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By Traci Chapman
A lot has changed in Mustang since 1969.
Streets are paved, once miles of fields are now subdivisions. The city has grown and changed, but one thing remains a constant as it has for 45 years – Mustang firefighters on June 28 will don their aprons and serve up their annual Independence Day celebration.
“The first time we held the event was in 1969, it was shortly after the fire department was established,” Deputy Chief Roy Widmann said. “It really from the get-go was a fundraiser for the department.”
The event helps firefighters purchase items not included in the city budget, Widmann said. Whether its equipment or a “gizmo” they would like to have to “everyday” items, firefighters’ cookout helps with items not always provided by the city.
“Things like flashlights, rope, stuff like that,” Widmann said. “We have flashlights on the truck, but the city doesn’t issue personal flashlights or things like that.”
Known for years as the bean supper, the event is now known as Firefighters Freedom Celebration. For $5, attendees get hot dogs, pork and beans, chips, watermelon, punch and water, followed by city fireworks at dusk. Before the big show, there’s also lots to do, Widmann said.
“We’ve invited helicopters and we never know who will come show up, as well as several storm chasers,” he said. “We’ll also have fire engine rides and inflatables for the kids.”
Oklahoma City band Super Freak will also be on hand, back for the third time, Widmann said. About 30 of the department’s firefighters will be on hand to kick-start the Independence celebration. It is Widmann’s 29th year to be a part of the fun, he said.
“It’s one of those things I really look forward to,” he said.
This year’s “grand giveaway” will be an inground storm shelter, including installation, the deputy chief said. The shelter was donated by Area Septic in Elmore City and installation will be done courtesy of Sprague Backhoe, Widmann said.
Freedom Fest begins at 6:30 p.m. and firefighters will serve food until 8:30 p.m. or until food runs out, the deputy chief said. The fireworks display will begin about 9 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or in advance at the fire department.
For more information, call (405) 376-9365.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang residents could get a break on their trash bills, thanks to an agreement between the city and Oklahoma Environmental Management Authority.
The pending contract came about after officials decided to ask for requests for proposal for trash services upon the expiration of the city’s agreement with OEMA for refuse services. OEMA has provided service to the city and its residents for five years, authority general manager David Griesel said.
OEMA and Waste Corporation of Oklahoma submitted proposals to the city. While both companies’ proposed rates were lower than those paid to OEMA in its last Mustang contract, OEMA submitted the low bid for service “across the board,” City Manager Tim Rooney said.
“You’ll notice this is lower than the current contract,” Rooney told council members. “We would recommend you authorize us to draft a contract, then staff would recommend reviewing rates to pass some savings on to our citizens.”
Rates dropped for all OEMA-offered services, sometimes by more than 50 percent, according to city documents. A residential polycart currently costs the city $9.57; under the new agreement, that cost would be $8.05, with additional carts priced at $6. Those cost the city $7.52 under the old contract. A single commercial polycart dropped in price from $16.81 to $8.05.
Recycling bins remained steady at $5.50 per bin, according to the document.
OEMA would also expand the services it offered under the agreement, according to documents. Where the company previously provided one big junk curbside pickup, the new agreement provided for two – one in the spring and another in the fall – for city residents.
Council members in attendance unanimously accepted the OEMA proposal; Ward 1 Councilman Matthew Taylor was absent. Rooney and City Attorney Jonathan Miller would next develop the OEMA contract. Officials were not sure when they would be ready to discuss possible customer rates decreases but would work to “expedite” that process, they said.
In other business, lower prices than expected on bleacher bids at the city’s new baseball park meant officials could purchase two new LED signs for the fields.
Justin Battles, assistant city manager/parks and recreation director, said staff originally budgeted $71,400 for the baseball park bleachers; the new contract was awarded for $42,260. Battles recommended – and council voted to – utilize $17,950 left over to purchase the scoreboards. Two local businesses, which remained unnamed, provided funds for two more scoreboards, Battles said.
uApproved language amending the city’s fireworks code. The change would not impact residents’ ability to set off fireworks, but rather just amended Mustang codes to “mirror state changes.”
uAuthorized city staff to execute an $88,644 contract with Brewer Construction for extension of a waterline east from Sara Road to the Armed Forces Readiness Center. Officials made the move after National Guard officials requested the building be included in lines constructed for the new St. Anthony’s Healthplex. Rooney said extending the line an additional 180 feet would “allow for a looped water system” in the area and would help improve water pressures as more development occurred in the area.
