.

Those averages already impact Mustang, when teachers are lured to more lucrative areas or leave education completely, McDaniel said.

“We lose teachers from our state annually who leave the profession or move to other states because Oklahoma teacher pay is one of the lowest in the country,” he said.

Hope is on the horizon, McDaniel said. Rep. Lee Denny authored House Bill 2642, and if passed, the bill would mean $500 million dedicated to common education over the next 10 years, he said.

“Although this piece of legislation will not immediately restore funding to Oklahoma’s public schools, it will get us on a path that will help significantly,” McDaniel said.

Problems are not just at the state level, however, the superintendent said. There would always be ways districts could be more efficient and cut costs.

“We don’t believe this can just be a simple hand-out from our Legislature,” McDaniel said. “We believe we need to continue to be wise with our spending and do the very best we can to maximize the funds we do have.”

McDaniel said he believed the rally is critical to common education across the state, and that’s why he asked Mustang Board of Education members to cancel school that day. Although teachers and staff are not required to attend the rally, he said he believed a “strong show of support” would be seen – because everyone at the district knows exactly what is on the line when it comes to state funding.

“Our district will reach a point in the next three or four years, if we do not see an increase in funding, when resources and supplies and materials become scarce,” McDaniel said. “Thankfully, we have had responsible and intelligent people through the years in Mustang who have made very wise financial decisions for this district, and while that will certainly continue, we can only stand cuts for so long before it affects the classroom and the kids.”

The entire community is invited to be part of the rally, the superintendent said. An anonymous supporter offered to pay for drivers and rent buses to transport people to and from the Capitol. Parents, students and anyone interested in being part of the rally is invited, he said. Buses will leave from the north end of the Mustang High School parking lot at 8:45 a.m. and will probably return about 12:30 p.m., he said. Parking is available in the student lot, and individuals can also drive their own vehicle. Anyone wishing to attend can contact McDaniel’s assistant, Brenda Dunn, at 376-7399 by Friday morning, he said.

“This is a critical time in public education,” McDaniel said. “What happens on Monday, March 31 at the Capitol will make a difference one way or the other.

“If we get 20,000-plus parents, students, community members and educators to show up, it will send a very positive message to our legislators,” McDaniel said.

Halter named firefighter of the year

Eric Halter (Photo/Travis Miller)

Eric Halter goes above and beyond his regular duties at Mustang Fire Department, giving to others in his free time.

Last week he was honored for his work and commitment as he was named Firefighter of the Year by American Legion Post 353.

Chief Carl Hickman recommended Halter for the honor. A graduate of Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center’s Fire Academy, Halter joined MFD in February 2007. He is certified as Firefighter II and Fire Officer I, as well as a registered emergency medical technician, Hickman said.

American Legion 353 Commander Paul Ray, right, presents Mustang firefighter Eric Halter with the Firefighter of the Year Award. Chief Carl Hickman is at far left. (Photo/Travis Miller)

Halter served as a drill instructor with the U.S. Army Reserve from December 2001 until December 2009, with the rank of staff sergeant, the chief said. He coordinated his schedule and gave his time to both his army service and firefighter duties with complete dedication, Hickman said.

It is in his work to help others where Halter really shines, the chief said.

“He was the race coordinator for a program called Muscles for Missions, which was a 5K run/walk with Mustang Nazarene Church,” Hickman said. “The event helped raise funds to support construction, education and medical care for the poor around the globe.”

In 2011, Halter and fellow firefighter Josh Moore also participated in the Oklahoma City Marathon, running to remember the 168 people killed in the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah bombing and to honor the survivors, Hickman said.

“Halter ran the race in his firefighting gear,” the chief said.

Closer to home, Halter is a “star” of the department’s fire prevention puppet show, works as a CPR instructor and teaches classes at his church and throughout the community, Hickman said.

“It’s an honor working with a firefighter and a man like Eric Halter,” the chief said. “He truly deserves this award.”

Uptick in collections good news for city employees

council 03-18-14

By Traci Chapman

An uptick in tax revenues meant good news in more ways than one for Mustang city employees, after council members unanimously approved a one-time bonus for them.

