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By Daniel Lapham,
At a special City Council work session meeting on Aug. 11, the Mustang City Council and staff discussed the possibility of implementing a “Council Code of Ethics and Conduct.”
City Manager Tim Rooney presented two examples of current civic “Code of Ethics” standards. The reception from council members was mixed. As of Monday, Rooney said no further action would be pursued.
“There were two different ‘Council Code of Ethics’ presented to the City Council for discussion purposes,” Rooney said. “As a result of the discussion that occurred on Monday evening last week, staff has no plans for action on any Council Code of Ethics unless directed to do so by the City Council.”
Rooney told the council he and staff looked through records of the council and were unable to find a standing code of ethics or conduct.
“I believe many of the issues we have had in the past with social media and conflict between council members could be addressed through a code of ethics and conduct. I believe a code of ethics would instill guidelines and inform the community what they can expect from their council members.”
Ward V Councilwoman Linda Hagan said she does not believe the council needs a code of ethics. She said the oath of office, taken by every elected official, outlines his or her ethics and beyond that freedom of speech should be protected.
“I am not in agreement with adopting a code of ethics,” Hagan said.
Ward VI Councilman Jess Schweinberg said a code of ethics could be a positive step in outlining a standard model of public official behavior and conduct.
“You have to have standards set,” he said. “We are supposed to be setting the groundwork for out future generations. I see how this could be helpful.”
Mayor Jay Adams said at this point he would like council members to take time to think about the possibility. Action may be taken down the road.
“This could be valuable in the future. This brings up some questions. Should the council have a way to hold council members accountable for their words and actions?”
MUSTANG CITY COUNCIL
CODE OF ETHICS AND CONDUCT
Compliance with all Laws
City Council members shall comply with the laws of the United States, the State of Oklahoma and the City of Mustang in the performance of their public duties. Such laws include but are not limited to: the United States and State of Oklahoma Constitutions, the City of Mustang Charter, laws pertaining to conflicts of interest, election campaigns, financial disclosures, open meeting law, open records law, the City of Mustang Code of Ordinances and all policies adopted by the City Council.
Integrity and Accuracy
City Council members are expected to perform their duties with absolute integrity. No member of the City Council shall under any circumstances make a statement for any purpose that is known by the member to be inaccurate or intended to be misleading
Conduct of Members
It is acceptable and expected that City Council members may disagree about issues brought before the Council. However, it is not acceptable for any City Council member to make derogatory comments and gestures about other Council members, their opinions or their actions. City Council members shall refrain from exhibiting abusive conduct, personal allegations or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of the City Council, members of City boards or commissions, the staff and the public.
The professional and personal conduct of City Council members should be above reproach and shall avoid even the appearance of impropriety. City Council members should conduct their official and personal affairs in such a manner that does not in any way suggest that they may be improperly influenced in the performance of their official duties. City Council members shall, to the best of their ability, serve the citizens of the City of Mustang conscientiously and with honesty and impartiality. City Council members shall seek to perform their duties with diligence, efficiency and courtesy. Members of the City Council shall each make impartial decisions based upon consideration and analysis of the facts, circumstances, merits and laws of each case without taking into account unrelated considerations.
Electronic Devices During Meetings
In the spirit of the Open Meeting Act and in furtherance of the City Council’s commitment to conducting government business with as much order and transparency as possible, electronic devices belonging to a Councilor shall be turned off or set on airplane mode during City Council meetings. Use of electronic devices by City Council members for talking, texting, email or otherwise during City Council meetings is, except for emergency communications, prohibited. It is the City Council’s intent to prohibit electronic communications between members of the Council and other persons during City Council meetings. Prohibiting communications of this type enables the Council to operate with maximum transparency and allows the Council to avoid any appearance or perception of engaging in discussions or deliberations not open to the public during City Council meetings.
Respect for Process
City Council members shall perform their duties with the processes and rules of order established by the City Council. Upon a “Call to Order” of the City Council meeting, Councilors will respect that a meeting is in progress and recognize that it is inappropriate to temporarily exit the meeting unless a recess or adjournment has been called by the mayor. While a meeting is in progress, Council members should refrain from having “side bar” conversations with each other or with city staff.
City Council members have the right to personally endorse candidates for all City Council seats and other elected offices. However, it is inappropriate to mention endorsements during City Council meetings or other official City meetings or hearings.
City Council members shall prepare themselves for discussions of public issues brought before the City Council. City Council members will listen courteously and attentively to all discussion and comment on the issue by the public, City staff and other City Council members. City Council members shall refrain from interrupting other speakers unless compelled to do so to ensure compliance with City Council policies or processes for public meetings and shall additionally refrain from interfering with the orderly conduct of City Council meetings.
All City Council meetings and hearings shall be conducted fairly and impartially. City Council members shall not show favoritism in carrying out the City’s business. The receipt of campaign contributions shall not in any circumstance constitute a basis for preferential treatment.
