The Mustang News prides itself on delivering the most comprehensive news coverage available for residents.

for the week of September 23-30

 

Council drills plan to tighten rules on drilling

 

blue01_next.gifBy Fawn Porter/The Mustang News

 

A Mustang ordinance allowing mining, quarrying and earth extraction to take place in agriculturally zoned districts wasn’t buried by the Mustang City Council Tuesday night when they voted three to two to allow the ordinance to remain.

The Council was asked to decide whether mining, quarrying and earth extraction should be limited to districts zoned I-3, or heavy industrial.

The issue of dirt mining, or extraction, garnered attention this summer when Mustang resident Louis Krivanek twice approached the Mustang Board of Adjustments for a use permit to mine red select (clay) from his property. The board twice denied his request.

The board said dirt mining was not appropriate in a city targeted as a bedroom community with a great deal of residential growth.

City Manager David Cockrell cautioned the Council to be careful when deciding on possible zoning changes.

“As always, I caution the Council, when you take a use out of a zoning category, which is your right to do, there could be ramifications,” he said.

Mining, quarrying and earth extraction is not permitted by right — a property owner is not allowed to mine without permission — in any zoned area. All requests for this type of work must first come to the board of adjustments for review.

However, city officials said if ordinances were changed that did not have language concerning these uses anywhere in code, anyone in any zoned district could come before the board and ask for a special use permit.

If the ordinance was changed and added to I-3 zoning regulations, those wishing to mine dirt in agricultural areas would have to come before the City Council and ask that their property to be mined be rezoned to I-3. The Council is the only governing body that can grant rezoning permits.

Councilman Darrell Noblitt said he didn’t think dirt mining was any dirtier than plowing.

Coeta Morrel, planning and zoning commissioner, said she did not feel the ordinances should be changed.

“I don’t feel it’s necessary … every time we turn around we are changing ordinances … that’s the way our codes read, and I don’t see any reason to change it,” she said.

However, another planning commissioner, Sam Curatola, said he thought the ordinance change would clean up the language and simplify the rules.

The Council opted not to change the ordinances with Councilwomen Wendy Wilkerson, Linda Hagan and Noblitt voting to keep ordinances the way they are and Councilman Scott Gibson, who made the motion to change the language, and Councilwoman Kathleen Moon, who seconded the motion, voting in favor of the change. Mayor Chad McDowell did not vote.

In other action, the City Council voted to accept bids for the southwest 59th Street water line project. Bids came in from M.L Young Construction, Downy Construction, LLC and Cimarron. The Council also voted to award the bid to M.L. Young Construction, the low bidder. The company bid just over $1 million.

City engineer Don Vick said the project would allow for looping of the city’s water lines so as not to tax the system, which is almost at capacity.

Also, local commercial developer Cathy Jo See approached the Council with a compromise for the recently debated issue of real estate open house signs.

Her compromise called for the purchasing of uniform signs reading: “Welcome to Mustang, City with a Vision. Open house this way.” The sign would point into a development where open houses were being held. Individual real estate signs, such as Marolyn Pryor or Century 21, would be in the yards of the open houses.

See said, as a developer, demographics were important in deciding where to build. And, she added, if Mustang is seeking to grow and attract businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters, home improvement stores, driving ranges, etc — all of which the community said they wanted to see come into Mustang — the city would have to have strong demographics showing it could support those kind of businesses. One way those demographics would improve, See said, would be by attracting more residents through open houses.

In other business, the Mustang City Council voted to:

  • Direct city staff to bring back ordinances amending current codes regarding fencing and screening around oil or gas well sites;
  • Direct city staff to provide more training for Council members, boards of adjustment members and planning commissioners. However, training will not be required or mandatory, and
  • Direct staff to bring back an ordinance repealing the current city ordinance making car keys left in an unattended vehicle a misdemeanor offense.

