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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.”
By Traci Chapman
Mustang took second place in a national firm’s ranking of safest Oklahoma communities.
The study was conducted by Movoto Real Estate, based in San Mateo, Calif. and was a ranking of communities with populations of 10,000 or more.
“We then used the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Report to find crime data for these places, omitting any that didn’t have data reported to the bureau,” said Chad Stiffney, Movoto public relations associate. “That left us with a total of 40 places across Oklahoma.”
Researchers then took the FBI data and analyzed reported crimes in those 40 communities, concentrating on violent crimes like murder, rape, robbery and assault, as well as burglary, theft and vehicle theft. Crimes were then further classified by murders, violent and property felonies and totals reported, Stiffney said.
“We calculated all of these crime rates based on crimes per 100,000 residents, in order to compare larger and smaller cities fairly,” Stiffney said. “Each place was then ranked with a score from one to 40, with one being the best and safest location.”
Movoto’s rankings were weighted so murders, violent and property crimes were given precedence, Stiffney said. Those classifications made up 30 percent of each city’s score, and total crimes represented 10 percent of the calculation, he said.
Mustang’s second-place listing was the result of its low number of crimes, according to FBI statistics.
“Just 2,639 crimes per 100,000 people,” Stiffney said. “Of those, there were only 160 violent crimes per 100,000 people.”
Of those 160 listed instances, there were no murders, 22 robberies, 17 rapes and 121 assaults, as well as 2,479 property crimes – comprised of 1,807 thefts, 94 vehicle thefts and 508 burglaries, according to the Movoto report and FBI data.
The report’s findings and Mustang’s police chief and department were applauded by City Manager Tim Rooney during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Rooney said the ranking was a result of the department’s hard work and Chief Chuck Foley’s leadership, the city manager said. For his part, the chief credited his employees, who he said always put the community first.
“The citizens are invested in the community, and my staff is invested in the citizens,” Foley said.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang Board of Education members on Monday agreed to postpone an elective Bible history class that has drawn national attention.
Although no formal vote was necessary, board members did not raise any objections to Mustang Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel’s suggestion the kickoff of a planned Bible history class be suspended until the spring 2015 semester.
“I remain excited about the course but I have a very difficult time, with the information that we have it puts us in an awkward position,” McDaniel told board members.
The issue was twofold, McDaniel said. After months of communications with Green Scholars Initiative, the entity providing the Bible history class curriculum, a full year’s study content would not be available at least until October, the superintendent said. That would mean students would be starting what had become a controversial class for some individuals and organizations with only a portion of those materials studied by district officials before school began.
Another issue raised throughout the Bible history class discussion was legal protection for the district, should someone file a legal challenge. That was also up in the air as of Monday’s meeting, McDaniel said.
“The Alliance for Defending Freedom agreed to review the curriculum by July 24,” he said.
The review was necessary because of possible gaps in insurance coverage from the district’s pool insurance carrier, Oklahoma School Insurance Group. While it appeared the district would have some coverage in the case of legal action, it appeared it would not in others – and nothing was set in stone, in any case, the superintendent said. If a claim for injunctive relief – asking the class be suspended – was filed, it appeared that would not be covered, while OSIG representatives tentatively believed a claim for damages would be covered, he said.
“They cannot make a determination on coverage until a claim is filed,” McDaniel said. “It’s a roll of the dice and I just don’t think that’s wise.”
For the 178 Mustang High School students who selected the elective as part of their fall semester schedule, those individuals would be given choices to replace it, at least for the fall semester, McDaniel said.
“If we do this now, we can give students time to make another choice,” McDaniel said. “They could elect to take first semester humanities, second semester Bible history – if we do this now we’ll have time to do that.”
While the district’s selection of the Green Scholars Initiative class seemed to be a large part of the stated controversy surrounding the class, it was the very way the initiative structured the elective that appealed to officials, they said. GSI’s course includes virtual tours and access to more than 40,000 historical Biblical resources, McDaniel said.
That technology was the program’s biggest draw, board vice president Jim Davis said.
“The electronics piece – that’s what the whole course really hinges around,” Davis said. “To me that was the selling point with the Green content.”
Officials would continue to review both the ever-changing curriculum and any potential legal issues in coming weeks and months, with an eye toward offering the Bible history class during the spring semester, McDaniel said.
“As high profile as this is, I think it’s smart we hold off and do it right,” Davis said.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang voters in November will consider a five percent motel tax, which officials say could bring needed funds into city coffers – without costing residents a penny.
The measure will be brought to a vote in the Nov. 4 general election, after City Council voted to present the measure to residents. If passed, the tax would be levied only on motels and hotels located within Mustang city limits, an industry officials said they are actively pursuing.
“We have the armory, the healthplex, we have developers seeing a need and wanting to locate here in Mustang,” Mayor Jay Adams said. “This is more an issue it’s coming, rather than something that would bring hotels here.”