Acting in the Public Interest
The primary goal and concern of each member of the City Council is to serve the public interest and uphold the public trust to the very best of their abilities. Therefore, City Council members will work together for the common good of the citizens of Mustang and not for any private or personal interest, and City Council members will strive to assure fair and equal treatment of all persons, claims, issues or transactions brought before the Mustang City Council.
Conflict of Interest
Any member of the City Council who has a conflict of interest, financial or otherwise, in any matter brought before the City Council for consideration or action shall declare and disclose the conflict of interest to the City Council and shall not participate in discussion or voting on the matter. A conflict of interest shall be defined as a statutory conflict of interest or any situation, circumstance or financial interest that has the potential, in the City Councilor’s opinion and judgment, to interfere with the proper exercise of public duty.
The minutes of a meeting wherein a declaration of a conflict was made shall not record a vote on behalf of a City Council member who leaves the room during discussion and voting upon the issue. The minutes of such meeting shall, however, record a “no” vote if the City Council member remains in the room and abstains from voting, such recordation being in accordance with Oklahoma State Law and the Mustang Code of Ordinances.
Gifts and Favors
City Council members shall not directly or indirectly solicit, receive or accept any gift if 1) a reasonable inference could be drawn that the gift was intended to influence them in the performance of their official duties, or, 2) the gift is intended to serve as a reward or in appreciation of any official action taken by the City Council member. City Council members shall not solicit or accept any gifts, favors or promises of future benefits which might compromise the independent judgment and action or which might give the appearance of being compromised. City Council members shall not take special advantage of services or opportunities for personal gain, by virtue of their public offices that are not available to the public in general.
City Council members shall not provide testimonials or endorsements that identify themselves as city council members to any political candidate, business, program or other entity or activity unless brought to a vote before the City Council and approved by a majority of the seated Council members. Personal endorsements or opinions without prior Council approval should make clear that they in no way reflect the official position of the City Council or the City of Mustang.
Political Fundraising Activities
No City Council member shall use his or her position, authority or influence, whether actually possessed or anticipated, to interfere with or affect the results of an election or to obtain a political or other type contribution. City Council members shall not use or attempt to use any political endorsement in connection with any appointment to any City board or commission.
These rules are not intended to preclude City Council members from political fundraising activities, but to ensure that these activities are undertaken only at private initiative and expenses in their role as private citizens and thus do not reflect upon the official activities of the City.
City Council members shall endeavor to share with all other councilors in timely manner any substantive information that is relevant to a matter under consideration by the City Council which was received by the Council member from sources external to the public decision-making process.
City Council members shall respect and preserve the confidentiality of information concerning the property, personnel or affairs of the City. City Council members shall neither disclose confidential information without proper legal authorization nor use such information in any way to advance or further their personal, financial or private gain. Confidential Information shall not include any information that is or becomes publicly available other then as a result of disclosure by Recipient, which is disclosed by any third-party not known by Recipient, and who Recipient has no reason to believe to be under any contractual or fiduciary obligation not to disclose such information; was in the Recipient’s possession prior to disclosure, or is independently developed by the Recipient.
City Council members shall represent the official policies or positions of the City Council to the best of their ability when designated as delegates or representatives of the City. If a City Council member acting as a delegate or representative of the City presents their personal opinions or positions on such an issue the member shall explicitly state that their comments do not represent the City of Mustang or the City Council.
Policy Role of City Council Members
City Council members shall respect and adhere to the Council–Manager form of municipal government implemented in the City of Mustang through its charter and as outlined in Title 11 of the Oklahoma Statutes. The Council–Manager form of government provides for the City Council to determine all matters of policy for the City of Mustang. Additionally, the Council–Manager form of municipal government provides that the City Manager shall be responsible for all day-to-day operations of the City. Accordingly, City Council members shall not interfere with or impair the ability of the City Manager and other City staff to determine and implement day-to-day operational matters.
Implementation of Code of Ethics and Conduct
This Code of Ethics and Conduct is intended to be self-enforcing by members of the City Council. City Council members shall be thoroughly familiar with this Code and shall make every reasonable effort to adhere to its provisions. The Code of Ethics and Conduct shall be included in the orientation training for newly elected City Council members. All City Council members shall sign a statement affirming they have read and understand the City of Mustang Code of Ethics and Conduct.
Daniel Lapham is a reporter with the Mustang News sister paper, the El Reno Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Kyle Salomon,
The 2014-2015 school year is under way for Mustang Public Schools, and more than 800 new students and a new elementary school provide the headlines for the new year.
The new school is Prairie View Elementary and will have grades kindergarten through fourth grade. It is the seventh elementary school in the Mustang school district. The new school is located on 59th Street and County Line Road.
Mustang Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel said there is a lot of excitement and several changes surrounding the new school year.
