Join our Director, Carolyn Stager, as she visits cities and towns across Oklahoma
|Posted on November 12, 2013 at 4:15 PM|
The post office for Mounds was established in 1895 and originally named Posey, for the Creek poet Alexander Posey, who lived in Eufaula. In 1898, the town was moved five miles southwest and renamed Mounds for twin hills that were nearby. By 1901, the St. Louis, Oklahoma and Southern Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) built a track through Mounds, and the town became an important cattle shipping point. Mounds incorporated as a city in that same year. The discovery of oil in the Glenn Pool field in 1905 turned Mounds into a shipping point for crude oil instead of cattle.
At the end of August, Executive Director Carolyn Stager continued her goodwill visits with Missy Dean, Director of Governmental Relations, to the town of Mounds where they had the privilege of meeting with Debbie Reavis, city clerk for the town of Mounds. She has been employed by the city for 8 years and it was obvious how much she cares for the community she now calls home.
Reavis indicated that like most communities of their size, they would like to have more retail establishments but are still happy with the ones that are in town. For example, they have a gas station and a Dollar General Store that is conveniently located close to the Senior Citizen’s Center allowing residents to walk to the store for needed items.
The town of Mounds gets its water supply from the rural water district nearby. Mounds does operate a school district that has a student population of approximately 1200.
While there are currently 2 vacancies on the town council, Reavis and others continue to serve Mounds by wearing several hats. Reavis is the city clerk and the deputy court clerk while her co-worker, Amanda Miller serves as the court clerk and deputy town clerk. The police department consists of 3 paid officers including a school reserve officer. There are 5 members that serve on the volunteer fire department.
Reavis also let Stager know that she has utilized the OML inquiry program and found it to be a valuable tool for a community of their size. Since Stager’s visit, there have been some staffing changes at Mound’s city hall — we wish them all the best!
Sapulpa was named after Chief James Sapulpa, the area’s first permanent settler, who was a full-blood Lower Creek Indian of the Kasihta Tribe from Osocheetown, Alabama. In about 1850, he established a trading post near the meeting of Polecat and Rock creeks (about one mile (1.6 km) southeast of present-day downtown Sapulpa). When the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (later known as the Frisco railroad) built a spur to this area in 1886, it was known as Sapulpa Station. Sapulpa post office was chartered July 1, 1889. The town was incorporated March 31, 1898. In 1898, the Sapulpa Pressed Brick was established, followed in a few years by the Sapulpa Brick Company. This began the clay products industry. The founding of Premium Glass Company in 1912 marked Sapulpa’s entry to glass manufacturing. Premium Glass was absorbed into Liberty Glass Company in 1918. Other glass producers in the city were Bartlett-Collins Glass Company, Schram Glass Company, and Sunflower Glass Company. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History, Sapulpa became known as “The Crystal City of the Southwest.” Sapulpa is also the home of Frankoma Pottery.
Executive Director hit the road again for her goodwill visits but this time was accompanied by Missy Dean, OML Director of Governmental Affairs. Their first stop was in the city of Sapulpa where they met with City Manager Tom DeArman and Economic Development Director Ted Fisher who is also a former state senator. Sapulpa is fortunate to have the President of the State Senate as a resident. Senate Pro Tempore Brian Bingman is also a former councilmember for the city of Sapulpa.
The retail industry in Sapulpa consists of many great downtown shops, two Quick Trip super stores as well as other establishments. The popular Frankhoma Pottery was a long-time company in Sapulpa but has since closed its doors.
Sapulpa welcomes any and all new retail establishments to town; however, it seems what they do best and what they are known for is an industrial town and they have decided to focus on this strength. When one drives through town the 5 industrial parks that are spread throughout the town, certainly support their choice and success in doing so.
Ground was broken on a 150 acre industrial park funded by a federal EDA grant, ODOT Industrial Access funds and a Federal Rail Safety grant administered by ODOT. In kind equipment and labor served to match those funds. The new rail crossing provides a safer and more accessible roadway than the old crossing. INCOG is the administrator of EDA grant. The project is a partnership with Tulsa County, ODOT and EDA.
The newest industrial park currently has four tenants, one of which is Helmerich & Payne, Inc which is also known to be the largest drilling operation in the country. At one time, Helmerick had were considering expanding in Texas due to a tax issue. Luckily, they were able to work with the State of Oklahoma to resolve these issues allowing Helmerich to remain part of the Sapulpa business community. Another industrial partner in Sapulpa is the Verallia North America glass plant where 85% of the Anheuser- Busch bottles are manufactured.
Sapulpa has been able to secure several grants and when asked if he had a grant writer assisting in this matter, Fisher replied that his parks director has been doing a great job writing grant applications for them over the past 17 years. In doing so, Sapulpa has been awarded $2.4 million due to his hard work in this area. The city was also able to get funding for a portion of the new industrial park from EDA funds acquired from a recent ice storm. The funding included an 80/20 match of funds, requiring Sapulpa to come up with 20% for the project.
Sapulpa’s hotel/motel tax funds their economic development department as well as 18.75% going to parks and 18.75% going to their local chamber for which they have a great relationship.
The visit was informative and lunch was delicious. Stager is looking forward to another great time in Sapulpa when she and others make another visit for the next district dinner meeting on October 24th.
The Boswell area was one of the Choctaw Nation’s first and most important settlements. A Presbyterian missionary station was founded at Mayhew, Indian Territory, three miles north of present-day Boswell in the 1840’s. It soon became a government center as well as seat of civilization. Mayhew became the administrative and judicial capital of the Pushmataha District, one of three administrative super-regions comprising the Choctaw Nation. A U.S. Post Office was established at Mayhew, Indian Territory, on Feb. 5. 1845 and operated until Sept. 30, 1902. It then moved two miles south to Boswell, which was then a new townsite along the new railroad, and changed the name to Boswell. The town was named for AMity V. Boswell, who surveyed the railroad right-of-way.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager continues her journey to visit with all OML member cities and towns. This month she visited the town of Boswell and met with city clerk Nyree Burris who has been with the city for one and half years. Burris stated the council seems to have a good working relationship which has been an asset for the town.Linda Van Sickle, who handles the public works authority, and Angela Goodwin, court clerk, were also in the office and were glad that Stager had chosen to visit. Ms. Van Sickle has been with the city for over five years and has taken advantage of the resources that her OML membership provides her.
Mayor Buck Eastwood stopped by to say hello and had a few stories of his own to share with Stager.
Burris’ husband also works for the city as the police chief. He is assisted in his duties with one part-time officer. The fire department is operated by 17 volunteers.
Boswell receives their water from a rural water source. According to Burris, Boswell’s main issue at the moment is getting their water well fixed and are working on a grant to fund this project.
The town also has its own school district with grades kindergarten through twelfth. The students enjoy being involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America) but also participate in sports such as basketball, softball and baseball.
There is also a youth center in town where children are welcome to take a variety of classes including karate and Zumba. Retail establishments in town include Pierce’s Convenience Store and a Dollar General Store that has been open since 2010.
Burris was in the process of preparing for a craft fair taking place the upcoming weekend in Antlers. She also suggested Stager return next June when they have their annual homecoming celebrations, which include a parade, street dancing, and lots of other fun activities.
Colbert was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin Colbert of the Colbert family, descendants of a Scottish family who had intermarried into the Chickasaw Nation. The establishment of Fort Washita in 1844 and Armstrong Academy in 1850 preceded Colbert’s founding. A post office was established with Walter D. Collins as postmaster on Nov. 17, 1853. In 1853 Colbert secured permission from the tribe to run a ferry across the Red River to help provide passage for travelers and settlers. The Colbert’s Ferry landing site is on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of his importance to the town’s early history, it was named for him.
OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager started her latest goodwill tour by making a stop in Durant and having lunch with city manager Jim Dunnegan. While catching up on what was the latest news for Durant, Dunnegan informed Stager that the city, in partnership with the Choctaw Nation, sent in a bid to host the 2014 CMAO summer conference. The tribe has been a valuable partner with Durant and they are hopeful they will win the bid, allowing the city the opportunity to showcase the many wonderful attributes of Durant.
Stager proceeded to the town of Colbert where she met with office manager Loretta Gustavson. When Stager arrived at city hall she noticed how nice everything looked and was soon informed that it was “cleaning day” for them.
At the time of Stager’s visit, the town clerk, Annie Harrell, who is 70 years young, was at the senior citizens center preparing and serving lunch. Everyone, not just seniors, is welcome to enjoy lunch at the center, as do many of the town hall employees. The center is self-funded and asks for donations from those who can afford to pay. They serve approximately 60 lunches every day. The city leases the building to the organization with a 99-year lease at $1 per year. They receive donations from several entities such as Panera Bread, located in Sherman, TX, that provides bread and pastries. Another donor is the local food bank.
The largest generator of sales tax revenue for the city is the local Dollar General Store, which is the case for many small communities. There are also several other small businesses located in Colbert that contribute to the sales taxes generated. Although the town does have a Main Street, most activity is on Moore and Franklin Streets.
The city employs about 20 people. They have a volunteer fire department with 23 active members. The city also has a staff of six in the EMS department and a total of seven employees in the Public Utility Authority with two of those individuals working part time. The police chief has two officers to assist within his department.
The town has an annual heritage day festival hosted by the Colbert Chamber of Commerce. Another event the community enjoys is the annual Christmas parade.
Currently, Colbert is under a DEQ consent order because of deficiencies of their lagoon. The city received a $300,000 CDBG grant to assist in this matter, but is concerned that the federal shutdown may affect the process as they are in the financing stages. The city also had a water crisis when one of their pumps went out — OWRB came to assist Colbert’s utilities department in returning water levels to normal. This action was much appreciated and commendable on the part of the OWRB.
Loretta was also very complimentary of the OML inquiry staff. She’s contacted Kelly Danner, OML Inquiry Specialist, on several occasions and was pleased to be assisted so efficiently by her. She also was pleased to be able to attend the OML meeting that took place in the Kiamichi Center. Loretta said she was able to get a lot of questions answered and grateful OML had chosen to have this meeting close by as it’s difficult for them to come to Oklahoma City for these types of meetings. She found the information valuable and worth her time to be there.