The move came during Tuesday’s regular meeting, when council approved the $750-per-person bonus, made possible by increased sales and use tax collections, City Manager Tim Rooney said.

“This was something we wanted to do for everyone, collective bargaining and non-collective bargaining employees alike,” Rooney said.

Council members Matt Taylor, Kathleen Moon-Staples, Terry Jones and Mayor Jay Adams all voted in favor of the measure. Council members Linda Bowers, Linda Hagan and Donal Mount were absent.

“I’m glad the ship is sailing and we’re in the black,” Adams said. “Righting the ship took a lot of hard work by everyone, the employees as well.”

Members also approved improvements to SW 89th Street, with two sections of work to be done between Mustang and Sara roads and from Sara to Morgan Road, Rooney said.

Cost of the work would be $430,000, with an additional $20,000 budgeted for possible contingent costs, the city manager said. Funding would come from the city’s street improvement fund, which currently has $650,000 in it, Rooney said.

“This a project we know needs to be completed because of the poor condition of the road,” he said.

The project cost will be lower thanks to help from Canadian County Commissioner David Anderson, as well as Silver Star Construction, which works for the city, Rooney said. Repairs are expected to be completed by the end of April, weather permitting.

The road will be closed to through traffic during construction, but local residents will have access to their homes, the city manager said. Work could begin in a few weeks, he said.

Recycling partnership kicks off

Recycle event

By Ray Dyer

A recycling effort in Canadian County is partnering local and state agencies and will give residents an opportunity to “do the right thing.”

Jimmy Gibbens, deputy director of the Department of Environmental Quality, said DEQ often “catches people doing the wrong thing.” He said the recycling effort promoted by that agency as well as the Oklahoma Environmental Management Authority, Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and OSU Extension will make it easy for “us to catch people doing the right thing.”

Gibbens, OEMA Manager David Griesel and Jeanette Nance, executive director of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, kicked off the “OEMA Environmental Days” in El Reno on Wednesday. They were joined by Canadian County District 2 Commissioner David Anderson, who serves on the OEMA board.

The ceremony kicked off a two-month campaign to encourage recycling. From now until May 31, Canadian County residents are able to drop off some items that are not typically accepted at the El Reno and Union City landfill. A number of the items can be dropped off at no charge.

Residents may bring the following items to be recycled:

  • Old tires
  • Batteries (automotive, equipment and renewable batteries – no dry cells)
  • Used motor oil in sealed containers
  • Antifreeze in sealed containers
  • Appliances (with or without refrigerant – $25 charge for appliances with refrigerant)
  • E-waste

Griesel said the landfill will accept these items from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Union City landfill. Saturday hours will be 8 a.m. to noon. Items can also be dropped at the OEMA headquarters, 1505 S. Rock Island, El Reno, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Nance said events such as this encourage communities to coordinate community-wide cleanups of used tires and other recyclables. Communities that engage in community-wide cleanups and other environmental service projects can be recognized by DEQ and KOB as an Oklahoma Clean Community.

Griesel estimated 2,500 old tires will be turned in during the campaign along with 1,000 gallons of motor oil and 200 automotive batteries.

Anderson praised the recycling partnership. He said taxpayers “appreciate” government agencies working together to improve the quality of life. 

For more information, contact the OEMA office at (405) 262-0161. For more information on the used tire recycling program or how to become an Oklahoma Clean Community, contact Ferrella March at ferrella.march@deq.ok.gov, or (405) 702-5175.

 

District approves redistricting plan

district_Map_PROP2-28

By Traci Chapman

Editor’s note: All maps contained within this story are courtesy Mustang Public Schools.

Mustang school sites boundary lines will be redrawn, after board members unanimously approved a plan during their regular March 10 meeting.

centennial_revisedWith the district topping 10,000 students, a new elementary school set to open the next school year and “explosive” growth in its northern sector, officials said it was necessary to redraw boundaries, more evenly dividing student populations.

CreekOvercrowding has become a serious issue at the district’s elementary schools, particularly at Mustang Trails and Mustang Valley, Deputy Superintendent Charles Bradley said. According to district documentation, Trails is currently 94 students over capacity, while Valley has 85 more students attending than was optimal. Mustang Creek and Lakehoma elementaries were not far behind, Bradley said – those schools were 24 and 40 students, respectively, away from reaching their capacities. Only populations at two of the district’s elementary schools, Mustang Elementary and Centennial Elementary, were at “comfortable” levels, Bradley said.