“The biggest single change is the number of new students that will attend Mustang schools. The number of new students has increased to over 800. We expect more to enroll in the next few days. This is not a ‘net’ total, rather just the new kids. We still aren’t sure of the total number of students who may have moved out of the district over the summer. By Oct. 1, which is the statewide official student count day, we will have a pretty good picture of our total enrollment.”
Even though this is the first day of school for the students, the teachers and other faculty have been at school all week preparing for the arrival of the children and the new year. Monday morning, faculty and staff kicked off the new school year together.
“We began the day with a country-style breakfast in the MHS Commons,” McDaniel said. “Administrators, varsity football team members and many high school students served more than 1,000 employees. The place was buzzing. People are excited for the new year. Great things are happening in Mustang. At 8 a.m., we all moved into the MHS auditorium for the celebration of students.”
McDaniel said several Mustang High School students provided entertainment for the teachers.
“MHS students Garrison Brown and Ashley Getz performed a couple of songs, the JROTC presented colors, Mustang Trails second-grader David Farnham led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and then read a poem, the MHS drum line performed, MHS student council president Heidi McDaniel addressed the crowd and thanked teachers for their influence they have had in her life and in the lives of all the students.
“Alyssa Moon and Hayley Bledsoe performed a theatrical poetry reading that also thanks teachers for making a difference. Faculty, staff and students are excited to be back at school. This is an exciting time of year.”
McDaniel said the goal for him, the school board and administration is for Mustang Public Schools to be the premier school district in the state of Oklahoma. He said adding more than 800 students to the Mustang school system is an example of how the district is heading in the right direction.
“Adding more than 800 students to our schools speaks volumes about our school district and our community. Our school board’s vision is to be the premier district in Oklahoma, combined with the vision our city has to be a hometown community, one that is service oriented and is very appealing to people. As a district, we are very excited to welcome new families to our schools. We are proud of the education we offer and believe we are a wonderfully unique district with the best teachers anywhere.”
There are numerous parents who are concerned with the number of students that will be roaming the halls in Mustang Public Schools. Their concerns focus on overcrowded classrooms that could impact the learning that will take place.
McDaniel said with new schools coming online, that should not be a problem.
“With the addition of two new intermediate centers (fifth- and sixth-grade schools Canyon Ridge and Horizon) and the opening of a new elementary school this year, overcrowded schools won’t be a problem. Our constant challenge for the next couple of years will be to keep class sizes at a manageable level.”
Kyle Salomon is the sports editor at the Mustang News. He can be reached at email@example.com.
By Daniel Lapham,
After two consecutive years of above average rainfall in June and July and drier than normal conditions in the fall and spring, a regional climate specialist and a Canadian County farmer agree that adaptation and hard work are the keys to continued success in Oklahoma agriculture.
“With the rains that started in late May and continued through June and then July, we are seeing definite improvements to the drought in Oklahoma. The break in the drought has made a big difference,” said Dr. Jeanne Schneider. Schneider is lead meteorologist for the Southern Plains Regional Climate Hub and Great Plains Agroclimate and Natural Resources Research Unit. “I have noticed that the cattlemen and women that sold their cattle during the drought last fall and winter have acquired new stock.”
And if the rains continue, a local farmer believes it is possible for a second hay crop and a really good wheat crop to be harvested. Cody Stine, 23, is a fifth generation farmer with Stine Farms. He said the rains are having a great impact.
“The grass has been great, just like last year,” Stine said. “The wheat stubble has been growing like crazy. At this point we are just trying to stay on top of it. Usually in July we wouldn’t have any grass. It would be all burnt up, but because of the rains it’s still lush and green. We are usually already using our hay to feed to the cows by now.”
Schneider said according to the website drought.gov, conditions have drastically improved, but the dry spell is far from over.
“We have roughly the southeast quarter of the state out of drought, but in southwest Oklahoma and all the way up to northwest Oklahoma and the panhandle we are still seeing extreme to heavy drought,” Schneider said. “The rest of Oklahoma and most of Canadian County is still in what we call a moderate drought. The scale ranges from D0 being no drought to D4 being extreme. Canadian County is currently ranked at a D1.”
To clarify how droughts are measured, Schneider said they are placed into three categories. A meteorological drought is defined as an area that has received less than average moisture over a long-term period. Agricultural drought deals with vegetation and topsoil indicating that moisture levels are too dry to effectively grow most crops. The third kind of drought is the most damaging and severe. This is a hydrologic drought. This occurs when the water supply is affected by a long-term drought and there becomes a decrease in water levels not only in lakes and rivers but also in wells and aquifers.
“The drought.gov data combines all three of these drought types to give us a big picture,” Schneider said. “Basically we are holding our own in the agricultural area, but we are still in a little bit of trouble with our hydrologic area. For Canadian County we are doing OK, but in southwest and northwest Oklahoma we are still in a serious drought. It’s actually scientifically much worse than the Dust Bowl, but we have gotten better with our farming practices so it hasn’t appeared as damaging. This is why last spring the dust storms were back in the panhandle.”