When the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway built a line through the Choctaw Nation in 1872, the community of Cale was established on the east side of the tracks. It was named after the railroad official George W. Cale. On Nov. 30, 1889, the first post office was established with John C. Womack as postmaster. Ten years later Dr. John A. Sterrett, a Troy, Ohio, extrepreneur and member of the Choctaw Townsite Commission, and Butler S. Smiser commissioned a survey for a townsite. In 1889, the town was christened Sterrett but Kay railraod officials refused to accept the name change, and referred to the site as Cale Switch or Cale. The conflict continued until 1910, when the town accepted the name of Calera as a compromise.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager continued her goodwill visits in the charming town of Calera. She met with Carmen Young, clerk/treasurer and Deborah Townsend, court clerk, who has been with the city for several years.
Young told Stager that because of the town’s location, it has experienced growth due to the activities of the Choctaw tribe. The local Dollar General Store is the largest generator of sales tax revenue. Five water wells currently supply the town with its water needs.
The police department consists of seven officers and the chief and the fire department has 25 volunteers ready to go to work when needed. The Town of Calera operates its own school district that includes grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The students also come from the surrounding rural areas. They are excited about the new gymnasium currently under construction.
Looks like community service runs in the new mayor’s family since new board member Eric Pyle is the son of Choctaw Chief Gregory Pyle. Boardmember Pyle and new Mayor Michael Hearon are ambitious and ready to move this town forward.
Pyle and Hearon, as well as Young and Townsend, have made plans to attend the New Officers Institute in December. They also plan to introduce more technology into the town’s systems — we can’t wait to see what they accomplish.
In 1887, the Choctaw, Coal and Railway was incorporated by a group of Pennsylvania coal operators and financiers. A man who played a significant role in the development of Pittsburg County and Hartshorne was James Jackson “JJ” McAlester. He was born in Arkansas and was a captain in the Confederate Army. The opening of the Coal fields in Pittsburg County is a million dollar success story. It drew hundreds of immigrants from Europe and across the United States. Included in this group was a very inquisitive businessman from Pennsylvania named “Dr. Hartshorne.” By 1889, Charles Hartshorne had gained the presidency of the company, and was extending tracks eastward into Indian Territory, specifically, Hartshorne. The track reached Wister by 1890. The local post office was opened that year. The town was incorporated and named Hartshorne by order of the District Court, Central District, Indian Territory on March 1, 1900. Conflicting data lists incorporation as 1897. Still other documents point to 1889 as the official starting point for the town. Whatever the date, with the development of the railroad and mines, Hartshorne sprang and became a prominent factor in Gaines County and the Choctaw Nation.
As Executive Director Carolyn Stager drove into the town of Hartshorne, she immediately noticed the banner across Main Street that read Hard Times Festival, which seemed like an odd title for a celebration. Stager soon learned what was really going on that weekend.
According to Councilmember Teresa Farris, what began as a simple school project has grown over the years into a weekend festival for not only Hartshorne but the surrounding communities as well. Students were assigned the task of dealing with what an individual must endure when facing “hard times.” They had to sleep in cardboard boxes, beg for food — basically figure out how to survive each day without the benefit of any worldly possessions. The town emulated what it would have been like during the depression. Coffee sold for five cents, hot dogs for ten cents and people dressed in clothing from that era to give the full effect. The festival is now put on by the chamber and has been going strong for more than six years. As it’s grown so have the activities that are offered. They have craft booths, face painting, a dunk tank, cake walks and many other activities for those that attend.
While in town Stager also met with Dawn Dunkin, the town clerk and Shirley Day, the town treasurer. Hartshorne also has a Dollar Store and a locally-owned and operated grocery store that are the largest generators of sales tax revenue in the town. The owners of the grocery store also own a water bottling company located in Hartshorne’s industrial park.
The town’s police department employs four officers and its chief. The fire department is maintained by sixteen volunteers. Hartshorne also has its own school district that has grades Pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.
Unique to Hartshorne is the Saints Cyril and Methodius Russian Orthodox Church which remains a landmark today. This church replaced an earlier 1897 building that was constructed by Russian and other eastern European immigrants.
One of Hartshorne’s natives is Warren Spahn, a left-handed pitcher and major league baseball player who was inducted into the sports hall of fame. Each year, an award in his name is given to the most outstanding MLB “lefty.”
The Town of Bennington originated in 1853 when Presbyterian minister A. G. Lansing established Mount Pleasant Mission Station near present Matoy in the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. By 1855 Lansing left the operation to Rev. Charles C. Copeland, and the mission was moved south several miles to escape unhealthy conditions of its original location. Copeland named this second location Bennington Mission Station, in honor of a town near his home in Vermont. In 1873 a post office was established, then disbanded in 1878, and reestablished in 1884. In 1902, the Arkansas and Choctaw Railway built a line which was two miles from Bennington so some of the buildings were dragged down to the railroad line, where a new town was established in 1903.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager made a spontaneous visit to Bennington where she met with clerk Carol Moss who has been with the town for over 20 years.
The old town hall was downtown but is now located with the water department. The building seems fairly new and looks to have been recently remodeled.
Bennington has its own school system that educates kindergarten through 12th grade for all students in the surrounding areas and to the county line. Bennington also has a Choctaw head start program in the area.
The town also has Kirk’s Gun Repair Shop and two locally owned and operated grocery stores. They have a volunteer fire department and the police department consists of the chief and two part time officers.
At this time the town receives its water supply from rural water district 7. Moss also reported they are in need a new well and well head. They are in the process of obtaining a loan from Rural Development in Atoka.
The town’s all female council seems to have made a positive impact on Bennington which was confirmed by all of them being reelected. We will continue to watch Bennington and the progress it is making.
|Posted on September 3, 2013 at 10:50 AM|
The name Sallisaw derives from the French salaison, which means salt provisions. The French, who hunted in the area long before the town was founded, called Sallisaw Creek “Salaiseau” because hunters salted bison meat there.English naturalist Thomas Nuttall may have been the first to record the name “Salaiseau” in the journal of his 1819 travels in the rea, then part of Arkansas. The organized settlement can be traced to 1887-1888 when Argyle Quesenbury, one of the first white men to settle in the vicinity, and Will Watie Wheeler, collateral descendent of Cherokee Confederate leader Stand Watie laid out lots for a town one-half mile square. The mostly Cherokee town was not incorporated until 1898 when William E. Whitsett, Jr., was elected mayor.
Director Stager continued her goodwill tour by taking a trip to Sallisaw. There she visited city manager Bill Baker and Debbie Keith, Grants Administrator. Mr. Baker has been with Sallisaw for approximately 10 years after previous employment as the assistant city manager in Lawton, while Ms. Keith has been working for the city for four years. As grants administrator she is currently working to secure funding for a school resource officer. She is also hoping that she can convince the Department of Commerce to convert street lights to LED.
Several good things are happening in Sallisaw. Recently, the voters passed a half cent sales tax to help fund a sports complex. The city plans to build the complex on a 100 acre piece of land that they already own. The first phase will include four softball and four baseball fields with walking trails to be built as well.
Additionally, the citizens of Sallisaw passed a millage for a new middle school to be built next to the high school. The existing middle school is located in the downtown area and has major structural concerns.
Sallisaw owns their water and utilities as well as being the first in the state to own their own telephone, internet and cable systems. Sallisaw officials are hopeful that what they have to offer will draw more businesses to locate in the city. Currently, Wal-Mart is their largest generator of sales tax revenue.
A new locally owned radio station is now broadcasting from Sallisaw and covers all of Sequoyah County. Although a new fitness center just opened in town, Sallisaw is still ranked as one of the top three Oklahoma cities with the highest unemployment rate. With the closing of the Whirlpool plant in Ft. Smith, many of Sallisaw’s residents also found themselves laid off from work.
Sallisaw has a unionized police force and a fire department with two paid fire fighters and 18 volunteers. They also own a municipal airport that supports approximately 200 flights per month. This airport also operates a flight school for the city.
When the State of Oklahoma decided to close Brushy Lake State Park, the city of Sallisaw stepped in and took over managing the Park which is located in the Cookson Hills and offers camping, fishing and boating. Tent and RV camping are available for guest to utilize while they enjoy the lake. Park Manager Mike Hancock stayed on after the city took over, which worked out well for all. The city parks department assists with the maintenance of the park as well.
Whether you want to stay overnight at Bushy Lake, do some shopping at the local stores, go to the local rodeo or have a bite at the Italian restaurant in town, there’s always something of interest for visitors to enjoy.
In 1895 - 1896, the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (later owned by the Kansas City Southern Railroad) established a station at the present site of Spiro, which it connected directly to Fort Smith, Arkansas. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, this attracted residents from the nearby town of Skullyville and soon made Spiro the principal town in this area.
The Spiro post office was created in 1898. There are several reasons given for its name. One claims that Spiro was the maiden name of the first postmistress. Another claims it was the maiden name of the mother of a Fort Smith banker. Yet another claims it was named for the father-in-law of a Fort Smith banker.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with Mayor Ronnie Parent and Vicki Cox, clerk treasurer. Stager learned that the town of Spiro owns its water and utilities and has a lake south of town for their water supply. The town also owns and operates Ward Lake which has a bike/pedestrian trail that goes around the lake.
While at city hall, Stager met Deputy Clerk Jackie Knobelsdorfl and Billing Clerk Shannon Kennedy. The town also employs four full time police officers and the fire department is staffed by 15 volunteer fire fighters. Their current ISO rating is 4.
An issue for Spiro is that since they are an Emergency Order of Detention (EOD) city, if an individual is determined to have mental issues and needs further treatment, it is Spiro’s responsibility to take that person to a mental facility and stay with him/her until he/she has been committed or kept by the facility. If they don’t stay with the individual, they will automatically send the person back with the officer to Spiro. The transfer takes quite a long time and with the limited number of officers in the department, town officials feel their citizens are too often left unprotected. This issue is becoming more of a concern for cities and towns throughout the state.
Spiro is also currently under a DEQ consent order and working to remedy the issues as is the case for many Oklahoma cities and towns. As with most towns, there are improvements that should be made but overall Spiro seemed to be prospering. Mayor Parent has been meeting with several mayors in his area of the state to discuss these same concerns with DEQ.