With just one, small and outdated motel situated inside Mustang city limits, groups and individuals are forced to seek lodging in Yukon or Oklahoma City. As more and more events are held in the city’s expanding amenities and with a planned December completion of St. Anthony’s healthplex, among others, it is a matter of when – not if – new hotels would be built in Mustang, City Manager Tim Rooney said.
“We have these ball tournaments – people are staying in Yukon, buying dinner in Yukon,” Rooney said. “We need to get these people to stay in Mustang.”
Most communities have implemented lodging taxes, including Yukon and El Reno, both located along Interstate 40.
“I travel a lot in my day job, and I have not stayed at a hotel where I have not paid this tax,” Ward 1 Councilman Matthew Taylor said.
The tax would be solely charged on room sales, which means the implementation would not adversely affect residents’ wallets, officials said. The construction of even one hotel in Mustang city limits could mean “significant” funds for needed projects, repairs or other items not currently attainable with existing revenues, the city manager said.
“One hotel could bring in as much as $5,400 a month in revenue,” Rooney said. “Proceeds wouldn’t need to be earmarked, so council could decide annually how funds are spent.”
Mustang voters have considered – and rejected – a motel tax three times, Rooney said. He believed those failures were at least partially due to residents’ misunderstanding of the tax, he said.
“I will go out and address every group, speak to anyone who wants to know about this, to provide the information people need,” the city manager said.
By Traci Chapman
About 80 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers headquartered in Mustang were welcomed home Monday after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Battery A, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery, 45th Field Artillery Brigade was sent last September to support coalition forces in Afghanistan. The unit returned to Oklahoma July 8 and were formally welcomed during a ceremony attended by National Guard officers, family members and area residents, held at Mustang Armed Forces Reserve Center.
While in Afghanistan, soldiers provided route security and served as convoy escorts during several missions, Oklahoma National Guard officials said. Members of Battery B, 171st Target Acquisition Battery and 120th Forward Support Company were also deployed with forces headquartered at MAFRC. Battery A was commanded by Capt. Sean Bryant of Edmond.
Battery A forces made history Jan. 16 when they provided “indirect artillery fire support” to coalition forces in Afghanistan. Using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, MAFRC soldiers fired two rockets in support of Task Force Duke, destroying a communications repeater sight, officials said.
A repeater sight is used to assist insurgents in their fight against coalition forces, officials said.
This combat operation support was the first time since Operation Desert Storm an Oklahoma Army National Guard Unit fired rockets, officials said. Battery A’s launcher crew included gunner, Spc. Joshua Hale of Chickasha, driver, Staff Sgt. Steven Stanley of Carnegie, and launcher, Chief Sgt. Matthew Schoolfield of Ninnekah.
During Desert Storm, the unit fired 903 rockets, officials said. Hale’s father, Spc. Chad Hale, and Sgt. Richard Schoolfield, Schoolfield’s father, were part of the unit’s Desert Storm deployment, which deployed 429 National Guard soldiers during the Gulf War.
Mustang’s guard was replaced last month by its sister unit, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery.
By Traci Chapman
A Mustang man accused of embezzlement in connection with his employment with the Oklahoma American Legion now faces new charges.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on June 10 filed one felony and one misdemeanor drug charge against David Austin Kellerman. The 43-year-old Mustang man was charged in January with felony embezzlement in a federal case filed in Canadian County District Court. District Attorney Michael Fields said Tuesday the Kellerman charges were the first he could recall filed by the attorney general in District 4 since he took office.
“The AG’s office has a multi-county grand jury with statewide jurisdiction, they have a Medicare fraud unit that investigates and prosecutes fraud and abuse cases and they have a consumer protection unit that investigates and prosecutes consumer scams,” Fields stated via email.
District 4 encompasses Canadian, Garfield, Blaine, Grant and Kingfisher counties. Officials at the attorney general’s office said the original embezzlement charges stemmed from an indictment issues by the multi-county grand jury.
The new charges involve one count of felony possession of a controlled dangerous substance – methamphetamine – as well as drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. If convicted, Kellerman could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000 on the felony charge.
Kellerman’s embezzlement case is set for a July 28 preliminary hearing, after being postponed three times since it was originally scheduled in February. On June 18, Oklahoma City attorney R. Scott Adams, listed as defense counsel, filed a motion to withdraw as Kellerman’s attorney, based on the Mustang man’s “inability to make the appropriate financial arrangements.” Special Judge Jack McCurdy signed an order allowing Adams’ withdrawal June 18. It was unknown whether that would impact the July 28 hearing date. Kellerman also faces a July 28 preliminary hearing on the drug charges, according to Oklahoma State Courts Network.