Elementary_revisedThe redistricting plan should accommodate Mustang’s expected growth for the “next five to seven years,” Bradley said. It was finalized after a year-long process that included committees comprised of educators, parents and other residents, as well as parents’ ability to review the proposal online and during an open forum, held last week.

Lakehoma“We’ve had at least 12 revisions,” Bradley said.

PrairieView_RRedistricting will only impact Mustang’s elementary schools, not its intermediate centers or middle schools, officials said. About 150 people attended the parent forum and 41 individuals sent emails to the district about proposed boundary realignments, Bradley said. Most people who expressed reservations about the plan spoke about proximity to their child’s current school and traffic issues, a subject also addressed by Jess Schweinberg, a Bitter Creek resident who asked board members to make changes to the proposed boundaries. In the end, the board passed the plan recommended by Bradley and the district’s committee.

TrailsThe move came in a meeting where board members also unanimously voted to purchase property located at 120 W. Forster Drive for $95,000. According to Zillow, the property is comprised of a 5.6-acre parcel.  Confirmation from school board on the lot size was not available Tuesday, and there was no discussion during the meeting for the site’s proposed use.

Valley_R

Neighborhood assignments (taken from Mustang Public Schools website):

Neighborhood 
44TH & GLORIA
ASHFORD PLACE
ASPEN PARK
BELLFLOWER
BELMONTE CROSSING
BENT WOOD CREEK
BERKLEY ESTATES
BITTERCREEK
BLUE HAVEN COUNTRY ESTATES
BRANCHES
BREAKERS WEST
BRIDAL RIDGE
BRIGHTON POINTE
BROOKSTONE LAKES
BROOKSTONE LAKES WEST
CANADIAN ESTATES
CANTEBURY
CANYON CREEK
CANYON RANCH
CAROL ACRES
CASTLEBROOK CROSSING
CASTLERIDGE RUN
CASTLEROCK
CEDAR CREEK
CEDAR RIDGE
CEDAR RIDGE @ MORGAN CREEK
CHAPEL RIDGE
CHERRY HILLS
CHISHOLM CREEK ESTATES
CHISHOLM EAST
CHISHOLM TRAIL
CIMMARON ESTATES
CLEAR SPRINGS
CLEAR SPRINGS SOUTH OF 89TH
CLEARVIEW
COLDSTREAM
COPPER CREEK
COUNTRY MOBILE ESTATES
CREEKS AT AVALONE
CRYSTAL CREEK
CRYSTAL CREEK II
CZECH HALL VILLAGE
DOWDEN PARK
EAST POINTE
EDGEWOOD MANOR
EMBASSY ESTATES
FARRIS SPRINGS
FAWN VALLEY
FAWN VALLEY HIGHLANDS
FAWN VALLEY WESTERN SLOPE
FIELDSTONE
FIELDSTONE APTS
FOUNTAIN GRASS
GARDEN @ WESTPOINTE
GEMSTONE ACRES
GRIGGS
HIDDEN LAKE
HIDDEN MEADOW
HIGHLAND POINT
HUNTERS GLEN
HUNTER’S HILL
HUNTINGTON ACRES
JACOB ACRES
JOHNSON’S FARMS
KEENS GATE
LAKE POINTE ESTATES
LAKEHOMA
LITTLE ACRES
MAGNOLIA TRACE
MANOR RD
MEADOWS
MORGAN CREEK
MORGAN RUN
MUSTANG CREEK
MUSTANG HEIGHTS
OLD MUSTANG
OUT WEST
OWENS ESTATES
PEACH TREE APTS
PEBBLE CREEK
PLANTATION
POLO ESTATES
PRAIRIE WIND
QUAIL LAKE ESTATES
RANCHWOOD ESTATES
RIDGEVIEW
ROLLIN ACRES
ROLLING MEADOWS
ROSE CREEK
ROSE HILL
SADDLE RANCH
SAFE HAVEN
SARA HOMESTEAD
SARA POINTE
SAVANNAH LAKES
SHADOW RIDGE
SHANNON PLACE
SILVER EAGLE
SILVER LEAF EAST
SILVER LEAF WEST
SKYLINE ESTATES
SOMERS PARK
SOMER’S POINTE
SOMERS VILLAGE
SOUTH POINTE ESTATES
SOUTHERN PRESERVE