By Traci Chapman
On June 24, Canadian County voters will head to the polls for county, state and federal elections.
If any candidate receives the majority of the vote, that individual will either claim the seat, or in the case of offices that have drawn Democratic candidates, that individual will face their competitor in the Nov. 4 general election. If no one candidate achieves that majority, the top two vote-getters in the race will face each other in the Aug. 26 runoff election. Independent candidates are listed on primary ballots, Canadian County Election Board Secretary Wanda Armold said.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. June 24.
Canadian County Districts 1 and 3 will hold commissioners races, while incumbent treasurer Carolyn Leck will face a challenger in the June 24 race. No one filed against Assessor Matt Wehmuller.
Democrat Joe Dorman, 43, will face the Republican candidate in the Nov. 4 general election. Republicans who have filed are incumbent Mary Fallin, 59; Joe Dorman, 43; 46-year-old Chad Moody; and Dax Ewbank, 38. Richard Prawdzienski, 66; Joe Sills, 34; and Kimberly Willis, 51, are running as Independents on the ballot.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Both Democrats and Republicans will hold primaries in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Democrats Jack Herron, 68; Feda Deskin, 65; and 77-year-old Ivan Holmes hope to win their primary, while incumbent Republican Janet Barresi, 62, will face challengers Joy Hofmeister, 49, and 50-year-old Brian S. Kelly.
Republican incumbent John Doak, 51, will face 61-year-old Bill Viner for the insurance commissioner seat.
Republicans Cliff Branan, 52, and Todd Hiett, 46, will vie for corporation commissioner.
State Representative – District 43
Some voters in Mustang School District will choose among four Republican contenders for the District 43 seat. John Paul Jordan, 33; Bill Baker, 62; Nathan Harper, 49; and Jonathan Clour, 22, will face off in the June 24 primary. Democrat Sarah Baker, 29, will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Several other state seats will also be part of the general election ballot. Those races are:
Incumbent Republication Todd Lamb, 42, will defend his seat against 52-year-old Democratic challenger Cathy Cummings.
Commissioner of Labor
Republican incumbent Mark Costello, 58, will face 63-year-old Mike Workman, a Democrat, Nov. 4.
Incumbents who did not draw opponents
State Auditor and Inspector
Gary A. Jones, 59 – Republican
Scott Pruitt, 45 – Republican
Ken Miller, 47 – Republican
District Judge – District 26, Office 1
Gary E. Miller
Associate District Judge – Canadian County
Bob W. Hughey
District Attorney – District 4
State Representative – District 47
Leslie Osborn, 50 – Republican
Jim Inhofe, 79, will face four Republican challengers: D. Jean McBride-Samuels, 59; Erick Paul Wyatt, 35; Evelyn L. Rogers, 61; and Rob Moye, 58. Three Independents have also thrown their hat into the ring – 78-year-old Ray Woods; Aaron DeLozier, 30; and Joan Farr, 58. Democrat Matt Silverstein, 33, will take part in the Nov. 4 general election.
In the race for the unexpired U.S. Senate term of Thomas Coburn, both Democrats and Republicans will battle it out in primary races. Democrats Connie Johnson, 61, Patrick Michael Hayes, 39, and 79-year-old Jim Rogers will vie for the seat, as well as seven Republicans – Jason Weger, 31; Kevin Crow, 46; Eric C. McCray, 33; T.W. Shannon, 36; Randy Brogdon, 60; James Lankford, 46; and Andy Craig, 41. Independent Matt T. Beard, 54, will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.
In District 3, incumbent Frank D. Lucas, 54, will face 69-year-old Robert Hubbard and Timothy Ray Murray, 47. Democrat Frankie Robbins, 68, will take part in the general election.
