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Feb. 10 vote on county tax canceled by commissioners

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By Mustang News reporter, Daniel Lapham

Canadian County commissioners have canceled a Feb. 10 election that could have changed the way a .35 cent county sales tax is allocated and are again tossing out the idea of forming a county jail trust.

The action came in a special meeting last week. The idea of forming a jail trust had been mentioned in November, but commissioners did not believe there was enough time to thoroughly research the issue. Time became less critical after last week’s ruling by an Oklahoma County judge that returned full funding to the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center.

That funding was interrupted after an Oklahoma attorney general’s opinion said the permanent sales tax, approved by voters in 1996, was not following the original ballot language.

Because of this opinion, commissioners had to move quickly to keep the doors open at the juvenile justice center. They voted to spend “use tax” funds to pay for salaries and programs at the center until the language in the resolution was fixed. A ballot was drafted and approved by commissioners that would have set aside 86 percent of the .35 cent tax to fund salaries, operations and programs at the justice center, while the remaining 14 percent would be allocated for the justice center or for other county needs as determined by the commissioners.

Disagreement surfaced and a lawsuit was filed against the commissioners and the AG opinion by Sheriff Randall Edwards, two former commissioners and members of the citizens advisory committee to the juvenile center.

Oklahoma County Judge Roger Stuart disagreed with the AG opinion, calling it too narrow, and ordered the sales tax be used to fund operations, including salaries and programs operated by the juvenile center.

It was that ruling, commissioners said, that now gives them time to further study the idea of the jail trust authority that could oversee the county jail as well as the juvenile center.

“I believe this temporary injunction allows us to step back and develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the problems with the juvenile justice center,” said Commissioner David Anderson.

Anderson said the issues the AG opinion brought to light need time to be resolved and go deeper than the wording on a ballot.

“I believe one real problem is a clear defined structure of government,” Anderson said. “There seems to be misunderstandings in the organizational structure of the juvenile justice center.”

Anderson said one example of that came through a phone call he received on Jan. 10 asking him about a press release issued by the juvenile justice center.

“I did not know anything about a press release issued from the county,” Anderson said. “Who is in charge of approving press releases from the county? Are we not the governing authority of the county,” Anderson asked. “Another example is a statement from Judge Bob Hughey while on the stand. He said if the injunction was not approved by the judge, he would have to fire employees at the justice center. Are they his employees or are they our employees? These are just a few of the things that have happened to bring awareness that there is confusion as to the structure of government in the county.”

Commission Chairman Jack Stewart said he too received a phone call last weekend from “a television station” asking for his response to things he had not heard about.

“We apparently got slammed on the news,” Stewart said.

District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader said he wanted to stress that the public understand the injunction is only a temporary fix to deeper issues.

“This injunction doesn’t answer these questions,” Hader said.

Anderson agreed, saying this gives “everyone an opportunity” to address the issues.

“We had talked about forming a trust authority that would govern the justice center, but there just wasn’t enough time,” Anderson said.

The idea of forming a county jail trust authority first came up in November. At that time, Anderson said he had done some research, but not enough. Stewart said he had little knowledge of a trust of this nature. Hader had not yet been sworn into office.

Anderson said at the time, Tulsa, Grady, Pottawatomi and Rogers counties all operated with county jail trust authorities. The idea drew cautious support from Sheriff Edwards, but Undersheriff Chris West said at the time “the details would have to be worked out.”

Canceling the election will cost the county just over $12,000 for the ballots, which have already been printed, and an additional cost for new ballots that will include school district elections.

County youth speak out at Redlands Community College

Listening Conference Mustang Girl

By Editor, Ray Dyer

The annual Youth Speak Out Conference was held Wednesday at Redlands Community College. The event brings together teens from throughout Canadian County for one reason: to tell adults what’s going on in their lives and share concerns about the issues they face on a daily basis.

Organized by the Mustang Prevention and Coalition Team, El Reno Leadership Class, and the Yu Can Coalition, students addressed the audience made up of educators, lawmen, political leaders and professionals on a variety of issues.

Some of the topics covered by the students were drinking and driving, bullying, religion and cultural awareness, school and stress, sex education, high stakes testing, texting and driving, drug testing, community service, leadership and college prep.

Some other areas included in the discussion were 7th hour sports, lunch issues, fine arts facilities and snacks in schools.