There are several business within city limits including, Mazzio’s, Sonic, Family Dollar, Dollar General, a Mexican restaurant, a pharmacy, 4 convenience stores, 4 insurance agencies, a nursing home, family medical clinic, funeral home, county commissioner’s office, law office and an accounting firm. They also have Marvin’s Food Stores, which is currently the largest sales tax revenue contributor.
Stager enjoyed her time in Spiro, visiting with Mayor Parent, whom she came to know as an intelligent man with a lot of down home charm.
The Post Office Service designated a Wister post office on June 30, 1890. The town is a namesake of Gutman G. Wister, an official of the now defunct Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad. Wister is also the location of a popular Army Corps of Engineers lake with same name. Crappie, Bass and Catfish are the most frequently sought fish species in lake. Along with fishing, Wister Lake also offers a wide variety of tourist activities like camping, waterskiing and swimming.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager continued her goodwill journey to Wister, Oklahoma where she met with town officials. As Stager drove through town, she was struck by the care that the town and its residents take to maintain streets and public areas. Everything looked very clean and nicely maintained.
The town typically employs a town administrator along with four other employees to manage its affairs. The town also employees three full time and two part time police officers with 14 volunteer fire fighters.
The town was able to secure a grant to cover a $406,000 sewer project to build a new lagoon for the town. They are not under any consent orders by DEQ. They have also received several grants from the Department of Commerce.
Nine new retail businesses have opened in town with the local Dollar General store being the largest contributor to sales tax revenue.
Stager’s impression of Wister was that it’s a town with caring citizens, where the 1,100 residents enjoy a rich quality of life.
|Posted on July 29, 2013 at 5:05 AM|
Covington, located in Garfield County, was part of the Cherokee Outlet which was opened by the run of 1893. The town is named for John Covington, a local homesteader and townsite investor. The earliest postal designation was for Tripp which was changed to Covington in February 1903. Two places in the town are on the Register of Historic Places. The Kimmell Barn (also called the Freese barn) was built in 1906 by Sam Kimmell in the German bank barn style. It is constructed of native Oklahoma sandstone, with used wood purchased from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and has been on the National Register since 1984. The R.E. Hoy No. 1 Oil Well, constructed by Sinclair Oil & Refining Corporation in September 1916, has been listed on the National Register since 1986. The Hoy sand was the first successful sand of the Garber-Covington oil field, and the first well to be drilled with the advice of a geologist.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager visited Covington where she met with Sondra Easterly, the town clerk. Although that may be her title, the hats she actually wears are many, as is the case with many small towns like Covington. Sondra’s been with the city since 1991, her husband is from Covington and her father retired from the military to settle in Covington to be close to their parents.
The senior center, on Main Street across from city hall, is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to noon. This facility is partially funded by local donations and the Northern Oklahoma Development Authority (NODA).
The primary source of sales tax revenue for the town is the restaurants including the restaurant that is in the “sale” barn. The other food establishments include the Dairy Sweet, the Curbside Grill which is basically a very small trailer that sells ice cream, snow cones and burgers, and the General Store. Other businesses located in Covington include Miller Packing, Earnheart Oil, and Fix-it Tire.
Although Covington is still one of the small communities that has a local post office, the hours have been reduced and it now does not open until 1 p.m. This means a shorter amount of time for the clerk to get the town’s mail processed in a given day.
One of their biggest challenges is keeping utility rates low enough for their citizens, many of whom are elderly and on fixed incomes. The city purchases their water through Salt Fork Water Authority. The services the town provides their citizens include water, sewer, gas and trash.
Easterly stated that she is very grateful for the assistance OML has provided them in the past with regards to a DEQ problem; but even now they still struggle with DEQ. One of the areas she mentioned was a lab test they were having done quarterly, which cost $700. They have since discovered it only needs to be performed once a year. Their monthly water sample is performed by Accurate labs out of Stillwater, OK at a cost of $35 per month.
While visiting with Easterly, Stager learned that earlier that morning there had been a crop duster crash near the air strip. The airplane was destroyed, but the pilot escaped without major injury. Easterly is one of the volunteer firefighters and was called out to the accident. Covington has 14 volunteer firefights who also serve as EMTs and first responders.
As Stager was ending her meeting with Sondra, the next appointment on her calendar was from MESO who would be conducting a random drug test. Easterly is proud to be part of Covington and feels the best part is the neighbor helping neighbor aspect of her town.
Located in Bryan County, Bokchito is 13 miles east of Durant. The area around Bokchito, a Choctaw word meaning “big creek,” was occupied by Choctaw Nation members following their removal from their homesteads in the Southeastern U.S. Armstrong Academy was founded in 1844, about two miles north of the town. On April 27, 1901, Bokchito was incorporated as a part of the Choctaw Nation.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with Melissa Scott, Town Clerk/Treasurer for Bokchito. Scott has lived in Bokchito since 1989 and wears many hats – some of which include, clerk, treasurer, court clerk, fire chief, EMS director and front desk manager. There is one other individual employed by the town who serves as the utility clerk, receptionist, and anything else as needed.
Bokchito operates a poice department and employs a chief and two full-time officers and one half-time officer. The fire department is made up of volunteers with 14 of the 20 allowed slots filled. The town employs a full time public works person who will be allowed to hire at least one and possibly two assistants this summer to assist with mowing and other special summer projects.
As a small town with a population of 634, Bokchito has its own set of issues. One of their biggest challenges is trying to seat a full council. At the time of Stager’s visit the town was without a mayor; since then the board appointed Cathey Keirsey as mayor and Patricia Mays as mayor pro-tem. There will be an election in September to fill the vacant trustee seats.
Space is another issue Bokchito has at city hall, since EMS, police, and the ambulance service all operate out of the same building. In fact, as Stager entered the council room she was met with a CPR dummy lying on the floor. She was informed that the town provides CPR training to their citizens and others who need the training at a cost of $15 per person. The local Dollar General Store is the largest generator of sales tax revenues.
Annexation is another issue for Bokchito. At this time there are some streets where residents located on one side are in municipal limits but the other side are not. Those people want to be annexed. In 2001, the town annexed two miles of highway on either side of the town and now they keep it maintained. The September election will also ask citizens to decide whether to annex the residents on the streets that are not currently in the city limits.
Bokchito has its own school system, K-12 grades with approximately 425 students. In 1992, Bokchito consolidated with the Blue Schools and changed the name to Rock Creek.
Stager enjoyed her time in Bokchito and hopes to be invited back in the near future.
Idabel was established in 1902 by the Arkansas and Choctaw Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway or Frisco). The city was named Purnell, after Isaac Purnell, a railroad official. When postal officials rejected that designation, the name was changed to Mitchell, honoring another railroad company officer. That name was also rejected because another post office of that name existed elsewhere in the territory. They named the post office Bokhoma (a Choctaw word meaning Red River), which opened Dec. 15, 1902. Railroad officials then chose the name Idabel, a compound of the names of Isaac Purnell’s two daughters, Ida and Bell. The post office was then renamed Idabel. In 1906, the citizens elected the first mayor and estabished a mayor-council form of government. At the time of statehood, Nov. 16, 1907, the town was designated as the county seat of McCurtain County. Idabel is noted for being the “Dogwood Capital of Oklahoma.”
Executive Director Carolyn Stager’s final stop for May was in Idabel where she met with the Mayor Tina Foshee-Thomas. The meeting was held over dinner at the Idabel Country Club. Also at the country club were Vice Mayor Jack Griffin and his wife. Mayor Foshee-Thomas has been with the City of Idabel for 10 years and was elected as City Clerk / Treasurer in 2003. She held that position until the announcement came of the plans for retirement of former Mayor Jerry Shinn. Foshee-Thomas sought and won the election for the position of Mayor in 2011.
The Idabel fire department has union representation while the police department does not. With the exception of the uniform allowance, the city tries to provide the same benefits to both uniformed and non-uniformed employees.
Like other Oklahoma communities, Idabel is currently under a DEQ consent order due to a minute amount of minerals in their wastewater. The fine was negotiated down from $60,000 to $15,000 and like some of our other cities and towns in this situation, Idabel officials attempted to negotiate a solution in which the city would invest the money in a local improvement project. They were told by DEQ that they would consider an SEP, but that it would be for the remainder of the 75 percent of the $60,000 fine. Also, the minimum of 25 percent, or $15,000 had to be paid in cash.
Mayor Foshee-Thomas has a very good relationship with the Choctaw Tribe. They have worked together on projects, one of which is building the city’s new fire station. The fire station will be completed and dedicated to the City of Idabel on June 28, 2013 in a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by Chief Greg Pyle, of the Choctaw Nation. The Tribe has also assisted the city with several other infrastructure projects, including sewer line projects, paving a parking lot for their airport, and has promised support for a healthy community park for the Idabel community. Stager presented at the Sovereign Symposium on June 5th in which she was able to use Idabel’s cooperative efforts with the Choctaw Tribe as an example in her speech.
The city has a 5 percent hotel/motel tax that was passed in 2002, with the funds dedicated to construction and maintenance of a new library. The city’s local sales tax rate is 9 percent with the Wal-Mart Super Center the largest contributor. Like other cities and towns, Idabel would like to be able to recruit more retail sales as well as restaurant chains such as Chili’s to their community but because liquor by the drink has not been passed, it has been a deterrent in doing so. At this time the Idabel Public Works Authority subsidizes the city by approximately $54,250 per month.
Idabel is a wonderful community that has made a lot of progress under the leadership of their mayor. It was quite apparent to Stager that Mayor Foshee-Thomas has continues to have a vested interest in the city and those living there.
Located 14 miles northwest of Guthrie, Crescent was formed with the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889 on March 2, 1889, and officially started that fall when William Brown began selling general merchandise out of a wagon. Soon he took on a partner, Benjamin Ryland, and the two moved into a log cabin. A post office christened “Crescent City” was established on Feb. 21, 1890, the name taken from a moon-shaped glade where the town began. In November 1891 the town site was platted, and incorporated in 1893. The Denver, Enid and Gulf Railroad laid track one mile west of the city in 1902, and the city obtained 160 acres of land creating new Crescent or West Crescent. Eventually the town moved to the new location.