Tom Cole, 64, is the incumbent in the District 4 race. He will face challengers Tae Si, 27; Bert Smith, 66; and 46-year-old Anna Flat. Independent Dennis B. Johnson, 74, will also be featured on the ballot.
Jail overcrowded months after new addition completed
By Ray Dyer
It didn’t take long for the new Canadian County Jail to hit the overcrowded button.
On Monday, Sheriff Randall Edwards received permission from commissioners to move 40 prisoners to Pottawatomie County. Edwards said the jail had 228 prisoners as of Monday. The capacity for the jail is 194.
The county spent $4.6 million to build the new dormitory-style jail which opened in late November. The extra jail space was necessary because the county constantly exceeded the capacity of the jail that was built in the 1980s. That jail had a capacity of 72 prisoners. State jail inspectors and state fire marshals were threatening to close the jail if the county did not address the situation.
Twice county voters rejected plans to build much larger jails. Both issues were tied to sales tax hikes. Commissioners then followed Edwards’ original suggestion which was to expand the existing jail. Funding came from savings in not sending inmates out of county, as well as the implementation of a county use tax that could be tapped if needed.
But Edwards said with the growth Canadian County is experiencing, the expansion was basically filled before it opened.
“In 2008, Canadian County had a population of 112,000. Today we’re at 130,000,” Edwards said.
The sheriff said 29 of the inmates being held here are bound for the state prison system. They were all convicted of crimes committed in Canadian County, but because state prisons are also filled to capacity, they are held in the county jail until state space opens up.
Edwards said the Department of Corrections has indicated six of the prisoners will be moved out of Canadian County by Thursday, but when the others will move is not yet known.
“The DOC gets them at their leisure and their convenience,” Edwards said.
Canadian County will pay Pottawatomie County $20 per day for each inmate housed there. Edwards projected the cost would add up to about $12,000 by the end of the month. The current fiscal year ends June 30. If the situation has not cleared up by then, a new agreement will have to be made because of the start of the new fiscal year, Edwards said.
The sheriff said commissioners need to act soon to begin Phase II of the jail expansion. He said Phase II would duplicate the most recent expansion, but would cost less because the kitchen and laundry built in Phase I will also serve Phase II.
Edwards said Phase II would probably cost in the neighborhood of $3.5 to $4 million. He said the plans are basically the same as Phase I. Edwards said the project would need to be bid and a funding method identified. He predicted it would take “a minimum of 18 months” and more like two years before “we could get into it.”
Edwards said while some are talking about the need for a new county fairgrounds, “the reality is we’ve got a jail that needs more beds.”
Phase II, Edwards said, would boost the number of beds to 314.
“I think if we had that number of beds we’d be in good shape for at least seven to eight years,” Edwards said. He said Oklahoma guidelines suggest four jail beds for every 1,000 people living in a county.
The jail census has consistently been “above the 200 mark” since the jail expansion was opened. Edwards said it spiked this week to 228.
“On May 11 we were 22 over,” he said. “We haven’t gone below 200,” he said.
By Traci Chapman
Recent rains mean the end – at least for now – of Mustang’s burn ban.
Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman said Tuesday the ban was lifted, after several days of soaking rains and with forecasters projecting more precipitation on the way in coming days.
“It’s always great for us when we see this kind of activity and then we look at temperatures in the 80s in June,” Hickman said. “That’s always a positive for firefighters.”
According to Oklahoma Mesonet, Oklahoma City’s west rainfall station has posted 12.51 inches of rain so far this year, 11.45 inches of that in the last 90 days. The station logged 4.16 inches in the last 10 days, according to Mesonet data.
That doesn’t mean Mustang is out of the woods when it comes to fire danger, particularly with the July 4 Independence Day holiday right around the corner, the chief said.
“That’s a time when people really need to be vigilant because a fire can happen anywhere under any conditions,” Hickman said.
While the ban has been lifted, the city’s permanent water rationing remains in effect. 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.
Still, recent rains and the chance of more on the horizon have been a relief for officials concerned about the possibility of a long, hot, dry summer.