The mission statement for the event reads: To provide a structured forum for youth to present their views, opinions, and solutions on issues that they face to a listening panel comprised of elected officials and community leaders who are in a position to take action based on the presentations of the youth.

Four county farms earn Ranch Award

Centennial Farm Erin Carl Schroeder Farm 3 2013

By Mustang News reporter, Daniel Lapham

Four Canadian County farms have been named recipients of the Oklahoma Centennial Ranch Award.

The Jimmie D. Miller Ranch, located northwest of Calumet; the Michael Rott Farm, located southwest of Okarche; the Herman Schroeder Farm, located south of Okarche; and the Woods Homestead Farm, located southwest of Union City join the 58 farms located in the county that have been family-owned and operated for more than 100 years.

To qualify for a Centennial Farm or Ranch Award, a property must be owned by a family member for at least 100 years and must be operated or occupied by a family member or leased out by a family member over the age of 65. The property must include a minimum of 40 acres and gross annual sales of at least $1,000. The Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry have sponsored the Centennial Farm and Ranch Awards for 25 years.

Jimmie Jack and Bridget Smith of Geary own the Jimmie D. Miller Ranch located northwest of Calumet. The family has grown wheat and milo and run cattle and horses there since great-grandfather, James Eli Small (also known as James D. Miller) purchased the land in 1913.

Jimmie Jack Smith, 62, said he is humbled and honored to receive an award that represents so much history and deep roots in the land he grew up on.

“My mother, Jimmie Miller Smith was raised here,” Smith said. “My grandfather was raised here. My kids were raised here. It’s the best way to grow up. You learn responsibility and hard work and reward and it’s how you learn the value of things and the importance of taking care of things. If you take care of it, it will last and take care of you.”

Minnie R. Schroeder of Oklahoma City owns the Michael Rott Farm and the Herman Schroeder Farm, both near Okarche. The family has grown wheat, milo and run cattle since father-in-law, Herman Schroeder purchased the land in 1914. The family has worked the Michael Rott Farm since grandfather, Michael Rott, purchased the land in 1894. Schroeder, 87, said her son, Carl Schroeder, currently runs both farms.

“I am overjoyed with receiving this award,” Schroeder said. “It’s exciting and I hope the kids will continue to keep it in the family. Farming draws us closer to God. We can till the ground and sow the seed, but the rest is up to God. It makes us trust Him more.”

William Woods of Union City owns the Woods Homestead Farm located southwest of Union City. The family has grown wheat, milo, corn, barley, hay and cotton since great-grandparents, Peter B. and Minnie Woods purchased the land in 1910.

Smith said many farmers and ranchers hold their land as an extension of themselves and to be recognized for working the land through the generations generates a great deal of pride.

“I thought it was kind of an honor and I am quite proud of it. The land is important to us out here,” Smith said. “It’s everything. I tell the kids I have been bucked off of my horse on every square foot of this place at one time or another. We have 160 acres right here and then adjacent, my mom still owns a couple thousand acres that was purchased later on.”

When land is passed down from generation to generation it becomes a part of who you are and a living historical record that connects the generations, Smith said.

“The land was purchased from an Indian named Bad Buffalo,” he said. “We still have the original warranty deed. You know I often walk around out here and it’s something to think about. My great-granddad and granddad all walked in these same footsteps. They walked this same land.”

When families have those kinds of roots it serves as an anchor, Smith said.

“I can’t necessarily speak for the community, but I can speak for me. I can’t hardly express to you what this land means to me. I’d rather lose an arm than lose this land.”

Commissioners discuss changes with hopes to increase community involvement

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By Mustang News reporter, Daniel Lapham

In his first month as District 1 commissioner, Marc Hader is introducing ideas to get Canadian County residents more involved.

On Tuesday, Hader presented two ideas he said could bring together members of the communities from across the county. The first is to invite ministers or residents with a passion for prayer from each of the commissioners’ districts to lead the corporate prayer. In addition, he proposed to invite veterans to lead in the pledge to begin each meeting. Rodney French, who is the chaplain for the sheriff’s department, has led the corporate prayer for several years. Hader said French is a friend and his ideas have nothing to do with the service French has done for the county.

“I think he may have gotten his feelings hurt and I am sorry for that. It is no reflection on him whatsoever,” Hader said. “This is a way that we can connect at a greater level to the community. On the pledge, we have a lot of veterans in our communities and I believe this can give us a way to meet our veterans and to acknowledge them for their service.”