From 1989 to 1994, Ed Stanton was a bank examiner and then served his community as a long time community banker until February of 2013. Having always been active in the community of Crescent, Stanton was asked to be on the search committee to find a new city manager. It didn’t take long for the majority of the search committee members to realize that the person they had asked to be a member of this committee was a perfect candidate for the position. Instead of being on the search committee, he was asked to be the new city manager and accepted the position in February of this year. Ed has been a Crescent resident for over 20 years, serving in many capacities such as the Chamber of Commerce President, Crescent Education Foundation President, EMS Board President, Lions Club President, Crescent Sports Boosters President and Co-Chair of the 2010 Crescent Economic Development Vision Planning Committee to name a few. Although he was not required to attend the OML New Officials Institute (NOI), Ed opted to attend the event with one other council person and the clerk/treasurer. It is always a compliment to see seasoned officials and those not actually required to attend the NOI, choose to stay current on laws governing municipalities.
Crescent’s stately City Hall is located at 205 N. Grand and is also occupied by its public library, police department and dispatch center. Stanton has committed to a citywide Clean Community initiative as well as restoration of its historical Main Street District. With its close proximity to Edmond and Oklahoma City, they see great opportunity for economic development and destination commerce. Crescent is blessed with many basic services which include but are not limited to, Mercy Health Clinic, Pinnacle Dental, Dollar General and a full-service grocery store among many other services. Crescent Public Schools is also completing a renovation to its educational facilities and expanding its sports complex, which is sure to attract those looking for a safer environment and opportunity for their children who might not have such opportunities in larger schools. It’s a nice and quiet place to raise a family.
Crescent’s employees and all of its emergency services are second to none and Stanton was extremely proud of all of his departments and staff. Crescent is blessed with much quality water, no sanitation issues and will be completing Phase II of its wastewater rehab project. Mr. Stanton is also currently in the planning and bidding stages for a complete new water system rehab and looks forward to providing an exceptional delivery system for its exceptional water.
Crescent is a growing into a lovely bedroom community that is destined for even greater things under Mr. Stanton’s leadership and vision.
The city of Garfield, located in Garfield County, is named after Martin Garber, father of Milton C. Garber, former U.S. Congressman, Enid mayor, newspaper editor, and judge. The Garber family participated in the Land Run of 1893, claiming the land that is now Garber.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with Natawsha Wedel, city clerk for the City of Garber. Since Wedel was born and raised in Garber, she was able to enlighten Stager on the city. Wedel attended the MC&T certification training that was held in Woodward and utilizes OML inquiry system when needed. She’s found OML to be very helpful when she’s had questions or concerns.
When visitors drive into town and go down Main Street, they see a large Jiffy Trip Convenience Store and city hall, but there are also quite a few vacant holdings on the street as well. Wedel mentioned that a local resident had been purchasing the empty properties and restoring them in hopes of encouraging new business to come to town. Garber has two convenience stores, the Houston Electric Company, a bank and a local bar located on Main Street. The city also receives tax money from their co-op. The Garfield County rural water association offices are located in Garber. The city currently has a doctor in town three days per week. The city has a public pool which in past years has had trouble hiring certified lifeguards, however, this year they have several qualified applicants.
Garber is under a DEQ notice of violation on their drinking water at this time. They want to build a new wastewater treatment plant utilizing USFA grant, REAP grant and OWRB to update water lines. Many of the residents live below poverty level and are on a fixed income, making it difficult to increase water rates to pay for the improvements.
The city’s largest revenue generator is derived from their water, sewer and trash, however, the cost to provide these services is also expensive. They have a 4 cent local sales tax with two cents going to the city and two cents going to the “two cent account.” These funds are used for work done on streets and buildings. The city of Garber also receives funds through Pioneer telephone and OG&E franchise tax.
It is apparent by the well-maintained athletic fields visible when you drive into town that high school sports are an important part of the Garber community. Garber has its own school system, educating pre-K through 12th grade. This year the high school had 40 graduates. The athletic department has won state championships in the past with the latest one being won in 2009.
|Posted on June 25, 2013 at 1:30 PM|
Weatherford is located in Custer County one mile north of I-40 on State Highway 54. The surrounding area was made available for homesteading during the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening on April 19, 1892. The city was incorporated on August 3, 1898. Banker and civic leader Beeks Erick chose the townsite location. The original post office was located about two miles north of the present town on the homestead of William and John and Lorinda Powell Weatherford. Lorinda Weatherford served as postmaster.
OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with OML’s newest board member, Mayor Mike Brown of Weatherford, and was able to deliver his board book and provide basic information to him regarding his service on the OML Board. Tony Davenport, the finance director also sat in on the meeting to provide his insight.
Driving down Main Street Carolyn noticed there was yellow tape marking off several parking spots in front of local businesses. Weatherford has a downtown area where shoppers can usually park right in front of the many retail establishments. However, not this day. Mayor Brown said they were in the midst of a $1.8 million sidewalk improvement which was part of a penny sales tax initiative. The City of Weatherford passed an extension of a penny sales tax in April 2010 and started collecting the extra taxes in October 2010. In addition to the revitalization of Main Street, they are redoing a corridor between the university and Main Street ($800,000). The other projects from this sales tax include construction of an event center at SWOSU ($22,000,000), park improvements ($1,800,000), a new fire station ($3,000,000), a recycling program ($600,000), streets and drainage ($8,000,000), automatic meter reading ($1,000,000) along with a few others. They estimate around $50,000,000 in improvements when all projects are completed.
Additional improvements to be completed include improvements to the wastewater treatment plant; golf course club house renovations, and a new animal shelter. They are currently in the process of coming up with a name for the new facility. Finance Director Tony Davenport thought that “Animal House” might be fitting. We know which generation Tony is from.
Weatherford’s citywide automated meter reading for their utilities is projected to pay for itself as it will result in accurate meter readings resulting in potentially increased revenue.
Weatherford is currently not under any EPA or DEQ consent orders or notice of violations and has an adequate water supply although they do encourage their citizens to be conservative so that this does not change.
All of the water supply for the city is well water. Although the normal depth to produce water is 250 feet, in Weatherford most wells are at 60 feet. Brown feels the depth is another indicator that their water supply should sustain the city well into the future.
Carolyn talked briefly to Mayor Brown about the OML budget and the schedule for upcoming meetings. OML welcomes Mayor Mike Brown to the OML Board of Directors.
Blanchard is a growing suburban community of 7,000 located just minutes southwest of Oklahoma City on U.S. Highway 62. Established in 1907, Blanchard began as a railroad town serving the farming community in Chickasaw Indian Territory. Named for William G. “Bill” Blanchard, the community was originally organized by the Canadian Valley Construction Company. The most reliable source states that the city was incorporated October 25, 1907 and the post office charter was granted by the U.S. Post Office Department on December 19, 1906. Mail had previously been received at Womack. When Arthur H. “Art” and Bill Blanchard moved their store from Womack to the new townsite in 1906, they took the post office with them. The community was recently listed as one of the top ten fastest growing communities in Oklahoma.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager continued her quest to visit as many Oklahoma cities and towns as possible over the next few months by beginning a busy day of visits in Blanchard. There she met with Robert Floyd, city manager. Floyd has been in Blanchard for almost a year, after working for the City of Choctaw for almost 25 years. Blanchard also appointed a new mayor, Joe Davis, this year.
Blanchard is 32 square miles and plans to purchase another 100 or so acres for future needs.
As Carolyn drove to city hall, she noticed the sidewalk project on Main Street. Apparently this enhancement project funded by ODOT had been started in 2006 but completion had been delayed due to a variety of issues. Floyd is now making certain the project will be finished.
Floyd and the Blanchard school district have a good working relationship as well. The district includes Pre-K through 12th grade. Blanchard’s schools have reached their bonding capacity after building a new high school in 2010, so the city is attempting to find a way to assist the district. The two entities have a history of collaboration as the football stadium was built on city property. Their 3A high school football team was state champion this year — congratulations to Blanchard; Floyd informed Carolyn that the interesting part of the win was that many of the seniors from this championship team have fathers or uncles who played for Blanchard the year they were seniors and won the championship in 1979.
The police and fire departments do not participae in the state pension system; the police department is represented by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The police department employs 15 full-time officers, five full-time dispatchers, and maintains the Blanchard jail. The fire department has two full-time firefighters with spots for 25 volunteers. The fire department is actually responsible for covering 69 square miles and even with that large area, has still been able to assist neighboring towns when needed and to maintain an ISO rating class of 5/8B.
Floyd reported that sales tax revenues are down and their largest generators of sales tax are Spencer’s Grocery, Dollar General and fast food restaurants, such as Sonic and Mazzio’s Pizza. Floyd is very interested in further developing retail in the city and for that reason has recently hired Retail Attractions, an economic development consulting group based in Owasso.
One of Blanchard’s key issues is its water supply. Currently the city buys 100 percent of its water from Oklahoma City. Blanchard also provides water to Cole and Dibble. Floyd reported that some residents are only receiving three gallons of water per minute when they should be getting 14 gallons from their domestic wells. Because there are several concerns in this area, they are doing a water study — looking at supply, alternative sources as well as developing back-up systems.
Floyd has a list of projects he’d like to see completed during his tenure. For example, he wants to build an industrial park as well as utilize a city-owned church that could be renovated into the new court and council chambers.
As spring approaches, Blanchard celebrates with several fun events including May Daze and concerts in the park during the summer. On July 2 the Oklahoma Philharmonic will be playing in the park for the city’s annual 4th of July celebration with fireworks. The city hosts a bluegrass festival and pumpkin fest in the fall. The residents also enjoy parades in Blanchard, which include St. Patrick’s Day, Veteran’s Day and Christmas.
Durant is located in south central Oklahoma only ten miles from Lake Texoma. In 1873 Dixon Durant erected the city’s first building which was named “Durant Station” for his family. The name was later shortened to Durant. The city has been recognized by the Oklahoma State Legislature as the Magnolia Capital of Oklahoma. The annual Magnolia Festival, which is held the weekend following Memorial Day, is attended by tens of thousands of people each year. Durant is home to Southwestern Oklahoma State University and is the headquarters of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with Jim Dunegan, the city of Durant’s city manager on one of her goodwill visits. Stager and Dunegan go back to the time when he was a member of the Oklahoma legislature.