Despite the long-term dry outlook, Stine said his family couldn’t be happier with current conditions and hopes it lasts through the fall and winter.
“Usually you’d have to cut your grass by the Fourth of July,” Stine said. “A lot of people this year are getting hay crops off the crabgrass that has grown up in their wheat stubble. From my standpoint, it is a really good year. If we keep getting these rains there will be a second harvest for sure.”
Whether the rains will continue or we are destined for another dry fall and spring is still uncertain, according to Schneider, but one thing is certain, she said, and that is the increase in the unpredictability and severity of weather patterns.
“I am both a research meteorologist and the lead for the Southern Plains Regional Climate Hub. It is my job to coordinate the research on all of the research dealing with climate change across this region. As a part of this I see all of the data coming from every direction. Climate change is something that has already happened. It’s not something that you can look at one event and say this is it. It is when you put it all together that you see the bigger picture. The data shows us that the changes have been happening since at least 2000. We did not use to see the things we are seeing. For example, we are getting cold fronts in July. Before 2000 you did not see that. This feels good. It’s nice out and we are getting the moisture, but what we are seeing is an increase in extremes.”
Cool weather in July is not a bad thing, but droughts are. What is really happening is a breakdown in the wisdom of the past where there has always been a spring and a fall rain. This is not true anymore.
“I am only 23 so I am young, but I don’t remember it being like this,” Stine said. “I remember it being muddy during planting season. But not like it’s been the last couple of years. It’s been the worst I’ve seen it. In the past you might have had your hail damage or storms, but not like this.”
The changes have been developing slowly but now they are reaching a crescendo, Schneider said. There are no longer regular rain patterns.
“The big change and problem with this is that with these changes we are seeing more flooding events and droughts,” she said. “What we are seeing as indicators for the future is drought punctuated by flood. The variability has increased. Everything indicates that variability is going to continue to increase. So we need to adapt. Not wait to go back to what it used to be. I do believe we have the ability to adapt. I am concerned about this because when I talk to our producers, our farmers and ranchers, they say, ‘We just need to wait for it to go back to normal.’ Well, there is no normal anymore.”
Stine said although he sees the change, he and his family are still seeing results through traditional farming and although it is traditional, there are ways to adapt within tried and true farming.
“We are kinda old-fashioned with our farming,” Stine said. “It’s really hard to go out and turn it around to a no-till farming method. There are a lot of chemicals and equipment that you have to use and that’s not something we are really excited about getting into. It’s kinda hard to change and go a different way of farming. We have been doing this for five generations and it has worked. We can adapt and still do it our way.”
Schneider disagreed with the idea that things can stay the same.
“Everything we have thought we knew for centuries is wrong,” she said. “So if you leave the stubble and plant into that you actually get more water absorption and retention. Having all of that plant matter insulates the soil. It will help to insulate the soil against the extremes. The weather is more dynamic so bad things are happening more often. The more we can do to support that life the better off we are.”
Although no-till is not an option for Stine Farms, Stine said adapting is something farmers have always done.
“We will usually change our patterns and planting times to a different time of year and we will space out our crops differently. We just set it aside and don’t plant everything if it doesn’t sprout. Wheat likes it cool so we couldn’t change up the planting season, but you can fluctuate it within reason. The yields just fluctuate from year to year. It’s just how it is with farming.”
Stine said he has spoken with several farmers that are going to summer crops or canola in order to deal with the fluctuation.
“I have seen a lot of summer crops like hay grazer or millet or a grain crop like milo or beans,” he said.
Schneider said her role is not to tell anyone what they should do, but simply to look at the data and help coordinate every possible resources to provide producers with the best options to adapt and thrive for generations to come.
“I do believe we can adapt but it is not going to be easy,” she said. “We are still figuring it out. That is my job as the lead for the climate hub is to help figure out the best options and to answer the question, ‘How do we adapt?’ It’s all these little things adding up that constitutes climate change. The people that are making it are the ones who have already made changes to modern methods. Going from traditional till to no-till is a solution I have seen work. A healthy soil is a soil that is alive in terms of keeping a biological life inside of it. This is what you see in a prairie that has never been tilled and this is what you strive to achieve with no-till methods.”
Information and additional resources are available to the public through the Natural Resources Conservation Service website at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov. Once there one can select his state to find specific area resources.
“We are trying to figure this out in real time,” Schneider said. “Increasing soil health and developing a soil health plan is a good place to begin. It does take a couple of years to make some of these changes. It is going to take investments, but we are seeing results from those who have made changes. We are not here to tell anyone what to do but to give options. The bottom line is we can no longer treat agriculture as a factory, we must be more adaptable and be able to adjust. We can no longer work on a calendar. This is now a matter of taking advantage of the rains when they come and hunkering down when they don’t. It’s going to be hard for a lot of people. I appreciate that. I know it is going to be hard. But that is the beauty of humankind. We can change, we can adapt, and we must.”