The second idea presented by Hader would change the regular meeting schedule to allow for one of the regular weekly meetings each month to be held in the evening and in different locations across the county. Commissioners have historically met at 9 a.m. each Monday. Hader said this would give residents who work during the day an opportunity to be involved in their county government.

“I think we should start it in El Reno and then branch out from there,” said Jack Stewart, District 3 commissioner. “I like the idea of getting more of the community involved, though.”

No action was taken on changing the meeting schedule. Commissioners agreed to look further into the possibilities.

“I want us to be as accountable, accessible and transparent as possible to the community,” Hader said. “We want to be available to them. I know this could be a bit of a burden to the staff, but I think it is worth it to reach out to the community in an effort to have them to reach back.”

Commissioner David Anderson brought up the idea of recording the meeting to broadcast it on local cable channels or to stream it over the Internet.

“I would really like to see us broadcast video of our meetings much like the cities do,” Anderson said.

Hader agreed that video would be an excellent way to make county government more accessible to the community.

Hader also proposed adding an additional staff position to the commissioners department, which would be in addition to the current first and second deputy positions.

“I was generally proposing that we hire one more person under the commissioners and that we interview a wide range of persons with a broad range of qualities,” Hader said. “I would like someone to be able to take on some more of the duties in the commissioners offices.”

With the new position, Hader suggested that the two deputy positions also be restructured, creating a system where each commissioner has an assistant.

“The title of first deputy is more of a small county type of model,” Hader said. “I would like to start the process to change the mindset from just a secretarial position to an executive type role. I want this person to be capable of representing me in a meeting. These positions would be filled by someone whose job will be a liaison for the commissioners. I would want to do away with the first and second deputy positions and to give one position per commissioner.”

Hader said he does not want the perception to be that he does not value the current staff, but he also wants to cast a broad net in order to be able to have the opportunity to hire “the best and brightest,” whether they work for us now or not.

“You know we don’t even have a public information officer for the commissioners,” he said. “There are a lot of things that this would allow us to do. We could use these specialized positions to target specialized fields.”

No action was taken on the agenda item. Hader said he will be looking further into the idea over the coming weeks.

Mustang Police Lt. Kirk Dickerson honored by county

Police Officer Dickerson

Mustang News staff reports,

Members of the Canadian County Multi-Agency Special Operations Team gathered Jan. 14 for a special recognition luncheon. The special event, hosted by the Yukon Police Department and attended by the agency heads of the four county law enforcement agencies that make up the Special Operations Team, was to recognize Lt. Kirk Dickerson of the Mustang Police Department.

Dickerson, who for the past 12 years has served as the unit commander, will be leaving the specialized unit due to increased responsibilities with his primary assignment at the Mustang Police Department. Dickerson, who first joined the Special Operations Team in April of 1999, served in various capacities including team member (rifleman) and team leader before being named to the team commander position in 2002.

Dickerson, who has been with the Mustang Police Department since August 1995, is leaving the Special Operations Team in order to pursue other career opportunities at the police department, and acknowledged leaving the team wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“This is a bittersweet moment for me. I’ve spent the majority of my time with Mustang Police Department as a member and commander of the county’s Special Operations Team, and now I’m stepping down in hopes of attaining other career goals and opportunities at the police department,” said Dickerson.

Dickerson said that he considered leading the team comprised of sheriff’s deputies and police officers from Yukon, Mustang and El Reno police departments to have been a dream come true, and stated that it had been a tremendous honor to serve both on the team and with the professionals who make up the team.

During the event, Dickerson was presented with a plaque from the agency heads recognizing his contributions to the team. Additionally, the Special Operations Team members presented Dickerson with a .45 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol in appreciation of his years of service.

 

“None of the team’s successes would have been possible if it hadn’t been for the dedication and commitment of the team members or the support from the agency heads involved. It’s been an honor to serve all the communities of Canadian County as the team commander,” said Dickerson

Agency heads in attendance were Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards, and Police Chiefs John Corn, Chuck Foley and Kendall Brown of Yukon, Mustang and El Reno police departments, respectively.

“I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate the leadership and professionalism Lt. Dickerson has provided the county’s Tactical Team during his tenure as commander,” said Edwards.

COWRA to begin drilling test wells

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Mustang News staff reports,

The Central Oklahoma Water Resources Authority Friday set in motion plans to drill two test wells for brackish water.