During Carolyn’s time in Durant, the city was hosting its annual Magnolia Festival. The first two nights had been dampened by inclement weather, but Dunegan hoped the rest of the weekend would improve. The pair met at the Choctaw Event Center where several festival vendors were exhibiting. The carnival-like atmosphere was complete with the rides going full speed and, of course, food vendors selling all kinds of goodies including one of Carolyn’s favorites, Amish fried pies. During this four-day event, one of the most popular activities is the “noodling” contest. As most native Oklahomans know, this contest involves catching fish with your bare hands. One of the largest catfish ever caught in the state, weighing in at 81 lbs., was caught in Durant. After enjoying the sights and sounds of the festival, Carolyn joined Dunegan at the local Wendy’s Catfish Restaurant, where she enjoyed a delicious lunch.
The Choctaw Nation facility included a casino, two hotels and the event center. Many big name entertainers are scheduled to appear throughout the summer at the Choctaw Center.
Infrastructure, for any city or town, is an important aspect for mayors and city managers. Durant is no different — the Choctaw tribe has assisted them to maintain their roads. Dunegan said they had a good working relationship with the tribe as well as the counties.
As Carolyn drove into town she noticed that the roads were well maintained as was the bridge over Highway 70 coming into town. Additionally, a new fire station had recently been built downtown. The City of Durant actually has three stations — this new one, another built with the support of the Choctaw Nation, and one more station in town. Durant also has a wonderful multi-sports complex facility, which enables the city to host a variety of ball tournaments. They’ve recently remodeled the former law enforcement office and turned it into a driver’s license unit operated by DPS. The sanitation department has been allotted two new automated trucks, which has been great for them. According to Dunegan, a prominent issue for Durant is workers compensation. He is currently working on developing programs that better serve his employees.
Dunegan was very complementary of the city council, saying that there was a wonderful working relationship between all parties, an important ingredient to move the city forward. He also mentioned the outstanding work several departments, specifically including parks, transportation, public works, and sanitation. He further shared that all were most concerned about serving the citizens of Durant and making sure each department had what they needed to get their respective jobs done.
Located in McCurtain County, Broken Bow was incorporated and the post office established on Sept. 23, 1911. It was named for Broken Bow, Nebraska, the home of Herman and Fred Dierks, who had moved to southeastern Oklahoma to establish Choctaw Lumber Company. In addition to being the home of Broken Bow Lake, the city is a gateway for tourists visiting Beavers Bend & Hochatown State Park, and Cedar Creek Golf Course at Beavers Bend. Weyerhaeuser remains the largest employer in the county, however a number of other industries have found their place in the Broken Bow area. Industries such as Tyson Foods, Pan Pacific Company, Huber Company, as well as other various business facilities, play a vital and important role in the local economy.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with Broken Bow’s city manager, Vickie Pieratt, who has been with the city for 16 years. She began her career as a secretary for the landfill department, worked her way up to become clerk and ultimately city manager in August 2011.
The Broken Bow city offices are in a former bank building, which is actually quite common in many Oklahoma communities. The Broken Bow fire department is staffed with a combination of paid and volunteer officers. The city is self insured with healthcare plans provided for their employees by RH Administrators out of Lubbock, Texas.
When asked about her biggest challenge as city manager, without hesitation Pieratt said DEQ. Their new $6 million dollar wastewater plant came online in 2009. The old wastewater plant was processing less than one million gallons, which did not require them to test for metals. Now, the new plant can process more than one million gallons daily which means metal testing is now required. They have exceeded that threshold and are now under a DEQ consent order. Broken Bow has been dealing with this issue for many years.
Pieratt also reported that the city has been working on a hydro project for over 10 years. During this time, the cost of the project has risen from $8 million to $15 million to implement this renewable energy source. She also indicated that they may have the opportunity to sell their license instead.
At this time, public works subsidizes the general fund and without this money, the city would not be able to fund all their priorities. The general fund dollars go primarily to fund public safety.
In 1998, Broken Bow voters passed a sales tax increase of 1/4 cent for a new library and 1/4 cent for the Nutrition building. The library is now paid off and tax has been reduced to 1/8 cent for maintenance. The Nutrition building will be paid off in September 2013 and the tax for its maintenance will reduce to an 1/8 cent as well. Officials are considering asking the voters for an additional sales tax increase for four priorities including public safety, roads, library and the senior citizens center. The city currently has a 2.5 percent sales tax and those revenues are up by $114,853 compared to 2012.
For McCurtain County, tourism is a $12-$13 million annual industry with many visitors coming from Texas. Pieratt did indicate she would like for liquor by the drink to be passed in her area, which would assist with their overall economic development. Such a law allows the city/county to attract restaurant chains and would also give them the opportunity to expand their tourism industry.
Located in northeastern Custer County, Thomas was originally a trading post where William Thomas had a general store and served as the first postmaster of a post office designated on Feb. 12, 1894. The townsite was part of Joseph W. Morris’ homestead which he had claimed during the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening in 1892.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager continued her tour with a visit to the city of Thomas, where she met with Becky Christensen, city clerk. Christensen is a former championship basketball player who was sought after by several schools during her playing days. Her family lived in western Oklahoma and the Ft. Supply prior to moving to Thomas. She’s been the city clerk for seven years.
As Carolyn drove into town she immediately saw WW Livestock Systems facility. In January of 2001, WW built a new state-of-the-art production facility in Thomas. They also have several revenue-producing grain elevators. In addition, this small city operates an airport that is primarily utilized by crop dusters.
Thomas is mostly a bedroom community whose residents are mainly ranchers and farmers, as well many folks who live in Thomas and commute to work in Weatherford. It does however have some very charming local businesses including a grocery store, pharmacy, flower shop, and Miller’s Grill — the preferred restaurant in town.
Several years ago, Thomas consolidated with the small towns of Faye and Custer to form one school district, Pre-K through 12 and of course, sports play a major role. The athletic program in Thomas is doing very well; the football team and girls’ and boys’ basketball teams have all made it to the state playoff. This year the baseball team made it to the state tournament for its first time. The school district was also able to build a gym a few years ago.
Thomas employs a police officer full time, has an all-volunteer fire department and their emergency management operator also volunteers time to the town. The city has six full-time employees and three public works employees. They contract with a company out of Clinton for their ambulance service and the fees to operate it are collected from Thomas residents in the utility bill. This service is much appreciated by the citizenry, especially the large elderly population, since Thomas is some distance from the closest hospital.
The city’s biggest challenge is that they are currently under a DEQ consent order and must build a new lagoon system. For the last seven years this project has suffered several setbacks, but Thomas is contracting with a company out of Altus to get the new lagoon built, using SWODA, OWRB grants and low interest loans to finance the project.
Located in Pontotoc County, Stonewall’s history began before the Civil War when Robert L. Cochran, a Georgian, built a trading post south of Clear Boggy Creek. The site was designated as Pontotoc, and a post office opened there in 1858. Cochran moved his store to the north side of the stream around 1868. The settlement that developed there was named in honor of Confederate Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
Executive Director Carolyn Stager continued her statewide journey, visiting the town of Stonewall, where she met with Jim Mills, mayor of Stonewall and Dennis Heath, town administrator. They met in the local malt shop on Main Street since the town hall, currently housed in the old Methodist Church, was having some mold issues which were being addressed. Mayor Mills decided to retire in his wife’s hometown about five years ago. Heath is a part-time administrator, but as far as the mayor is concerned, he’s an integral part of the community. Heath was born in Ada and has lived in Stonewall since 2004, and along with duties as town administrator, he is also the pastor at the Free Will Baptist Church, one of five churches in town. Before moving to Stonewall, Heath was in the U.S. Air Force and retired as a Chief Master Sergeant, the highest rank for a non-commissioned officer.
This small town of approximately 470 residents, along with the greater community of about 2,100, has an estimated 60 percent of its inhabitants living below the poverty level. Stonewall has a diverse population with a mix of African American, Native American, and Caucasian citizens. Heath also mentioned there are an unusually large number of active or retired Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers who have chosen to live in the Stonewall area.
Stonewall is home to Abbott’s Grocery, which has been open since the town’s origin in 1904. In 1982, it was bought by former mayor Lewis Abbott and remains open today. Abbott’s also has a fresh meat market and a second location in Ada.
The Stonewall police department employs two full-time officers and three reserve officers. The fire department is staffed completely by volunteers. There are nine paid employees who work for the town of Stonewall. They also contract with an Ada attorney to provide legal services. Another attorney from Ada serves as the municipal court judge.
According to Heath, Stonewall’s biggest issue is limited revenue. They recently began receiving oil royalty payments associated with the town’s cemetery totaling about $1,900 per month, with $800 of these monies dedicated to the public works authority whose 2013 budget is $170,000, while the town’s operating budget is $156,000.
Since 2004, the town has received over $2M in government grants for various improvements to the town. The Chickasaw Nation has also provided funds to the town and by doing so has allowed them to build a medical clinic that should be completed by the end of the year. Their plan is to have the Central Oklahoma Family Medical Center at Konawa operate the clinic five days a week and employ a PA, nurse, and a receptionist, with the supervising doctor coming from the Konawa facility.
Stonewall receives its water from three artesian wells, two of these produce 20 gallons per minute. The main well produces 47-60 gallons per minute. Heath has met with Wes Bowman of Southern Oklahoma Development Association (SODA) to discuss possibly drilling a new well in the future.
While in town, Carolyn was taken to the Senior Citizens Nutrition Center, which is owned and operated by the town of Stonewall. It’s open Tuesday and Thursday serving between 30 and 50 people each day. The center operates with donations and is open to anyone but is designed for seniors. SODA administers the Community Expansion of Nutritional Access grant, which provides a portion of the center’s funding.
The town has its own school system with two facilities. There are approximately 450 students enrolled in the Pre-K to 12th grade district that covers 220 square miles. Carolyn also met Kevin Flowers, the superintendent, who had just finished a staff meeting and was preparing for the beginning of summer school.
Stonewall is a small but mighty town. Both Mayor Mills and Dennis Heath made references to their state Senator Susan Paddack and recently retired state Rep. Paul Roan and the vigorous support they have provided to their community.
|Posted on April 25, 2013 at 11:10 AM|
Chickasha Boasts Two Unique Businesses — a Dairy Queen & Drive-in Theater
Chickasha, the county seat for Grady county, was founded in 1892 with the arrival of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway. The town’s post office opened in June of that same year, and incorporation came in 1902. The name Chickasha presumably comes from an Indian word meaning ‘rebel,’ and Grady County was named for the famous Southern orator, Henry W. Grady. Dubbed “Queen of the Washita Valley” Chickasha was designated an “All American City” by the National All American Foundation for its continuing efforts to secure and expand industrial, educational and social programs.