Daniel Lapham is a reporter for the sister paper of the Mustang News, the El Reno Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Daniel Lapham,
Mustang’s City Council, along with City Manager Tim Rooney and members of his staff discussed several areas dealing with the municipal government Monday in a special work session at the Mustang Town Center.
One of those areas dealt with the need for capital improvements and how to pay for them. Another area discussed was the cost of buying water from Oklahoma City. Rooney said Mustang can longer afford to “absord” the cost of doing business with the much larger neighbor.
Rooney presented a breakdown of the upcoming rate structure changes to Mayor Jay Adams and members of the council. The fiscal year 2014 to 2015 City of Mustang Budget, which was adopted and approved by the city council on June 3, included a proposed water and sewer rate increase of 7 percent. The rate was proposed to go into effect beginning Oct. 1.
“Revenues and expenditures within the Mustang Improvement Authority that were included in the budget were based on the 7 percent increase occurring in the October billing cycles,” stated Rooney’s utility rate review. “Since the June 3 meeting in which the FY 2014-15 budget was approved, RFP’s (Request for Proposal) for refuse service were also opened. OEMA, the city of Mustang’s existing refuse contractor, was the low bidder and staff was directed to develop a contract based on the bid submitted by OEMA.”
The action item to accept or decline the contract with OEMA will appear on the Aug. 19 agenda for action by the city council. The bid submitted by OEMA included a proposed $1.50 reduction in the monthly refuse rate. Rooney is proposing an additional fee of $1.50 be added to all customer utility bills as a capital improvement fee. This fee would be used for water and wastewater system capital improvements and would balance out the savings seen from the refuse fee reduction.
Assistant City Manager Justin Battles gave a slide presentation to the council outlining the current and future capital improvement needs. Current projects under way include the 74th Street booster station and County Line water tower budgeted at a cost of $201,743.15, and the Lakehoma Lift Station budgeted at $174,021.
“Any capital improvement fees added to utilities bills could give us a starting point to funding these projects,” Rooney said. “Currently, the city of Mustang has no identified method or revenue to be used for these improvements and this would provide a method to do so. The cities of Lawton, Edmond and Norman already have this sort of funding in place.”
With the current amount of customers in Mustang, the capital improvement fee would generate approximately $125,000 per year to be used toward capital improvements.
“I don’t think that’s enough, $1.50 just doesn’t look like enough of an increase to meet our capital improvement needs. We need to get these projects going now.,” said Councilman Jess Schweinberg, Ward 6.
In addition to the 7 percent increase in the water and sewer rates for everyone, Rooney recommended the possibility of changing or adding one-time fees for residential, commercial and rental deposits. He also included ideas to encourage responsible customer habits by charging fees for chronic disconnect due to non-payment, account holds, pull meter, illegal hook-ups, stolen meters, tampering and re-reads at the customer’s request.
“Many of these fees have not been changed since the late ’80s or early ’90s, while others are fees that are currently not being charged at all,” Rooney said.
The final change city staff recommended to the council concerning utility rates is to include wording for any future utility-related ordinance that would pass cost increases through to customers.
“While utility rate increases are never popular, they are necessary,” Rooney said. “The city of Mustang cannot afford to not pass along utility rate increases that are passed on to it from Oklahoma City, nor can it afford to continue to fail in addressing capital improvement needs of an aging system. Staff plans to place an ordinance/resolution with the above referenced fee adjustments on the Aug. 19 agenda for action.”
Daniel Lapham is a reporter for the sister paper of the Mustang News, the El Reno Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.
By Daniel Lapham,
Canadian County District 1 commissioner candidates Marc Hader and Wes Higgins answered questions and laid out their platforms to more than 25 county residents last Tuesday night at Redlands Community College.
Hader, R-Piedmont, and Higgins, R-El Reno, will meet in the Aug. 26 runoff election with the winner taking on Justin Joe Atkinson, D-El Reno, in November’s general election.
In addition to the commissioners race, candidates running for State Superintendant of Public Instruction and U.S. Senate candidate Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, were also present.
But it was the race for District 1 commissioner that drew the most interest and in particular how they would treat the Children’s Justice Center. The center is supported by a one-third cent permanent sales tax that has been generating over $500,000 per month. In the past, some have sought to have the sales tax redirected to help support other areas of county government. Those efforts have met with staunch resistance.
At least 10 different questions regarding the justice center were submitted. The majority of the questions wanted to know if the dedicated sales tax that supports the center should be redirected or cut.
Both commissioner candidates said they had toured the center and each said the staff and administration do an “excellent job” and provide a valuable service to the Canadian County community.