Board members heard from engineer Carl Strickey, who said two of four locations considered would be drilled in search of a brackish water supply.

The sites to be drilled are located five and 15 miles, respectively, west of the Canadian and Oklahoma County borders, Strickey said.

The drilling of the test wells will cost COWRA member cities no more than $400,000 total, with Yukon and Mustang paying the most. COWRA will add $25,000 from its budget to the project.

Strickey said he will wait to hear back from in-state bidders and will give them until Jan. 30 to respond. If Oklahoma firms don’t respond before that deadline, COWRA will conduct a special meeting to approve moving in another direction.

In other business, COWRA heard a presentation from consultant Shawn Leopard regarding a proposed piece of legislation by Sen. Ron Justice. The proposal relates to environment and natural resources and the disposal of liquid waste and disposal through injection wells.

The proposed Senate bill is an amendment to existing legislation that would assess a fee of $50,000 per year per well. For a class five well like what is being looked at with COWRA, the amendment reduces the fees to a maximum of $5,000.

Drug, alcohol incidents top yearly PD reports

By Matt Montgomery

[email protected]

The Mustang Police Department recently released its 2014 yearly incidents report breakdown, showing drug and alcohol incidents topped the list.

 

This pie chart illustrates the breakdown of incidents the Mustang Police Department reported in 2014.

This pie chart illustrates the breakdown of incidents the Mustang Police Department reported in 2014.

There were a total of 317 drug and alcohol incidents in Mustang. Of that number, 146 were either possession of a controlled dangerous substance, larceny of a CDS or paraphernalia. However, there were more alcohol incidents, totaling 171. Those incidents ranged from DUIs to furnishing to a minor.

Late last year, the Mustang Police Department received a $25,000 grant from the highway safety administration in an effort to minimize impaired driving. In October, 2014, the Mustang Police Department increased its staff for nighttime and weekend patrols, netting a total of 59 DUIs, nine DUI-Drugs and 65 public intoxication incidents.

Not far behind drug and alcohol offenses were incidents which were theft-related. There were a total of 291 theft-related incidents in Mustang last year. Most of which were marked down as larcenies. There were a total of 122 larcenies, ranging from retail larcenies, larcenies of homes, cars, some over $500 and some under $500. There were a total of three robberies, nine first-degree burglaries and 40 second-degree burglaries.

Violent-related incidents were third on the list. There were a total of 128 violent type offenses. Three kidnappings, three first-degree rapes, two sodomies and three sexual batteries were reported. There were also several other sexual related incidents, including nine counts of lewd acts with a minor, two counts of lewd proposal and one count of sexual abuse by a caretaker. Topping the list were assault and batteries, with 55 incidents of non-aggressive assault and battery, two assault and batteries on a police officer, 15 aggressive assault and batteries and nine assault and batteries with a deadly weapon.

School board approves storm shelter design

By Matt Montgomery

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The Mustang school board approved a schematic design provided by MA+ Architecture for a storm shelter to be installed at the Mustang Education Center.

The vote was unanimous. The school board had only a couple of questions for MA+ Architecture representatives and they were clerical in nature.

This schematic provided by MA+ Architecture was accepted Mustang school board members during their meeting earlier this week.

This schematic provided by MA+ Architecture was accepted Mustang school board members during their meeting earlier this week.

Questions were asked regarding the shelter’s capacity and rating. Heath Tate, an architect with MA+, told school board members the shelter will house about 250 students. He said that number was based on the ICC 500 Storm Shelter Building Code requirements, based on the FEMA 361 guidelines.

The school board also inquired what rating the shelter provides. In the case of a tornado, boasting 250 mph winds, the shelter will hold up against winds and hail at that speed.

“The shelter will be designed for ground wind speeds up to 250 mph in accordance with FEMA 361 and ICC 500,” Tate said.  “These are the maximum expected ground wind speeds even from an F5 tornado and is the recommended design wind speed for tornado shelters.”

It wasn’t specified if the walls of the shelter will protect students against debris such as flying trees, cars and other various objects known to take flight during a tornado. An EF-5 tornado, such as the ones which killed residents near El Reno and Moore in 2013, produce winds of more than 250 mph.

By approving this discussion item, the Mustang school board accepts MA+ Architects’ design and agrees for them to move forward with the design development phase for the storm shelter. It wasn’t specified as to when the shelter will be installed.