SOUTHERSBY
SPITLER LAKE ESTATES
SPITLER PARK LAKE ESTATES
SPRING MEADOWS
ST JAMES POINTE
STABLE ROCK
STABLE ROCK II
STEEPLE CHASE
STONEGATE ESTATES
SUNNYBROOK
SYCAMORE CREEK
SYCAMORE GARDENS
SYCAMORE POND
THE ENCLAVE
THE GREENS
THE LINKS
THE PALMS AREA
THE PARK ON WESTPOINTE
THE PINES
THORNBERRY PLACE
THOROUGHBRED ACRES III
THOUROUGHBREED ACRES
THOUROUGHBREED ACRES II
TIMBER CREEK
TIMBERLAKE ESTATES
TORREE PINES
TRAILS WEST
TRENT ACRES
TWIN BROOK
WALDEN CREEK
WALDEN ESTATES
WALNUT MANOR
WELCH’S ESTATES
WELLINGTON GARDENS
WELLINGTON GARDENS
WESTBROOK
WESTBURY NORTH
WESTBURY SOUTH
WESTCHESTER
WESTCREEK
WESTGATE
WESTGATE @ NORTHPARK
WESTGATE GARDENS
WESTGATE SOUTH
WESTON
WESTPOINT
WESTRIDGE
WESTWOOD
WHIPPOORWILL MANOR
WHISPERING HOLLOW
WIMBERLEY ESTATES
WINDMILL ESTATES
WINDS WEST
WOODRUN
  Attending School
Centennial
Trails
Elementary
Valley
Trails
Prairie View
Lakehoma
Elementary
Lakehoma
Centennial
Prairie View
Lakehoma
Prairie View
Valley
Centennial
Elementary
Centennial
Trails
Creek
Prairie View 
Valley
Lakehoma
Elementary
Elementary
Lakehoma
Prairie View
Creek
Trails
Trails
Trails
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Centennial
Elementary
Elementary
Lakehoma
Trails
Trails
Centennial
Centennial
Trails
Centennial
Elementary
Trails
Prairie View
Elementary
Centennial
Centennial
Centennial
Prairie View
Centennial
Valley
Creek
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Prairie View
Lakehoma
Creek
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Centennial
Lakehoma
Prairie View
Lakehoma
Centennial
Lakehoma
Trails
Elementary
Prairie View
Valley
Valley
Centennial
Elementary
Creek
Lakehoma
Elementary
Elementary
Elementary
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Centennial
Lakehoma
Elementary
Elementary
Trails
Centennial
Trails
Prairie View
Elementary
Elementary
Elementary
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Creek
Prairie View
Prairie View
Lakehoma
Trails
Trails
Trails
Valley
Elementary
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Trails
Prairie View
Trails
Trails
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Prairie View
Trails
Trails
Lakehoma
Valley
Elementary
Creek
Prairie View
Creek
Centennial
Valley
Lakehoma
Centennial
Centennial
Trails
Lakehoma
Trails
Elementary
Lakehoma
Elementary
Valley
Valley
Lakehoma
Elementary
Lakehoma
Lakehoma
Prairie View
Valley
Valley
Lakehoma
Trails
Trails
Creek
Trails
Trails
Creek
Creek
Creek
Prairie View
Lakehoma
Centennial
Valley
Centennial
Prairie View
Creek

 

 

March is National Athletic Training Month

NATM_2014_logo

By Kyle Salomon,

March is National Athletic Training Month, but many do not fully understand want athletic training really is.

The exact definition for an athletic trainer is a health care professional who collaborates with physicians and specializes in the prevention, emergency care, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sports-related illnesses.

Mustang Public Schools head athletic trainer Chris Kromer said athletic training is a very important tool for schools to have on hand.