“We’re all very pleased at this point,” Hickman said. “It’s not like it can’t change – it is Oklahoma, after all – but this is a good place to be.”
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.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang Public Schools’ choice of a Green Scholars Initiative Bible history class may be what’s generating so much interest in the proposal, Superintendent Sean McDaniel says.
McDaniel spoke about the issue during Monday’s regular school board meeting. The proposed class has generated national media coverage and interest from people far beyond the school district’s borders, McDaniel said.
The course would be offered at Mustang High School as an elective, which means students would only take it if they chose to do so. Officials said earlier this year about 170 students expressed interest in the course in their 2014-2015 registration materials.
Interest has moved beyond individuals and media outlets as well, he said. Representatives with American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom from Religion have also expressed concerns about the constitutionality of the possible curriculum. Those concerns stemmed from open records requests that allowed the dissemination of an early draft of the course curriculum, the superintendent said.
“There have been 12-plus drafts so far, by the time we’re finished it will probably be in the neighborhood of 20 revisions,” McDaniel said.
Green Scholars Initiative, an organization founded by Steve Green, president and chief executive officer of Hobby Lobby, proposed the course and is developing the potential curriculum, McDaniel said. If the course actually makes it to students, it will be the first GSI Bible course – and therein lies the problem, the superintendent said.
“There are 21 other schools in the state that offer the exact same curriculum but not through Green Scholars,” he said.
Board member Jeff Landrith questioned the wisdom of moving forward with the GSI curriculum, rather than that used by those other schools, as well as hundreds of other schools across the country. Those schools did not face opposition similar to that encountered by Mustang, officials said.
“Yes, we have already looked at it (the other curriculum),” McDaniel said. “We’re desperate for appealing electives for our kids, and the digital component of this – there’s no comparison.”
GSI’s course includes virtual tours and access to more than 40,000 historical Biblical resources, McDaniel said. That made the district’s pursuit of the curriculum – at least to a point – worth it, he said.
Courses very rarely, if ever, get the kind of scrutiny given the proposed Bible history class, the superintendent said. The amount of time spent by district staff and administration, as well as board members, has led some in the media to question meetings held to review curriculum and charges the district may have violated the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act.
McDaniel denied those charges, saying board members were invited to Green’s office to review updated components of the proposed curriculum. There was no quorum and groups were not “split” to avoid the necessity of a public meeting, he said.
Public entities must post and hold public meetings anytime there is a quorum – in Mustang Public Schools’ case, at least three of the five members – meeting on district business. Members cannot make decisions outside public purview under state laws.
While district officials knew the class could be controversial, they did not expect this level of interest, they said. Many of the questions have come from outside the district, McDaniel said.
“I’ve gotten maybe 20-25-30 emails (from local sources),” McDaniel said. “What I’m most concerned about is what our community thinks.”
While McDaniel said he anticipated a final curriculum draft sometime this month, rumors of possible legal action and continuing controversy had some board members concerned. Administrators have discussed the matter with a “not-for-profit legal firm” and its insurance group, although nothing has transpired in legal venues, McDaniel said.
“I don’t think we’re in the business of getting into legal fights over something like this,” Landrith said.
For now, officials said they would take a wait and see posture, until they could have a chance to review the final proposed GSI curriculum. McDaniel said he wanted to make sure before residents knew district officials believed in the course material and the opportunity potentially offered to students.
“This is a district course, this is not a Hobby Lobby course, it’s not a GSI course,” he said. “We continue to be really excited about the opportunity.”
By Traci Chapman
While some neighbors of Mustang’s wastewater treatment plant are calling foul because of odor emanating from it, state officials say the city is moving in the right direction in addressing issues connected with the complex.
Department of Environmental Quality inspectors visited the plant June 5, following up on complaints received in May, Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney said.
“DEQ stated that they believed the odor issue was not as bad as when they had previously visited our facility and that the steps both staff and Severn Trent were taking were appropriate towards long-term resolution of the odor problems,” Rooney stated in a June 5 email to city council members.
Severn is the city’s public works contractor, responsible for operation of Mustang’s wastewater treatment plant.