Kellerman served as Oklahoma American Legion state adjutant from September 2003 until December 2011. Investigators said Kellerman was charged with collecting historical weapons loaned to American Legion posts across the state by the U.S. Department of the Army. Once a post disbanded or stopped using those rifles, they were to be returned to the Army. Investigators said that didn’t happen under Kellerman’s watch.
Kellerman allegedly sold the Army’s rifles to various individuals, including the owner of El Reno-based Star Amusement, Adlai Stevenson Brinkley. Brinkley himself is the subject of federal criminal charges in a case where Kellerman is listed as a witness.
The investigations into both Kellerman and Brinkley took place over a period of several months, according to court documents. During a March 2013 raid, investigators seized gambling machines they said were operated illegally by Star Amusement for 22 years. Machines were located in various locations throughout Oklahoma and Kansas, including the American Legion Post in El Reno. It was a meeting at that post that tipped investigators to Kellerman’s alleged criminal activity, they said.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed in Kellerman’s case, U.S. Department of Homeland Security special agent Eric Coburn met with Kellerman and others in August 2013 at El Reno American Legion Post. While there, Coburn said he learned of an alleged “scheme” involving the sale of the rifles for Kellerman’s “personal profit.” Three of the El Reno post’s rifles were “missing,” and a witness named J.C. Taylor said Kellerman sold them to Brinkley, Coburn said.
Brinkley allegedly purchased as many as 120 rifles from Kellerman in 2012 for about $350 each. When investigators searched Brinkley’s home in connection with the Star Amusement illegal gambling warrants, Coburn alleged in his report he found the three rifles missing from the El Reno post there.
Kellerman’s alleged thefts took place between January 2010 and December 2011, AG investigators said. If convicted on the embezzlement charges, Kellerman could serve five years in prison and pay a $5,000 fine.
In July 2012, Kellerman received a deferred sentence on three misdemeanor counts – possession of controlled dangerous substance and paraphernalia and driving while under the influence. As part of that deferment, Kellerman was placed on probation until July 18, 2014, which meant the Mustang man agreed “not to violate any statutes of the state or federal government or any municipal ordinances.”
It was not known whether that deferred sentence would be impacted by the 2014 charges filed against Kellerman.
One Mustang North Middle School student and the father of another middle school student were killed in a Sunday automobile accident in Bryan County.
According to Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports, Leonard Fly II, 40, of Yukon was driving west on U.S. Highway 70 near Mead. Traveling with him were his 13-year-old son and a 14-year-old Mustang Public Schools student. Authorities did not release the boys’ names.
According to a preliminary report, a truck driven by 47-year-old Richard Ardrey of Colbert crossed the center line and crashed into a pickup driven by Fly. Highway Patrol officials say Ardrey was killed in the crash, along with his passenger, 37-year-old Matthew Kraemer of Colbert. According to OHP reports, all four casualties of the accident were transferred to Brown Funeral Home in Durant.
According to the OHP report, Ardrey was driving a 1998 Chevy pickup truck eastbound when he crossed the center line and hit the 2000 Ford PK driven by Fly on the driver’s side.
The injured boy was flown to a hospital in Dallas, where he is now listed in good condition.
The wreck is still under investigation, OHP officials said.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang will request Oklahoma Department of Transportation conduct a speed limit change study for a section of East state Highway 152.
Council considered the proposal during its regular July 1 meeting. The study would be conducted on the 1.2-mile stretch of Highway 152 between North Country Club Terrace and Sara Road, City Manager Tim Rooney said.
The item originally was brought before Mustang Traffic Commission upon the request of Harry Weatherford, who owns property north and just east of E. state Highway 152 and Morgan Road. According to traffic commission and city council agenda commentaries, Weatherford said the speed limit on Highway 152 at the location – 45 miles per hour – and the amount of traffic traveling the thoroughfare caused hazards and difficulties for his customers attempting to enter and exit his parking lot.
Mustang Chief Chuck Foley said in reviewing accident and citation records for that stretch of road, he discovered 93 collisions in the area between July 2009 and June 2014, one of them a fatality accident.
“I stop myself, on a regular basis, people traveling more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, people going 55 in a 45 mile per hour zone,” he said. “It’s an issue.”
Ward 1 Councilman Matthew Taylor objected to asking for a speed limit change study. He suggested looking at possible traffic islands to reduce cars traveling into the center median to make a left turn, particularly in areas along Highway 152 adjacent to Castle Rock Center and leading from the east up to Mustang Road.
“I have a big problem with asking ODOT to reduce the speed,” Taylor said. “Will five miles per hour really make a difference?
“I would rather ask about traffic islands for all of 152, not just in that area, sort of like Edmond has,” the councilman said. “Congestion is the issue.”
It could, Foley replied, to the five mile per hour possible reduction. As traffic turns into Mustang limits, he said many drivers he had stopped said they hadn’t seen the change in speed limit from 55 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour.