Carolyn visited the city of Chickasha where she met Stewart Fairburn, Chickasha’s city manager, who served as city manager in Kansas and Texas before coming to Chickasha two years ago. Fairburn grew up in a military family and graduated high school in Colorado. He earned his MPA degree from the University of Oklahoma.
As with most cities and towns in Oklahoma, Chickasha is facing several issues at this time. They are in the midst of budget preparation and union negotiations. Fairburn also indicated that currently, revenues are not keeping up with expenditures. Part of their dilemma is in no small part due to the city’s self-insured health care program that has low deductibles and low employee premiums.
Currently, the bigger issue is the need to replace the utility infrastructure water and wastewater which will cost them approximately $150 million. Fairburn said their first step will be to replace the clearwells, which will run in the neighborhood of $5 million to do. They have a CIP dedicated sales tax, which they plan to use, if the voters say yes to the ten-year extension that should generate $24 million. Fairburn is intrigued by the idea of water reuse, which he hopes to use for the sports complex, OSU Extension farms and for oil and gas fracturing. However, when he met with ODEQ, he learned they hadn’t considered fracturing when they wrote the rules and so he must apply for a variance.
Some of the good news for Chickasha, sales tax is up 3.5 percent and has been up over 5 percent each of the last two years after being down 8 percent the year before. The growing oil business has generated additional sales tax, and the hotels are full.
At this time Continental is one of the companies drilling in the Chickasha area, which is part of the SCOOP shale play. Last year the city leased the airport lands for drilling, which generated additional funds. Fairburn is looking to lease an additional 4,000 acres this year. Fairburn also reported that last year they switched to poly carts and curb side recycling and now have a user rate of 64 percent, which he stated is the highest in the state.
Code enforcement is a big issue in the town, especially with the number of dilapidated buildings that need to be handled. They have two code enforcement officers and two animal control officers — they are combining these two positions to then give them four neighborhood service officers. Fairburn also said he is currently recruiting for an assistant city manager that will also serve as a community development director.
Chickasha also has some unique businesses — Dairy Queen has only a few locations in Oklahoma, one of which is in Chickasha. They also have a drive-in movie theatre in operation and have turned the old Chickasha hotel into apartments through a tax credit program. Their old train depot is now available for rental and Fairburn shared that they have a sidewalk development project in the works for the downtown area.
Chickasha is also home to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and according to Fairburn the city and President Feaver work well together and are partners in economic development. Last year the Chickasha School District opened the new Bill Wallace Early Childhood Center that provides a great start for the students.
Stager’s visit with Fairburn was well spent and very informative. She found City Manager Fairburn to be well informed and working diligently to tackle any issues that come before his city while celebrating the accomplishments they have had as well.
Save the Date for the Watermelon Festival in Rush Springs
Located in southwestern Grady County, Rush Springs is located 20 miles south of Chickasha. The Wichita tribe placed a village four miles southeast of the modern-day town of Rush Springs in the mid-1800s. The town was incorporated on November 21, 1898. The Chisholm Trail passed east of the springs, which served as a watering spot for cattle. At statehood the population stood at 588. According to the 2010 census, the population was 1,231.
Since 1948 Rush Springs has been host to the Annual Watermelon Festival. The three-day event not only includes all the watermelon one could eat but also gives attendees the opportunity to enjoy the rodeo and carnival that are part of the celebration. The local Lions Club puts on the festival and with 20,000 to 25,000 people attending, the city certainly benefits from the increased sales tax dollars generated by the event.
Carolyn spent some quality time with Rush Spring’s clerk/treasurer, John Morrow. John was fortunate to be born and raised in Rush Springs, and like many, moved out of his home town to pursue college, a military career and then work in corporate America for several years. At one point he worked as a federal investigator, which took him away from his family far more than he liked. It was at that time he decided it was time to return to his roots — Rush Springs, Oklahoma.
Morrow has been with the town of Rush Springs for eight years. During that time, he and the deputy clerk, Kathy Adamson, have developed a special bond with the people they serve. Many of their citizens have both of their cell numbers and have no qualms when it comes to contacting John or Kathy after hours if there’s an issue. Of course, they will, in turn, make sure the appropriate person is contacted and more often than not, the issue has been taken care of by morning.
Rush Springs currently has a paid police department consisting of the chief, four full-time officers, one part time, and one reserve officer. Volunteers run the fire department with a full-time EMS director. As with so many smaller communities, most town employees wear many hats — for instance, there is no economic development authority or chamber of commerce in town, so Morrow and others in the community take on this responsibility and others as well. He reported that their sales tax revenues had increased dramatically following the opening of a Dollar General Store in town. Prior to this store opening, most citizens drove to nearby towns to do their shopping.
Rush Springs has recently built two new water towers which provide a dependable water supply for the town. They also boast of a wonderful school system with around 600 students in K-12. Morrow was pleased to say the city and the school have a great working relationship that benefits all of the citizens.
Carolyn enjoyed her time in Rush Springs and hopes to be invited back in August for the festival — and according to the locals, it looks to be a bumper crop this year!
Wellston Provides Small Town Atmosphere with a Taste of Small Town Hospitality
Located in western Lincoln County, Wellston (population 78 is located north of the Turner Turnpike and State Highway 66, two miles east of State Highway 102. Around 1880 Christian T. Wells established a trading post in the northern part of the Kickapoo Reservation. The Wellston post office opened on September 19, 1884, with Wells as postmaster. When the Kickapoo lands were opened by a land run on May 23, 1895, Thomas Craddock staked a claim near the trading post and deeded the land for the town. In 1907 when the town charter was signed, Wellston had 669 residents. In 1963 Delbert Davis of Wellston was named Oklahoma’s poet laureate.
A recent trip along Route 66 took Carolyn to Wellston, where she was welcomed by Mayor Paul Whitnah, Terri Coleman, town treasurer and Debbie Stewart, town clerk. Police Chief Tim Estes also joined the meeting. Wellston is located along this historic highway but by 1933, increased traffic also meant more roads and bypasses; which for this town meant traffic and patrons sped through the area half a mile south of the town.
Wellston’s volunteer fire department has been recognized by the governor and neighboring communities for their assistance in emergency situations and several of these certificates, commendations and letters are hanging on the wall at the entrance of town hall. The town operates two fire stations with fifteen volunteer fire fighters. Both the town treasurer, Terri, and Debbie, town clerk, serve on the volunteer fire department. The town does not fund an ambulance service and relies on this service from neighboring community of Chandler. They do have a nurse practitioner who serves the community’s medical needs. The town employs three full-time and one part-time police officer with five reserve officers.
Two of the biggest contributors to Wellston’s sales tax revenue are the Dollar General Store and the On Cue convenience store located right off the turnpike exit. These two new businesses came at a perfect time, following the unfortunate closing of a couple of older businesses in town. There is an active oil industry in the area but Wellston currently has no hotels to house oil workers. The Iowa Tribe’s plan should change the look of the community when their casino is built that will also include a 9-hole golf course and hotel.
Wellston has its own school district with approximately 900 students in Pre K through 12th grade. The district and town have a good working relationship. The town recently received a grant that allowed them to install sidewalks from the elementary school to the high school.
A town of almost 800 citizens, Wellston has certainly had its ups and downs; but the community continues to stay strong. Wellston has experienced set-backs and delays as many other communities have when building their new water plant. They faced plan alterations during the process, which cost the town more dollars and time than initially expected.
Wellston also knows how to celebrate — they have two annual parades. One of their yearly events is the Christmas Parade and the second is the Wellston Alumni Association Annual Parade which is held during Mother’s Day weekend. Something that was not mentioned during the meeting but was discovered by OML staff is that Mayor Whitnah was named “Alumni of the Year” in 2008 as well as being named 2008 “Citizen of the Year” by the chamber of commerce. After visiting with these outstanding officials, it was easy to see why.
The town of Wellston gives visitors that small town atmosphere along with a taste of small town hospitality.
Kellyville Employees Wear Many Hats
Kellyville, population 1,150, is situated eight miles southwest of Sapulpa in east-central Creek County on Historic Route 66. The town was named for James E. Kelly who established a trading post there about 1892 and opened a post office on November 27, 1893,with himself as the first postmaster. The St. Louis and Oklahoma City Railroad (later merged into the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) constructed a line from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City, connecting Kellyville to outside markets.
Carolyn continued her journey along Route 66 with a stop in Kellyville. There she had the opportunity to talk with Mike Kelly, town administrator. As a lifetime resident of Kellyville, Mike worked for 30 years in public works as well as serving as fire chief for 25 years. He’s been the town administrator for over seven years. Beverly Lucas serves as the town clerk, treasurer, court clerk — which are just a few of the hats she wears. As is the case in so many towns, all municipal employees wear many hats and multi-task in a variety of areas as needed.
Like many smaller towns in Oklahoma, one of the first sights seen when driving into Kellyville is the local Dollar General Store. Every town with a retail store like this is extremely grateful not only for the convenience, but also for the sale tax revenue generated by the franchise store. Prior to Dollar General moving to Kellyville, the now-closed hardware store was the largest contributor to sales tax revenue.
The town also has a Phillips 66 and Simple Simon Pizza place that are on the historic Route 66. The story goes that back in the day, Mr. Phillips had just developed a new type of gasoline and needed to give it a name. He and his partner were driving down Route 66 near Kellyville, in a vehicle that had the new fuel in it. Mr. Phillips made a remark about how much faster they could go since putting in the new fuel — saying, “We could be going as fast as 60 mph.” His travelling partner corrected him by saying, “No, we’re actually going 66 mph.” They looked at each other, laughed and said, “If we’re going 66 mph on Route 66 than it should be Phillips 66 gas we’re doing it in!” and so the name was born.
Kelly reported their sales and use taxes are up due to Schumberger Technology Corporation. Schumberger is a global organization based out of Sugarland, TX that also has locations in Oklahoma including a training center in Kellyville. Town officials are working to attract a hotel to be built by the turnpike exit, along with a restaurant so that the training center no longer has to bus students to Jenks for overnight lodging. They are also working to once again be home to a hardware store.