Odor issues at the plant became more pronounced because of recent weather, the city manager said. Bacteria required days of hot temperatures and sunlight, something in intermittent supply in recent weeks, he said.
“We’ve had a few days of temperatures in the 90s but then it drops down and we get some rain too,” Rooney said. “It’s a very biological process.”
The good news for the plant’s neighbors was DEQ inspectors’ prognosis about the plant’s status, Rooney said.
“It just takes time,” he said. “They told us it’s about a six-week process and it’s been about four weeks since we first started hearing about the smell.”
Officials also contacted Garver Engineering, original designers of the wastewater plant, to review operations and give another perspective on odor issues, Rooney said. Garver representatives should be visiting the city in the near future, he said.
While the odor situation seemed to be improving, so too did an ongoing issue with arsenic levels discovered in city water supplies, according to a DEQ Addendum to a Feb. 12, 2008, consent order entered into by the city.
Oklahoma Environmental Quality Codes dictate any public water supply not contain more than .010 part per million or milligram per liter of water (mg/L). Since October 2012, Mustang historically tested at .014 mg/L in arsenic levels; that number dipped in testing conducted between April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014, DEQ officials said.
“Ten years ago these wouldn’t have been a violation, and it’s important to note the measurement was taken at the blending station, which is located at County Line,” Rooney said. “That station was offline at the time, now it’s back on.
“To get those numbers down, you just buy more water from Oklahoma City,” he said.
Residents did not need to worry about arsenic levels because the tests did not reflect the water coming out of their taps, Rooney said. Arsenic is a “pretty common problem” for about two-thirds of the state, he said.
“That’s one reason for the rate increase, to address arsenic levels,” the city manager said.
City council on June 3 approved a 7 percent water increase in October as part of Mustang’s $20.381 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.
Mustang must supplement its water supplies with Oklahoma City water, not only to address arsenic issues but also to meet demand, officials said. The rate increase was needed to help buffer double-digit rate increases incurred as a result of those OKC water purchases.
It was the first utility rate increase implemented by the city of Mustang since 2005, Rooney said.
“We know it’s never a good thing to have to raise utility rates, it’s not something we like to do, but it’s something that’s necessary in a situation like this,” Rooney said concerning the rate hike.
The amount Mustang pays for Oklahoma City water jumped from $9.24 to $13.75, a 48.81 percent hike, while rates increased by 16.92 percent, from $2.01 to $2.35 per 1,000 gallons.
Mustang implemented a Consumer Price Increase in 2009; those types of adjustments are not considered a “utility rate increase” by officials.
Odor and arsenic issues were part of an overall plan to upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Rooney said. According to the DEQ Addendum, Mustang has until Jan. 1, 2015, to submit a request for “prorated limits for increase in design flow” from 2 million gallons to 3 million gallons per day. The city must submit an engineering report to the state agency by July 1, 2015.
“We’re in the process of doing that now,” he said.
By Traci Chapman
Dr. Angela Mills was recently named Assistant Superintendent of the Year for District 14 by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.
Mills, Mustang Public Schools assistant superintendent for academic services, joined the district in 2013. According to the MPS website, Mills began as a second-grade teacher, working on both elementary and secondary levels. She also served as a school principal and was director of curriculum for Piedmont Public Schools before joining MPS.
Mills was one of 20 assistant superintendents and central office administrators across the state selected for the honor, Superintendent Sean McDaniel said.
“This was out of several hundred, and this is back-to-back years for Mustang,” McDaniel said.
Mustang Deputy Superintendent Charles Bradley was named District 14 honoree last year, according to the OASA website.
Mills earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a doctorate in education leadership from Oklahoma State University.
“We congratulate these administrators for their valuable contributions to education in Oklahoma,” OASA Executive Director Steven Crawford said. “These men and women play an important role on the administrative team in their school districts. We commend them for serving both their schools and communities,” he said.
Oklahoma Association of School Administrators is part of Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. According to its website, CCOSA serves more than 2,800 administrators across the state.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang residents will see a 7 percent utility increase in October, after Council Tuesday approved a $20.381 million annual budget.