“I don’t know how many kids there are at the center off the top of my head, but I know they are doing a great job,” Higgins, an El Reno Republican, said. “They are in the black and I believe they are doing great with the resources they have been provided.”
Hader appeared to agree.
“I don’t know specifics in terms of the numbers, but I got to do a tour of the facility and it was a positive experience,” Hader said. “I believe it is safe to say that both of your candidates believe in the value of the juvenile justice center and support it.”
Another question addressed the scope of duties expected of a county commissioner.
“Roads are 20 percent of a commissioner’s job,” read moderator Juanita Krittenbrink. “How would you administer the rest of the duties required of your position including management of facilities like the courthouse, jail, etc.?”
“It has been my experience that the smaller or more rural a county is, the more roads and bridges are a part of a commissioner’s job,” Hader said. He said his background as an administrator qualifies him to handle not only the roads and bridges but also the management of all projects and responsibilities of a commissioner.
Higgins agreed that the percentage spent on roads and bridges is higher than 20 percent, but also said he sees many areas that should be addressed immediately in addition to bridges and roads.
“I believe the addition to the jail should be addressed immediately,” Higgins said. “If we broke ground today it would be at least a year before we could move in. We need more space there.”
With a bachelor’s degree in management from Southern Nazarene University and experience in project management, Hader said the future of Canadian County depends on commissioners’ abilities to manage multiple projects and play the role of administrator.
“I have the interpersonal skills necessary to do this job as it becomes more and more of a management position,” Hader said.
Higgins said he is already immersed in county government as the current foreman for District 2 under Commissioner David Anderson.
“My degree is from the school of hard knocks,” Higgins said. “I have run my own business for over 20 years. I am doing many of these things now as District 2 foreman and I believe these things speak for themselves.”
Daniel Lapham is a reporter for the sister paper of the Mustang News, the El Reno Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Traci Chapman,
Mustang Police Chief Chuck Foley made a splash Tuesday with his Cold Water Challenge.
The challenge is a nationwide event aimed at helping the Officer Down Memorial Page. Foley said he was “dared” to take part by Cpl. Mark Bailey, Officer Lance Duncan and others. The chief agreed to have cold water poured on him by officers, who videoed it for posting on ODMP’s Facebook page. Foley said in addition to accepting Bailey’s dare, he would donate funds to the Officer Down organization.
Tuesday morning, the chief prepared for his challenge, asking not only his employees at Mustang Police Department but other law enforcement officials to take part in the event.
It’s not the first time Foley headed for the water to help others. The chief took part in the Polar Plunge in February, an annual Special Olympics fundraiser. In his second outing, Foley – sporting a Duck Dynasty motif – raised about $1,100 for the cause.
“I was never able to take part in the Polar Plunge until last year,” Foley said at that time. “It was a chilly experience, but there’s so much festivity going on, it’s just a great, great thing.”
A video of the chief’s challenge will be posted on ODMP’s Facebook page, located online at https://www.facebook.com/OfficerDown.
By Traci Chapman,
An area Oklahoma Army National Guard soldier was honored Aug. 3 with its seventh highest service award.
Sgt. E.H. Pittman of Norman was given the Soldier’s Medal for his actions during the May 20, 2013, Moore tornado. The Soldier’s Medal is awarded for “heroic acts not involving direct contact with an enemy,” Oklahoma adjutant general Maj. Gen. Myles Deering said.
Pittman, 30, had recently returned from a year-long Afghanistan deployment with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and was working at a 7-Eleven at S.W. 4th Street and Telephone Road in Moore when the May 20 tornado struck. Pittman and a co-worker rushed customers into a bathroom as the tornado hit. Using his body to shield eight adults and a baby taking refuge there, Pitman suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down, Deering said. He also had a gash across his back and two on his head that took 12 staples to close, the adjutant general said.
“People like Sgt. Pittman – they go above and beyond what traditional soldiers do to defend and support our state,” Deering said.
Three people in the 7-Eleven did not survive. Megan Futrell, 29, and her 4-month-old son, Case, and Terri Long, 49, died there. Pittman’s actions “no doubt” saved the others sheltering at the location, Deering said. Rescuers reported Pittman directed them to the location of others who sheltered at the store even as they were attempting to stabilize his condition, he said.
“That’s what makes us different and sets us apart,” Deering said. “Even in the context of Sgt. Pittman’s civilian job, saving lives and protecting others is what we do, even in the face of adversity.”
Pittman said he found irony in a situation where he faced extreme chances of injury in Afghanistan without incident, only to be injured at home. He estimated he took part in about 500 combat missions while deployed.
“I was shot at and walked away each time,” Pittman said. “I didn’t (walk away) from this. It’s kind of strange because in combat you feel safe because you’re so focused on the mission. Then you come home and this happens.
“You get complacent, but once you hear those (tornado) sirens, your instincts kick in and you rely on your training to do what you have to do to survive,” he added.