 

 

After-school plan thrown grant lifeline

 

Applause filled the City Council chambers Tuesday night as Assistant Superintendent Belinda Rogers told the Council that a grant had been secured to save a middle school after-school program.

The fate of the after-school program seemed bleak after a federal grant that had funded it ran out in May. The program was a Title V program for 12-, 13- and 14-years-olds. After the City Council chose not to fund the program directly, Mayor Chad McDowell attempted to raise the estimated $50,000 a year needed to pay for the program and secured about $5,800 from local churches.

In a Sept. 7 Council meeting, the City Council voted 5 to 1 to decline accepting those donations.

Rogers’ announcement Tuesday put the issue to rest for the next five years.

The Project Teams (Tutoring, Enrichment and Assisting Mustang Students) High Challenge grant is a five-year, $50,000 grant from the Oklahoma Department of Education.

Working together, school and city staff found themselved pressed for time to make their bid for the grant as they received the application Aug. 13 and had to submit it by Aug. 31.

“Belinda Rogers coordinated the application,” Springer said. “She worked with Dr. Rhonda White (special programs director) and Debbie Beel (director of special services) from the school system. We also met with (city manager) David Cockrell, and we talked to him about trying to maintain a collaboration with the city in some way to be able to meet the needs of the kids.”

Springer said they determined a program could be provided three days a week at both middle schools — Mustang North Middle School and Mustang Middle School — and the fourth day, Thursday, students would go to the community center.

“Mr. Cockrell felt pretty good about that,” Springer said. “We would send some of our employees and the grant to the community center to work with (Cockrell’s) employees to supervise the children and add a recreational component in the program.”

And as the Aug. 31 deadline date approached, Springer said Rogers, Beel and White hand delivered the grant application to the state Department of Education.

“Last Thursday, at the state Board of Education meeting, Dr. Mary Merritt, assistant superintendent for at-risk students, congratulated me — saying Mustang schools had been awarded the grant,” Springer said.

Merritt said the department of education was “thrilled to death” they could provide grants this year, especially since they haven’t had any money to do so in the last three years.

“We looked for whether or not a district had certain needs,” Merritt said. “Mustang has, for some time, recognized the need for alternative education.”

Merritt said grant readers, who themselves came from alternative education programs, determined successful grant  recipients would have to show a need for an at-risk program.

Grant readers also, Merritt said, looked for whether the school district could effectively serve that target population.

Merritt said although the grant is for $50,000 a year for five years, the final two years carry stipulations.

“In the final two years, the grant goes to half and then a fourth,” she said, unless the program has been “validated.”

Validation is determined by an evaluation showing the program is successful including students’ grades are going up; there is consistent attendance; and other needs of the students are being met.

If a program is validated, full funding will be awarded for all five years.

Springer said, with this grant, the program would be ran “a little differently” than the Extreme Teen program that had previously been in place.

“We will be looking for students academically at risk,” he said. “It will have a little more of an academic component to it.”

He added there would be a yet-to-be developed process to apply for the program and probably a school counselor and building principals will designate students for the program.

Rogers said the grant would allow for about 30 students at each middle school to be in the program.

Criteria will be introduced into the Project Teams program, including reading, mentoring, promotion of healthy lifestyles, art and physical recreation, Rogers said.

Advocates of the after-school program echoed school officials’ enthusiasm.

Cathy Jo See, who was a former mentor of the Extreme Teen program, said she was “tickled pink” upon learning the school district had received the funds to continue this program.

“I cried when I found out,” she said. “I hope I can continue mentoring with the program and try to keep positive image projection at the forefront.”

She said she thinks the program is proactive, not reactive, and will be a stepping stone in prevention.

Springer said he was hesitant about publicizing the grant because all 540 school districts were eligible to apply and only five grants were awarded.

“We believe we are pretty good folks,” he said. “But that’s really a testament to how well our people planned this and the value of the program. It fits perfectly into our school improvement plan, remediating students who need help to be credentialled. This is going to be great.”

 

 

 

 

 


 

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