“One common misconception is that a lot of people think of us as like personal trainers,” Kromer said. “We are not personal trainers. We can act as personal trainers. We can design workout plans and make diet plans and those things, but we are a lot more.

“We are health care professionals who work in a variety of settings and with all kinds of people, not just athletes. Some examples of who we work with are physician extenders, performing arts, clinics, hospitals, law enforcement, military and sports officiating.”

National Athletic Training Association (NATA) Board of Certified (BOC) athletic trainers are educated, trained and evaluated in five major practice domains.

The five domains are No.1, prevention; No.2, clinical evaluation and diagnosis; No.3, immediate and emergency care; No.4, treatment and rehabilitation; No.5, organization and professional health and well-being.

Oklahoma regulates their athletic trainers under many guidelines. NATA has ongoing efforts to update practice acts that do not reflect current qualifications and practice of athletic trainers under health care reform. Athletic trainers also practice under the direction of physicians.

Athletic trainers must graduate from an accredited baccalaureate or master’s program, and 70 percent of athletic trainers in Oklahoma have a master’s degree.

Many athletic trainers work outside of athletic settings, providing medical services to people of all ages.

Many athletic trainers work in physician offices as physician extenders, similar to nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists and other professional clinical personnel.

They also work in clinics with specialties in sports medicine, cardiac rehab, medical fitness, wellness and physical therapy as well as public and private secondary schools, colleges and universities, professional and Olympic sports.

There are many educational content standards that are required for athletic training degree programs.

Here is a list of the requirements:

Risk management and injury prevention, pathology of injuries and illnesses, orthopedic clinical examination and diagnosis, medical conditions and disabilities, acute care of injuries and illnesses, therapeutic modalities, conditioning, rehabilitative exercise and referral, pharmacology, psychosocial intervention and referral, nutritional aspects of injuries and illnesses and health care administration all fall under requirements for athletic trainers.

Ryan Flanary, physical therapist and vice president of Outpatient Services and Healthforce, said there is high importance for athletic trainers.

“The benefit for the student-athletes by having a PT or physician work closely with an athletic trainer is the communication of the entire health care team,” he said. “This allows all of us to monitor the progress or lack thereof of the student-athlete and make more informed decisions about how to best return him or her to their respective sport.  Athletic trainers onsite at events allows the rest of the medical team to understand exactly what happened, when it happened and what immediate steps were taken to minimize the effects of the injury.

“This is information at times is vital to rehabilitation of the student-athlete and helps to return them to optimum performance. Athletic trainers not only treat injuries and conditions which happen, but they are also there to serve the role of injury prevention. Most athletic trainers look at this role even more importantly because they want to prevent injuries from even happening and work with staff and other medical professionals to make corrections or policy changes to keep student-athletes safer at all times.”

Mustang High School’s athletic training program is one of the best high school athletic training programs in the state.

They have 15 high school students in the athletic training program, which has grown rapidly since Kromer took over four years ago.

“We are very lucky to have the committed and dedicated students that want to put in the work every day to make this program successful,” Kromer said. “Everything these students do is carefully monitored by myself. They go through rigorous training to be able to perform the duties we ask them to perform in our program.”

For more information on athletic training, go to www.nata.org,  www.oata.org or www.bocatc.org.

Dry conditions pose danger, officials say

grass fire 03-10 3

By Traci Chapman

Recent snowfall and light rain have done nothing to ease dry conditions, something Mustang and Oklahoma City firefighters learned Monday when a grass fire involving about 100 acres sprung up.

The fire began literally along the side of SW 59th Street, just north of the city’s sewer plant. Oklahoma City fire investigators said the proximity of the blaze to the road suggested someone dropped a lit cigarette as they walked or drove by.

While the blaze did not damage any homes, the strong winds at the time made it difficult for firefighters who stayed on the scene for several hours, putting out hot spots that kept cropping up. Mustang firefighters were on the scene throughout assisting Oklahoma City Fire Department in its efforts.

The fire was a signal for people who thought conditions were not dry, Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman said.

“It’s bad because there is a lot of underbrush and we really haven’t gotten much precipitation,” the chief said. “People really need to be careful with this because the snow we’ve gotten hasn’t solved our problems.”