“There aren’t any flashing lights or anything,” the chief said. “This involves safety.”
Mayor Jay Adams, who works for ODOT, agreed with Foley, and questioned whether center islands would help the situation.
“This is a safety issue rather than congestion issue,” Adams said. “Turn islands may actually make the situation worse.
“When the speed limits were set, traffic volumes were half of what they are now,” he said.
“This is a study, it’s not a change to the speed limit,” Foley said. “There’s been attention-getting factors – accidents, speeding.
“I don’t know if we can relieve that congestion but we can address the safety concerns,” he said.
Council ultimately approved the study in a 6-1 vote, with Taylor voting against. Officials would request the study as soon as possible, Rooney said.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang Public Schools’ $11.4 million event center took a major step toward completion last week, as officials held an official groundbreaking at the site.
The ceremony was held June 25, where dirt work has already begun on the new building. The center will be located on the east side of Mustang High School’s campus. The center was accomplished after a lot of behind-the-scenes work, Superintendent Sean McDaniel said.
“Many of our employees, coaches and our athletic directors have worked on this for a very long time,” he said. “We will now be seeing things come up out of the ground.
“Just having the equipment on-site is exciting – it’s the beginning of the fulfillment of an incredible vision,” McDaniel said. “Some members of the board who put this plan in place are still serving.”
The event center was part of the 2012 bond issue, voted on in April 2012. That election also featured construction of Prairie View Elementary and Canyon Ridge Intermediate schools, remodeling of the former mid-high school transitioning to Horizon Intermediate School, a new gymnasium for Mustang Elementary School, as well as gym upgrades at Mustang Valley Elementary, among other projects. Sixty-three percent of the voters approved the proposal, school officials said.
Jeff Woodard, MPS director of bonds and construction, said the 62,000-square-foot center will be used for a variety of events, including basketball, wrestling and volleyball. The building will have 2,240 fixed seats with another 500 portable seats available on the floor with a stage. That nearly doubles the seating capacity of the current gym, built in 1964, Woodard said. Seating in that building is certified for 1,294 people. The gym was given some updates in 2004, said Shannon Rigsby, district public information officer.
“The new event center is close to three times larger than the current high school gymnasium,” Woodard said. “All students and student athletes will reap the benefits of much-needed space in the gym, locker rooms and flexible seating arrangements.
“The event center will definitely be one of the main focal points of the high school campus for years to come,” he said.
The project is slated for completion in August 2015. Included in the space will be nine locker rooms for varsity, junior varsity and freshman boys and girls basketball, boys and girls volleyball and girls tennis, Woodard said. The center also features a fitness area, training room and coaches offices, he said.
The building is designed with a plaza-style entry and upper and lower concourses, which each include concessions and restrooms, Woodard said. Players and coaches will have a secure entry to the building, he said. MA+ Architecture designed the center.
“Credit must also go to the board members and administrators who served before and were part of the process,” McDaniel said, in acknowledging those people responsible for the project. “This building will be a legacy to them and MHS for decades to come.”
By Traci Chapman
Redlands Community College students will see a hike in their tuition when they return to classes in the fall.
Regents in June approved a 5.9 percent tuition increase, effective during fiscal year 2014-2015. That means per credit hour costs will go up from $116.50 last year to $123.37 when the fall semester begins on Aug. 14. The tuition for a student taking 30 credit hours will run $3,701 – an increase of $206, according to documents prepared by Redlands staff.
According to breakdowns prepared by college officials, this is the fifth consecutive year tuition at the community college has increased. It is the largest percentage hike during those five years. Last year, officials implemented a 4.96 percent increase.
Redlands was not the only community college or four-year university to implement a tuition hike this year, officials said. In a report prepared for regents, several school sites were polled, and many revealed tuition increases, most ranging between 4 percent and 7 percent. Connors State College posted an 8.2 percent boost, while Oklahoma City Community College anticipated a 4.85 percent increase. Rose State College indicated it would increase tuition this fall by 4.3 percent, while Southwestern State University provided hikes between 5.8 and 6.9 percent. Of all of the schools polled by Redlands, it appeared Murray State College was anticipating the biggest boost at 9.5 percent.
Average increases for two-year colleges included in the Redlands report totaled 6.74 percent.
Higher costs were the reason for the necessary increase, Redlands President Jack Bryant said.
“While higher education did receive a flat-line budget this year, when the final appropriations were released, this did not address the issue of mandatory cost increases like utilities, benefits, etc.,” he said. “The tuition increase that was approved by the Redlands board at the June 9 meeting and then approved by the Oklahoma State Regents Board at their meeting on the 26th will help generate some of the funds needed to cover those mandatory increases.”
Regents attending the meeting unanimously approved the increase. Regents Charlie Beard and Tracey Wills were absent.