Pittman is only the third person in Oklahoma Army National Guard since 9/11 to receive the Soldier’s Medal. The award is equivalent to the Silver Star given in combat, Deering said.
“I love you guys,” Deering said. “You’re always a soldier and always welcome to serve in our ranks.
“Thank you for what you do,” he said.
By Ray Dyer,
“Union City folks who laughingly accused diamond enthusiast Will Carel of raising eight sons so he’d have a baseball team have wiped those smiles off their faces and are shaking their heads in amazement.
Fulfilling a long-standing dream, the 68-year-old baseball fan gathered his sons together Sunday to hand the regular Union City ball club an 8 to 5 whipping.”
That was how a local newspaper reported the August 1956 baseball game that pitted the Carel brothers and their dad against the Union City club. The story spread far and wide, evidenced by it being published in the Kansas City Star.
Decades later, Cecil Carel is the sole survivor of the Carel brothers ball team. At 92, he recalls some aspects of the contest. It was August and it was hot.
“I loved two things, baseball and boxing,” Carel said. “I don’t remember a lot about it, but we beat ‘em.”
Now living at St. Katharine’s Retirement Center, Carel remembers how his dad, Will, would hit him and his brothers pop flies in the evening after dinner when they were young.
Years later, several of the Carel boys would find themselves overseas, serving in the military. While Cecil also served, he never had to leave the United States, instead serving in the Air Force stationed in Louisiana.
Brothers Ralph and Oliver did spend time in the military overseas, but by the mid-1950s they had returned to the States and that’s when their dad put out the call forming the family team.
The news account said that for Will Carel to gather all his sons for the baseball game was a “dream come true.”
The lineup that day for the Carel club had dad playing right field; James of Oklahoma City was at second base; Robert of Tuttle was the catcher; Ralph, who had just returned from overseas, was at first base; Oliver of Dallas was in left field; Cecil of El Reno played center field; Lawrence of Union City was at third base; while Hubert of Union City was the pitcher and brother Alfred of El Reno was at shortstop.
Cecil didn’t recall if the team ever played together after that one matchup with Union City, but he does recall some interesting times, growing up in Canadian County, making a career at the Federal Correctional Institution, raising a family of his own, and, oh yes, a short stint as a bootlegger.
He had learned to fly at the Gibson/Ramsey airfield in El Reno. It was a time when Oklahoma was still under the rule of prohibition, meaning it was illegal to make or sale liquor or beer. Texas had earlier done away with prohibition and so it was decided since Cecil knew how to fly, he would make a quick trip to the Lone Star State and come back with some spirits.
“It was for me and my brother and some friends,” Cecil said.
He flew to Electra, Texas, where he loaded the small aircraft with liquor. Apparently he loaded a little too much, the extra weight was making takeoff very difficult. Things got worse when a jolt sent a can of oil perched above him crashing into his head.
“It about knocked me dizzy,” Cecil said of the blow from the oil can. The plane had just lifted off and there wasn’t time to sit it back down with a cluster of trees quickly approaching.
“I said, ‘God, if you get me out of this I’ll never fly again.”’
Cecil remembers hearing the belly of the plane brush the tops of the trees as it barely cleared. He made it back to Oklahoma and was the first to pull the cork, settling some skittish nerves after the Texas tree-top experience.
Cecil recalls another experience when he quickly turned to the Good Lord for help. He and his new bride, Theresa (Hamby), headed to Colorado and Pikes Peak for their honeymoon. They were driving a brand new Crown Victoria. Going up the mountain the car handled beautifully, but on the way down the steep incline seemed to pull the car faster than seemed safe.
“I said, ‘God, please slow us down.’” At the bottom of the mountain Cecil remembers saying, “Thank you, God.”
Theresa wanted her turn to drive the new automobile and so on a long stretch of highway Cecil traded places with his new wife. Soon behind the wheel, Theresa was pushing pretty hard on the gas pedal.
“I looked over and the speedometer said 110,” Cecil said. “I said. ‘Honey, this damn thing can run, but it can’t fly.”’
Before his wife and children became the center of Cecil’s life, his two loves, like he said, were baseball and boxing. One time at a county fair he remembers getting coaxed to climb into the ring against a fellow who was said to be a “regional welter weight champion.”
“The referee said go and I tore into him,” Cecil said. “I knocked him down and he got up. Then I knocked him down again.” That was the end of the fight.
In another fight, Cecil was at least 10 pounds lighter than his opponent. He remembers the fellow landed a “good one” on the side of his face, sending him to the canvas. Apparently, the blow only served to rile Carel. He got up and made quick work of the other boxer, winning the fight with a technical knockout.
Maybe a good thing for Union City that Will Carel never dreamed of forming a family boxing club.
Ray Dyer is the co-publisher and editor for the Mustang News and the El Reno Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com
By Traci Chapman,
A rain delay slightly slowed the forward momentum of the city’s baseball and soccer field concession and restroom project, but officials say it is in the home stretch.