City officials said they needed the increase to help overcome a deficit caused by higher costs for water it was required to purchase from Oklahoma City. It was the first utility rate increase implemented by the city of Mustang since 2005, City Manager Tim Rooney said.
“We know it’s never a good thing to have to raise utility rates, it’s not something we like to do, but it’s something that’s necessary in a situation like this,” Rooney said recently.
The amount Mustang pays for Oklahoma City water has increased by double digits, the city manager said. OKC’s base rate has jumped from $9.24 to $13.75, a 48.81 percent hike, while rates have increased by 16.92 percent, from $2.01 to $2.35 per 1,000 gallons.
Mustang implemented a Consumer Price Increase in 2009; those types of adjustments are not considered a “utility rate increase” by officials.
Things have improved “quite a bit” since council approved the 2013-2014 budget, although the city had to dip into its reserves by about $270,000 in formulating the 2014-2015 budget, officials said. That decision led to the sole dissenting vote on the new budget.
“I’m still disappointed that our budget’s not balanced this year,” Ward 3 Councilwoman Linda Bowers said.
“Is it where we want to be – no, but we feel we’re moving ahead,” Rooney said.
The city faced a $572,000 deficit in the 2013-2014 budget, the city manager said.
The rest of council voted in favor of the budget, and Ward 2 Councilwoman Kathleen Moon Staples was absent. Bowers did vote with fellow council members to disable a city resolution that would allow for hiring of personnel in the new year.
That gives city staff the ability to employ a new police officer and firefighter as well as a new concessions manager. Mustang Parks and Recreation will get one administrative support person, although that hiring will not take place until January.
It also would allow Justin Battles, Mustang Parks and Recreation director, to take on an expanded role in city operations. Battle would officially be named assistant city manager – in addition to his parks and recreation duties. He would function as assistant city manager 40 percent of the time, allocating 60 percent of his working hours to the other department, Rooney said. Battles served as interim city manager before Rooney’s hiring.
“Justin has done an outstanding job, he’s the person I would like to see take my job when I retire,” Rooney told council members during a recent budget session.
By Traci Chapman
Being a Mustang High School Nightrider is a lot of work, Carl Eggleston says.
Now people are going to run – and work – for them.
Now in its second year, Mustang Gallop is a run designed to benefit both the Nightriders organization and Masonic Charitable Foundation, organizer Eggleston said. Comprised of 10K, 5K and a one-mile fun run, the event is a way for him to share two of his passions with others.
“I love to run, I was a former runner and was injured, but I’m a big believer in promoting a healthy lifestyle,” Eggleston said Monday. “Then I wanted to help others, and this is a great way to do it.
Bronco Gallop Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. The group was founded to help the Mustang area as it grows and expands, Eggleston said.
“The Masons helped people to the tune of $25,000 last year, but our community is growing at such a fast clip that we’re not always able to keep up with the need,” Eggleston said.
The Nightriders were a good choice because of the number of students impacted, as well as the sheer volume of work and sacrifice put into their craft by band members. Nightriders Director Ryan Edgmon said last week more than 960 students will take part in band on the high school and middle school levels during the next school year.
“The band is an entity that’s busy year-round so we thought what a great opportunity to help someone out,” Eggleston said.
The Gallop is certified and registered through USA Track and Field, and Mark Bravo, author of Momentum, has been invited to the city for the second year. The run begins at the south end of Mustang Bronco Stadium.
In its inaugural event, the Gallop broke even, which for a first-year race, “was really good,” Eggleston said. With 100 runners participating last year, organizers hoped to increase that money and generate needed funds, he said.
Registration fees are $25. Everyone who registers by Thursday, June 5 at midnight will be given a Tshirt in their size and all participants will receive a medal. There will be cash awards for the top three male and female runners, Eggleston said.
“It’s a fun event, it’s for a good cause, and we’re really excited to bring this back this year,” he said. “This is really about helping a couple of good causes and promoting a healthy lifestyle.”
For more information, go online to https://mustangbroncogallop.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=1762 or to the event’s Facebook page, located at https://www.facebook.com/MustangBroncoGallop.