The town currently has a police chief with two full-time officers and a volunteer fire department. The town’s water is with the rural water district. Kelly was also proud to report that their city hall and library were both built with no debt incurred. Carolyn learned that the city hall doubles as the senior citizens’ center; they were meeting when she was there as well.
Kelly was clearly up to date on the issues not only concerning his town but the concerns that affect the state as well. He informed Carolyn that he and the police chief read the OML Legislative Bulletin every week to be up-to-date on current issues at the Capitol that may affect his town. He also ensures frequent contact with his representatives to share with them his concerns.
Big Cabin Hosts Civil War Battle Re-enactments
Located in southern Craig County of U.S. Highway 69, Big Cabin (population 265) is five miles southwest of Vinita. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway named a switch “Big Cabin” after it built through the Cherokee Nation in 1871 and 1872. The name referred to a large plank cabin used by local American Indians about one and one-half miles northwest of the tracks. In 1926 community leaders started the incorporation process but did not complete it until 1958. As early as 1871 the area’s first post office was in operation, with S.T. Rogers as postmaster. In 1892 the Post Office Department assigned a postal designation to Big Cabin.
Carolyn met with Mayor Sam Yeoman, Trustee Tom Trundle and Clerk/Treasurer Linda Purcell during her recent trip to Big Cabin. Big Cabin continues to contribute to guests’ historical education by hosting a battle reenactment every three years in September, depicting two battles fought there during the Civil War. The battles were fought at Cabin Creek, both were Confederate raids on Union supply wagon trains moving from Fort Scott toward Fort Gibson. On July 1-2, 1863, the Confederates failed to stop the wagon train as it crossed Cabin Creek. On September 18, 1864 the Confederates won the Second Battle of Cabin Creek, capturing 740 mules, 130 wagons, and more than $1.5 million in supplies. Monuments to the leaders and soldiers of both sides were erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and are maintained by the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Friends of Cabin Creek at the battle site.
In more recent history Big Cabin is also known for a gentleman by the name of Standing Brave depicted on a very large statue that stands out front of the Big Cabin Travel Plaza. This truck stop generates a large portion of the town’s sales tax revenue. Citizens of Big Cabin travel to Vinita or Pryor for most of their major shopping needs.
Big Cabin employs the police chief and one officer and operates a volunteer fire department. The town receives its water from Vinita. They are facing a costly repair needed for their sewage system of approximately $100,000. So far they’ve received half the needed funds from (EOEDD) Eastern Oklahoma Economic Development District and are attempting to procure the remaining funds through a grant with OWRB.
The Big Cabin officials were very interested in ensuring civility and decorum during their council meetings. Although a far distance from Oklahoma City and the OML offices they utilize OMLs services. Mayor Yeoman specifically informed Carolyn of his appreciation for OML staff, especially the assistance he receives from OML staffer Kelly Danner who manages the OML Inquiry Department. Stager was pleased with her visit to Big Cabin and everyone she met was delightful. She informed Big Cabin she would be back to see them again.
Clinton Home of Route 66 Museum
Clinton (population 9,033) began in 1899 when two men, J.L. Avant and E.E. Blake, decided to locate a town in the Washita River Valley. Because of governmental stipulations that an Indian could sell no more than one half of a 160-acre (0.6 km2) allotment, the men made plans to purchase 320 acres from four different Indians and paid them each $2,000 for 80 acres to begin the small settlement of Washita Junction. Congressional approval for the sale was granted in 1902 and Washita Junction quickly developed. When a post office was started, the postal department would not accept the name of Washita Junction, so the town was named after the late Judge Clinton Irwin. The Frisco Railroad later turned the town into an important shipping center for the area. Clinton became home to the first state-sponsored Route 66 Museum in the nation.
After travelling east the previous week on Route 66, Carolyn headed west to Clinton and met with City Manager Steve Hewitt who came to Clinton with an interesting history of his own. He began his career in Clinton as the parks director before eventually moving to Greenburg, Kansas to hold the position of city manager. In 2007 an EF-5 tornado destroyed not only his home but basically every structure in this town of 1,500 people. He and his fellow townspeople decided to rebuild with as many environmentally sensitive methods as possible and by doing so, Hewitt and his community received national attention. Hewitt was named Governing Magazine’s 2009 Public Official of the Year as well as City and County Magazine’s 2008 Municipal Leader of the Year. Mayor Allen Bryson apparently saw the potential in Hewitt and persuaded him to move to Clinton.
Clinton is a thriving city with a new indoor water park and hotel. This addition is a nice compliment to their wonderful athletic park. The water park was built in a TIF district. Hewitt said the hotel has been so successful that during spring break, they had to turn people away. Currently, Clinton has another hotel being built to meet the demand. The city’s hotel/motel tax is used to fund the Frisco Conference Center which is now being managed by the Clinton Chamber of Commerce. Their overall sales tax has been up even though they saw a slight drop last month.
Clinton is the home of a Route 66 Museum and a casino operated by the Cheyenne Arapaho tribe. Hewitt hopes to work more with the tribes and has met with them to discuss possible cooperative projects they could do together.
The oil activity is booming in the area. Hewitt reported that local businesses were having difficulty keeping good employees as they are quitting in order to work for the oil companies since they offer better wages.
One of the city’s biggest challenges is the lack of water. To solve this problem, Clinton is working on a cooperative arrangement with the city of Canute and the Foss Conservancy District at Foss Reservoir. With the combined populations; (Clinton: 9033, Foss: 151; Canute: 541) and resources of the three entities, they hope to be able to more effectively serve their residents. Canute built a new facility to dissolve nitrates. Canute will also increase facilities capacity so it can serve Clinton who has a 40-year contract to purchase 1.5 million gallons a day. Clinton also owns a portion of Foss Lake, which will be taken into consideration with the new partnership they are forming.
Hewitt would also like to implement curbside recycling and is coordinating with the city of Weatherford to make this happen. Another collaborative effort Hewitt is focusing on is working with SWODA to bring all the city managers in his region together to be able to work on common issues that would benefit all of their respective communities.
Clinton voters recently extended the sales tax increase that allowed them to remodel their police station. They are also building a six bay, 17,000 square foot fire station, which they hope to have open by July 1, 2013. It is a LEED-Certified facility. Hewitt reported they have a new fire chief, who was promoted from their own ranks, to go along with their new station.
Clinton has shown that regionalization and collaboration have proven successful for this city and the participating communities.
When leaving, Stager noticed the clerk speaking Spanish to her customer. Stager went back and inquired to Hewitt; he indicated that they have an increasing Hispanic population and having a bi-lingual staff is essential. Additionally, when a vacancy on their council needed to be filled, officials continued their efforts to ensure Clinton’s diverse population was being represented by a diverse group of individuals. Hewitt’s leadership will continue to provide value to the city of Clinton and its community.
Robust Oil Activity Makes Housing Workers Challenging
Located in Beckham County, Elk City’s history dates back to the days immediately following the opening of all surplus land of the Cherokee Outlet in 1892, when the first white men made their appearance. Prior to this time many early settlers had driven cattle over the “Great Western” trail from Texas going north, through the present town site of Elk City, to Dodge City, Kansas. Probably the most important day in Elk City’s history is March 20, 1901, the date the first lots were sold by the Choctaw Town site and Improvement Co., which had a few days earlier purchased the site for the business district from Mr. Allee. Elk City was named after Elk Creek, which in turn had been named after an Indian Chief, Elk River, who lived in this vicinity years before.
Carolyn was in Elk City to attend the retirement ceremony for long-time mayor and OML board member, Teresa Mullican. Prior to the evening event, City Manager Anita Archer graciously met with Carolyn to talk about the latest news on Elk City. Archer had served as the city treasurer before taking the role of city manager. The most tenured member of the commission has only two years of experience.
According to Archer, Elk City faces similar issues as other towns in that area of having enough housing and workforce. The oil industry is thriving which is causing Elk City a few housing issues. Driving into the city six motels off of I-40 are clearly in view, however that’s not enough for the oil workforce needed in the area. Off the interstate are two other hotels that also help with the housing concern. The city has partnered with developers to construct 50 unit duplex housing and 104 unit apartment complex that they hope will be completed by December 2014.
Wal-Mart is the largest generator of sales tax revenue and even they have had to deal with the ramifications of maintaining a good workforce. At this time, Wal-Mart busses approximately 40 employees a week from Oklahoma City and houses the workers at the local Hampton Inn. Archer reported that with the increased sales tax revenues they were able to complete some much needed infrastructure improvements including $2M in street improvements.
The city is fortunate not to have any water shortage issues; they can produce 14 million gallons per day and currently use only 2 million gallons of that daily output. Recognizing what a precious commodity water is, the city is being very prudent. Archer also reported that the city’s ambulance service previously outsourced to a firm from Clinton, is currently operated by their fire department and doing very well.
The school district is currently looking to pass a bond issue. The schools’ enrollment is up largely due to the influx of oil field workers. The district does accommodate Pre-K through 12th grade. Merritt school district is also on the perimeter of town and they too are seeing growth.
The current population of Elk City is almost 12,000 people. It’s a busy and growing area that seems to be able to adapt quickly to its changing needs.
Town of Morris Clerk & Treasurer Serve Above and Beyond
Located eight miles east of Okmulgee, the City of Morris (population 1,479), began as a cattle stop on the Ozark and Cherokee Central Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) which ran between Muskogee and Okmulgee. The post office was established here on January 4, 1904. The city was platted in 1904 by L.R. Kershaw, who was an attorney and was also an immigration agent for the Frisco Railroad. The origin of the city name is uncertain but one theory is that Kershaw named it after H.E. Morris, a Frisco Railroad executive. Many of the street names in Morris are named after citys which were familiar to Kershaw from his home state of Illinois. Kershaw was also the founder of the two earliest banks in Morris, Indian Territory.
Carolyn made a Goodwill visit to Morris where she met with Mayor Carolyn Haworth, Clerk and Treasurer Kimberly Johnson, and Utility Billing Clerk Lisa McMurtry. Although Haworth has been mayor for little over a year, her experience as vice mayor gives her the knowledge necessary to continue to improve her city. According to Haworth, two of the city’s best assets are Kimberly and Lisa — whether it’s going to elderly citizens’ homes to pick up their utility payments or answering each and every question and concern for anyone that asks, these two know and care about this city and its residents. In Morris, there isn’t a drive up window for paying bills; it’s a “walk out to the payee’s vehicle service” that these two employees provide – now that’s service!