The $1.52 million baseball complex had a hitch when concrete footings on the soccer buildings did not pass a July 16 inspection after being poured in rainy conditions, officials said Tuesday. The contractor began pulling up the footings and was expected to complete that portion of the project within the next several days, weather permitting, said Justin Battles, assistant city manager.
“Roughed in plumbing has been finished and we are working toward pouring the slab this week,” Battles said.
Pad work was planned for the week of Aug. 11, the assistant city manager said.
Emmons Construction was awarded a $135,960 contract on restrooms and concessions.
Project bids were opened Feb. 21, with Mustang City Council approving contracts March 4, according to information compiled by Battles. Dirt work on the project began June 2.
LED signs for the fields were possible – without a budget increase – because the $71,400 baseball park bleacher estimate actually came in at a price of $42,260. Council agreed to use $17,950 remaining from the bleachers to purchase the scoreboards last month.
“Two local businesses also provided funds for two more of the scoreboards,” Battles said.
Crews with Silver Star Construction, working with Canadian County employees, completed new parking lots, and fencing was finished in March, they said.
The baseball complex is the final component of a three-prong improvement package of Mustang Town Center. Voters in March 2012 approved a $3.6 million bond issue, which also added space to Mustang Public Library and the banquet hall, as well as provided funds for new paint and carpet of existing areas.
Work on the complex concession and restroom was delayed in June and July due to rain, as well as a heart attack suffered by the site manager June 22, Battles said.
“It’s just been one of those situations where the weather really delayed us on this, but we’re moving along and we really are about where we wanted to be on the project,” the assistant city manager said.
Budget cuts impact local center, officials say
By Traci Chapman
Canadian County’s children’s justice center for the first time in recent years faces a lower budget than the year before, brought about by cuts in state contracts.
Bill Alexander, co-director of the Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children’s Justice Center, said Tuesday the problem begins and ends on the state level, where budget cuts caused Oklahoma Department of Juvenile Affairs and Department of Human Services to slash contracts with centers across the state. What that meant for Canadian County was programs basically funded by those agencies would be phased out over the coming months, Alexander said.
“We’re not completely pulling the programs, but we will only be serving our Canadian County kids,” he said. “We’re lucky we have the sales tax revenue to support that.”
According to financial documents provided by County Clerk Shelley Dickerson, last year the center received almost $3 million in contract revenues – almost $600,000 more than originally projected. For fiscal year 2015, officials are expecting just under $1.28 million in contract revenues, a more than 50 percent cut.
The two programs impacted by the cuts were sanctions and the Fort Reno group home. In the past, contract funds paid not only for out-of-county youth, but also covered the price tag for local individuals participating in both programs. With the change, the 24 beds currently filled in the group home would be cut down to 12, all holding county youth, Alexander said.
“Our biggest concern was to make sure we didn’t disrupt the programs of the kids currently in the group home,” Alexander said. “We also know that we’re losing staff positions and we didn’t want layoffs.”
The group home is a five-month program, and if individuals were forced to stop because of the funding cut, they would have to start all over, likely being put on a master state DHS waiting list, the co-director said. That would not happen, thanks to some work by center staff in negotiating a phase-out of the program for out-of-county participants, he said.
As for center staff, 25 positions will be eliminated because of the program changes.
“We are slowly transitioning so we don’t lay off any personnel,” Alexander said. “Some of our people can transfer to other county departments, some will find other jobs – it was just really important to us that we didn’t just tell someone, ‘Sorry, you don’t have a job as of today.’”
Last year’s center budget topped $8.6 million, with sales tax revenues projected at $6.05 million. According to Dickerson’s financial statement, actual sales tax revenues came in at just over $5.584 million. This year’s budget, approved Monday by commissioners, totaled $8.265 million. The justice center’s budget is retroactive back to July 1.
Other programs would remain as is and would not be impacted by the cuts, Alexander said. It was not known if the lost contracts were permanent or if things would revert to past practices once state revenues bounced back.
“That’s something none of us really know at this point,” he said.
Commissioners praised center officials for how they handled the situation, while criticizing some state moves in cutting contract rates with other counties across the state.
“I see there are cuts this year, but I am pleased with how you are handling the situation,” District 3 Commissioner Jack Stewart said.
“I want to express my feelings concerning the decisions of the state approving lower rates for counties that do not have juvenile facilities,” District 2 Commissioner David Anderson said. “It feels like they are penalizing proactive communities who have been diligent and invested in these facilities.
“This is something I would like to see brought up to the Legislature,” he said.
“This will be a transition year,” Alexander said. “We’ll slowly go to Canadian County kids only and not servicing other counties,” Alexander said. “What this contract did was it allowed us to have programs for Canadian County kids way before we had the sales tax to support them.
“Thank goodness the sales tax has grown like it has,” he said.