(Photo/Traci Chapman)

(Photo/Traci Chapman)

Officials across the state agreed.

“If anything, the big worry is now fire danger,” stated John Harrington, Association of Central Oklahoma Governments director of water resources, in his regular report. “With the warm weather this week also comes wind, lots of it. 

“Add that to a really dry winter and fire danger is now extreme,” he said.

According to the National Weather Service in Norman, there isn’t a lot of relief in sight. While burn bans have not remained in place, officials urge residents to be mindful of conditions, particularly strong winds that have been blowing in recent days. If some precipitation doesn’t come soon, it could mean a “painful” summer for the area, Harrington said.

“The next three months are critical; a dry spring will almost certainly lead to a cruel summer,” he said.

Mustang, following Oklahoma City’s lead, continues its Stage 1 water rationing, with odd/even watering “now permanently in effect,” City Manager Tim Rooney said. What that means for residents is even-numbered street addresses water on even days of the month, and odd-numbered addresses are able to water on odd days.

“This is just the basic, everyday stage, but if things don’t improve, the restrictions can be progressively increased,” Rooney said last week.

grass fire 03-10

For more information about water rationing and steps to save water, go to www.squeezeeverydrop.com. More information about the drought is available from ACOG at www.acogblog.wordpress.com.

 

 

CVTC to take $12 million bond issue to voters

(Photo/courtesy)

By Ray Dyer

Voters will go to the polls on April 1 to decide a $12 million bond issue intended to help with the reconstruction of the El Reno campus of the Canadian Valley Technology Center. The Career Tech district takes in Canadian County as well as Grady County.

Dr. Greg Winters, superintendent of Canadian Valley, said the bond issue is necessary to cover expenses not covered by insurance. Much of the Canadian Valley El Reno campus was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado that tore across Canadian County May 31. Nine people died in the massive storm. None of the fatalities occurred at the technology center where a number of students and faculty took shelter.

After the storm, Winters said the school would be open by Aug. 15 for the start of the school year. Some “19 to 20” programs and 130 employees, as well as students, were relocated to sites scattered about Yukon, and Winters said the Chamber of Commerce there has been “wining and dining us. They are playing all their cards,” he said.

Winters made the comments at a recent community coffee put on by the El Reno Chamber of Commerce. Also addressing the audience was Redlands Community College President Jack Bryant and El Reno Public Schools Superintendent Craig McVay.

Winters said while the response from Yukon has been very much appreciated, he eased El Reno concerns when he told the audience, “We’re coming home,” meaning a complete return to the El Reno campus. The statement drew immediate applause.

Dr. Greg Winters (Photo/Ray Dyer)

Dr. Greg Winters (Photo/Ray Dyer)

Seven of the nine buildings on the El Reno campus were destroyed by the twister.  Winters said the design of the new building will put all programs under one roof. It will cost approximately $44.7 million to rebuild the campus, with $32.6 million of that coming from insurance.

Winters said the $12 million bond issue would be paid out over 10 years, meaning taxes on a $100,000 home would go up “about 90 cents a month.

“You will spend more for a cup of coffee than this will cost,” Winters said.  He told the audience Canadian Valley has called El Reno home for “43 years” and with support for the bond issue, “we’ll be here for another 40 years.”

The new building will be built to “modern code,” and Winters said safe rooms will be included in the new construction. The safe rooms will accommodate more than 1,200 people, he said.

Unlike common education that requires a 60 percent approval, a bond issue for the Career Tech system requires a simple majority of “50 percent, plus 1.”

Bryant, recently named president at RCC after serving in that capacity on an interim basis, said the school will need more than $2 million to make repairs caused by the same storm system that hit Canadian Valley. Bryant said most damage was to roofs and heat and air systems.

Jack Bryant (Photo/Ray Dyer)

Jack Bryant (Photo/Ray Dyer)

Bryant drew applause when he said by the end of the fiscal year in June, RCC, with the exception of three structured payments, will be debt-free.

Bryant stepped into the role as president after longtime president Larry Devane was forced to resign. Devane stepped down last year after it was learned the two-year school had not paid more than $1 million in bills and had also failed to collect on some $1.8 million in back tuition. Those findings came from an audit of the college ordered by Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Bryant praised the RCC staff, saying there are “great people who love the college working at Redlands.”