Mustang Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel, PhD, said the school board is committed to putting shelters in Mustang schools.

“Our Board is committed to the construction of shelters for every school in the district that is built from this point forward,” he said.  ”Our newest schools; Prairie View and Canyon Ridge, were constructed with FEMA rated shelters inside of the school.  We are assessing our HS now to determine the best method to fortify areas inside the school.”

He also added how the school district has allocated bond money from its most recent bond election.

“The recent bond election called for $1 million to go toward storm shelter construction at the MEC and the HS campuses,” McDaniel said. “We are projecting roughly 40 percent of that going toward the MEC and 60 percent toward fortification of the HS campus.  We anticipate completion of both projects sometime next school year.”

 

Troops return to Mustang from tour of duty in Afghanistan

About 70 soldiers returned home Friday to the Army National Guard armory in Mustang, after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. They were welcomed home by their families and friends, along with elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Sens. Ron Justice and James Lankford, as well as Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney and Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman. See the full story of what these soldiers went through and what their next steps are, in next Thursday’s edition of the Mustang News.

Matt Montgomery/Mustang News About 70 soldiers returned to the Mustang armory Friday morning, after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. They were welcomed by families, friends, dignitaries and elected officials.

Matt Montgomery/Mustang News
About 70 soldiers returned to the Mustang armory Friday morning, after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. They were welcomed by families, friends, dignitaries and elected officials.

Matt Montgomery/Mustang News Spec. Justin Harper holds his baby girl, Paisley. Harper reunited with his daughter and family after returning home from Afghanistan Friday to the Mustang armory. Harper and his family are from Rush Springs.
Matt Montgomery/Mustang News
Spec. Justin Harper holds his baby girl, Paisley. Harper reunited with his daughter and family after returning home from Afghanistan Friday to the Mustang armory. Harper and his family are from Rush Springs.

 

Troops to return home Friday from Afghanistan

By Matt Montgomery

[email protected]

Photo courtesy of Kayla Christopher About 70 troops will return home to Mustang from Afghanistan at 10 a.m., Friday at the Army National Guard armory.

Photo courtesy of Kayla Christopher
About 70 troops will return home to Mustang from Afghanistan at 10 a.m., Friday at the Army National Guard armory.

When troops return home from active duty with the military, families, community members and friends express joy and excitement. Often times, their arrival back to the states is kept quiet until the last minute, but it was announced Monday that more than 70 troops, stationed at the National Guard headquarters in Mustang, will return home Friday.

Colonel Mike Chase, commander of the 45th Field Artillery Brigade in Mustang, said the troops, who recently returned to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, will make their way to Mustang.

Members of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery, 45th Field Artillery Brigade, Oklahoma Army National Guard, are returning from deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The event will take place at 10 a.m., Friday at the Mustang Armed Forces Reserve Center. The armory is located at 420 South Cedar Springs Lane. Cedar Springs Lane is located on the south side of S.H. 152, between Morgan Road and Sara Road.

Battery B mobilized in May with about 70 Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldiers to include members of Battery B, 171st Target Acquisition Battery (TAB).

The soldiers were tasked to provide artillery fire support to coalition forces using the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), according to military reports. “While deployed, they conducted a number of missions to include force protection and operation of all entry control points. Battery B later transitioned to Kabul, Afghanistan, to provide base defense operations for U.S. Air Force Advisors responsible for training and developing a professional, capable and sustainable Afghan Air Force,” information provided by the Guard said. Battery B is the last Oklahoma Army National Guard unit deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mustang High School graduate Samantha Spears knows what it’s like to return home from active duty in Afghanistan as she did in 2012.

Spears, a second Lieutenant with the Army National Guard, completed her training in February 2011 and landed in Afghanistan in July of the same year. Spears was stationed at Bagram Airfield in the mountains of Afghanistan.

When she returned home in March 2012, Spears said she had to adjust to civilian life and initially had some difficulty doing that.

“I remember distinctively I had to buy a new car and it was hard because it was almost like flashbacks,” Spears said. “Every time we would go around the base, if it was an area where a lot of the locals worked, they would swarm the truck, looking for handouts, sodas and stuff. All the car salesmen came out, swarmed the truck and I had to leave.”

Spears also said the first time she heard a tornado siren it brought back memories of hearing sirens at the airbase.

But, there were also moments of pleasure for Spears as she got to return home to the welcomed sight of her five-year-old son and husband.