Redlands, Bryant said, has created a new revenue stream by providing remedial math programs for the University of Oklahoma. He said one-third of the OU students taking online math courses through RCC are athletes and the OU Athletic Department reported its student scores have improved through the RCC programs.

Bryant said the transition to get the school back on sound financial footing has been painful. There have been some staff reductions and some programs cut. He said the moves are helping move the school in the right direction and that enrollment is “trending up.”

Bryant said the school intends to partner with resources in the area, specifically mentioning the agriculture research being done by the USDA at Fort Reno. Redlands students have been able to work with staff at Fort Reno on research programs that have added great value to the RCC experience, Bryant said.

McVay also touched on storm damage caused by the May 31 event and said by the time all is said and done, the total will approach $10 million. He said insurance and school officials will soon meet to finalize the matters.

While El Reno schools did not take a direct hit from the tornado, extensive damage was caused by “hail, wind and water,” McVay said. He said the winds “sucked the roofs” up, causing “much greater damage” than was originally thought.

McVay vowed that El Reno schoolchildren will be protected by in-ground storm shelters, once construction projects are completed. McVay said safe rooms are fine, but added, “You can’t survive an F5 if you are above ground.” McVay said, according to FEMA, El Reno will be the only school district in the nation with in-ground storm shelters available for every student.

 

Heggy – System does not need ‘fixing’

Canadian County special judges Gary McCurdy and Jack McCurdy. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

By Traci Chapman

A scandal more than half a century old has opened the door for some legislators to propose changes in the way Oklahoma judges take the bench.

That’s a problem, attorney Suzanne Heggy says, and she’s not alone. Thursday night, a crowd of more than 100 people – attorneys, judges and the public – gathered at Canadian County Courthouse to talk about possible moves to revise appointments of judges. While the specifics of those proposals were not discussed, what was talked about were what Oklahoma’s judicial landscape used to be and what it is now.

“I’m all for transparency, for making things better,” Heggy said. “But to suggest that you need reform for reform’s sake is nonsensical to me.

“All we’re hearing is it needs to be different,” she said.

Reforms are not needed for a system attorneys and judges said is not broken. No Oklahoma judges have been accused of wrongdoing in Oklahoma; out of the 301 judges picked by the state’s current system, only one has been removed in that time, Oklahoma Bar Association President Renee DeMoss said.

“We have a system in Oklahoma that doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs to be protected,” she said.

Canadian County District Court Judge Gary Miller and attorney Suzanne Heggy during a recent town hall meeting. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

Canadian County District Court Judge Gary Miller and attorney Suzanne Heggy during a recent town hall meeting. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

That’s a far cry from Oklahoma’s judiciary of the 1960s, where corruption and bribery were the norm rather than the exception, Heggy and DeMoss said. In a system where partisan elections determined judgeships, without any examination or investigation of an individual’s character, finances or mental well-being, it was not clear if anyone could get a fair and impartial verdict, from the lowest court to the state’s highest bench, they said.

It was that environment that produced a scandal which would change everything. By the end of the decade, three Oklahoma Supreme Court justices would be disgraced, convicted of bribery, impeached and imprisoned, and the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Committee would be born.

It was a move to keep party politics and personal popularity out of judiciary selections, DeMoss said. The commission, comprised of 15 members – both lawyers and lay people – take a hard look at judicial candidates. After completing an “exhaustive” application, those seeking the bench would have their lives laid bare – throughout extensive questioning by commission members, as well as a complete background check by Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Heggy said.

Proponents to rumored proposed changes began a website to help non-attorneys and attorneys alike review the state judiciary and answer questions anyone might have. Although a work in progress, Heggy and DeMoss urged town hall attendees to refer to www.courtfacts.org often.

The result is a system that has produced high-quality judges who work hard to apply and follow the law, no matter how difficult – or how much they may personally disagree with an aspect of it, DeMoss said.

“Their jobs are thankless, someone is always unhappy with a decision,” Heggy said. “That’s the nature of it, but that doesn’t mean reforms are needed to fix something that doesn’t need fixed.”