The City of Morris recently received a $116,000 REAP grant and is now working on a matching CDBG grant to take care of some of its water issues, including an inoperable water tower that their engineer is confident he can repair for future use. Their biggest concern is the growing number of aging water pipes within the city that need repair. They also secured a $15,000 grant for updates to city hall, including painting, carpet and a new roof.
The Morris Police Department is staffed by the chief, two full-time officers and five reserves; while the fire department is run by approximately 15 volunteers.
Haworth reported that they’ve increased their sales tax by 1 percent, bringing it to 4 percent. A portion of the increase is being set aside for future capital improvements which will be helpful to fund additional projects including grants that might require matching funds. The largest generator of sales tax revenue is the local Dollar General Store which is one of the company’s ‘model’ stores. The citizens are extremely excited about having this store in the city and wish it was even larger.
A Morris Community Action Program was recently created to bring citizens together to do projects for their community such as a city “spruce up” and flower planting. They are also participating in the Great American Clean Up program. The community spirit doesn’t stop there either; the churches are also contributing by assisting the elderly in need.
The Morris school system operates an all day pre-K program through 12th grade with a very nice before- and after-school program. Because of the district’s success, there are quite a few out-of-district transfer requests. Currently, there are approximately 1,060 students within the Morris school system.
The school district works extremely well with the city. They are currently partnering on a project to build a new park that will include walkways and space for community get-togethers such as family reunions. They received a donation of four lots of land that they hope to use for a new city park. Haworth stated she is hopeful they will also be able to secure federal grant money because a portion of the land to be used for the park is designated as a natural habitat.
Thank you Carolyn, Lisa and Kimberly for your hospitality and warm welcome to your wonderful city.
|Posted on March 18, 2013 at 7:45 PM|
Named for a nearby hill, Catoosa lies off historic U.S. Highway 66, 14 miles northeast of Tulsa. The Cherokee Nation controlled the region during the 19th century. After the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad laid tracks in the early 1880’s, the community became a cow town, with the establishment of William Halsell’s Bird Creek Ranch. In 1883, the Federal government opened a post office there. In 1971, the Tulsa Port of Catoosa opened at the north end of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. The port is the second farthest inland seaport in the U.S. behind Duluth, Minnesota, linking Tulsa to the Arkansas River and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. Area attractions include the Blue Whale on Route 66, Historical Museum, D.W. Correll Museum, Route 66 Flywheelers and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The Blue Whale has gone as far as the Port in making Catoosa famous. This unique structure, which once served as a slide and diving apparatus for kids as the local swimming hole, has become one of the best-loved icons on Route 66 and has been featured in nearly every book that commemorates the history of the road.
Catoosa’s City Manager, Leroy Alsup welcomed OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager with several interesting things to say about his community during her visit on March 7th. Once Alsup retired from City and County management in Kansas, he made his way back home to Oklahoma where he has family. He previously served for 5 years as City Manager in Cushing back in the late 80’s and then made the move to Catoosa about 18 months ago. He’s happy to call Catoosa his home at this time where he has quickly become an active member of his community as this year’s president of the local Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Certified Economic Developer and plans to keep that certification current.
Currently Catoosa has two hotels - the LaQuinta Inn and Hampton Inn although they may possibly be adding two more in the near future, which will help Catoosa increase motel/hotel tax revenues. Their municipal sales tax is relatively flat compared to last year. He hopes that the new Wal-Mart Super Center to be built within their city limits will provide additional sales tax revenue in the future. Construction is expected to begin in the next couple of months.
Catoosa’s Industrial Park is showing signs of growth as well. Melton Truck Lines has plans to expand their operation with an additional $15 million investment.
The fire department has three stations with a combined force of volunteer and paid fire fighters. Catoosa’s police department is staffed with the Chief and twelve officers that are represented by their union.
The Cherokee Casino is located near Catoosa and they have had an increase in their traffic count due to the location of their facility. Alsup was happy that they continue to have a good relationship with the Cherokee Nation.
As can be seen here, Catoosa continues to thrive by bringing in large business and also by developing necessary relationships with the Cherokee Nation and other existing business to ensure the City’s continued success.
The second largest town in Craig County was settled about 1888 by D.B. Nigh who leased the town site from Frank Craig. A switch was built on the Missouri-Kansas & Texas Railroad in 1891 and the town became a hay and grain center for the north end of the county. A post office was established in 1892 in the town which had been named for A.L. Welch, a railroad official for the MK&T. Welch is one of three towns in Craig County which continue to have a bank. The Welch State Bank resulted from the establishment of the first bank in 1910, later the organization of another and a merger of the two in 1923.
When OML’s Executive Director Carolyn Stager walked into the Town of Welch’s town hall, she immediately notices a rather large sign that reads, “Water Quality Issues” and quickly learned that Welch received a large CDBG grant for three phases of improvement plans:
Phase I: New aerator to remove sulphur and other bases
Phase 2: Fully case and seal existing water well to improve overall raw water quality
Phase 3: Initiate pilot study to remove radium per DEQ consent order
She surmises that the 619 residents of Welch must be well informed to the issues as well as the solutions that their town plans to take in order to improve their community.
Last August the town suffered a tremendous loss when a grocery store burned down, but a new Dollar General Store is coming into town. There are several businesses thriving in Welch, including a flower shop, a bank, convenience store and gas station, TV repair shop, two beauty shops, a new restaurant as well as a roofing company, saddle shop, fitness center, hardware store, and of course, the feed store called “Happy Cow.” They have active rail service running through town, several churches and a post office. Welch also has a medical clinic located within their town limits that has proven to be a big asset to the community.
Director Stager met with Town Clerk Kenni Morton who was extremely helpful and well informed. She was originally from Welch, was raised in California, and spent nine years in West Virginia before returning to Welch. She certainly keeps busy as the town clerk and by raising her twin 3 year old great nieces.
Morton said one of their biggest challenges is attracting new businesses into town. She informed Stager that Mayor Winston McKeon is working diligently to grow their community. He, too, is extremely busy as mayor, as well as a band teacher for the school.
Welch has plans to build a new baseball park and even though there’s no official police department, they have an agreement with Craig County for any public safety emergencies. Like most small communities, they all have challenges to be faced, issues to be solved and successes to be celebrated – Welch has stepped up to the plate on all three fronts and by doing so continue to serve its citizens. Well done Welch!
There is plenty to learn about the town of North Enid and the history of this town is quite intriguing. In 1889 the town of North Enid, situated in Garfield County began its existence as the Enid Station which was on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway right-of-way in the Cherokee Outlet. However, in 1893 this location was designated as the site for the county seat of O County (later known as Garfield County). Before the land opening scheduled for September 16th of that year, the Department of the Interior learned of some possible legal issues and chose to move the county seat three miles south of Enid Station. The railroad refused to stop at the south location, signaling the beginning of the “Enid Railroad War” over whether the railroad town or the government town would dominate. The “war” ended in August 1894 when legal action forced the Rock Island to open a station at the south town.
Heading North, OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager visited with officials from the Town of North Enid, including Town Clerk Luella Unruh and Police Chief Marty Schubert.
Like most communities, North Enid has had its ups and downs and its population has varied decade to decade. Between 1960 and 1970 the population increased from 286 to 730 and it became a viable community to live and work.
Even with the history North Enid shares with Enid, the two communities have moved forward to be able to work together to better serve their citizens. The City currently has three full-time police officers and 4th Street is becoming the City’s hub for local businesses.
It became clear that Ms. Unruh is adept at being flexible as on the day of Stager’s visit, she was processing payments, traffic fines and any other documents that normally go through the DPS System in Oklahoma City were having to be done by hand as the system was down. She just took it in stride and kept serving everyone that walked through the doors.
This town may not have a big grocery store chain but it does have local businesses such as the K and O Welding Shop and the local auto parts store that continue to support their community. North Enid continues to grow in size and personality — yet another great visit to one of Oklahoma’s smaller towns.
As OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager drove into the Town of Hennessey, the new motel construction caught her eye. Hennessey officials are rightfully excited about the prospect of having another revenue generating and much needed facility in their city, which was expressed by Tiffany Tillman, City Administrator and Vice Mayor as well as Fire Chief John Gritz when Stager met with them.
Due to the increased oil drilling activity in the area, Hennessey is experiencing a shortage of rental property. The new hotel will hopefully fill some of that gap. Tillman also shared that sales tax revenue was up almost 20 percent from 2012.
The City was pleased to receive a Land & Water Conservation grant recently to assist in Phase I for a new water park which will include a skate park, basketball court, playground, volleyball court and parking lot. Phase II will include a new swimming pool and splash pad, however, this phase requires alternative funding for its completion. The Town of Hennessey has developed a mutually beneficial agreement with the local school district to trade property with them. By doing so, the Town now has the land needed to build the new water park and the school district will have the property to develop a much needed parking lot.
Currently the police department employs the chief, three full-time officers, and community volunteers assist as needed. They are also able to employ four full-time dispatchers. The fire department is operated by a volunteer force. Hennessey has a contract with a company in Enid that supplies them with an ambulance on site at all times. The City has a dedicated sales tax to manage their emergency management system.
Whether it’s a mutual agreement with the school district or a contract to ensure ambulance service, the Town of Hennessey knows how to reach out and develop the appropriate programs and services needed to serve its citizens well.
Although not a scheduled stop, the Town of Waukomis happily welcomed Executive Director Stager when she stopped by last week. Stager was privileged to have the opportunity to chat with the town’s Clerk-Treasurer, Lisa Laubach. A 34-year resident of Waukomis, she has served as clerk for five years and clerk-treasurer for four years.
When asked what was new in Waukomis, Laubach was excited to report that a Dollar General Store should be opening within their city limits in May, which as most towns of this size understand, will assist in boosting their sales tax revenues as well as providing an additional and needed shopping venue for residents. They were also hopeful that a Subway Restaurant would be opening in town in the near future.
Laubach also shared that the town has a twenty-two man volunteer fire department and a police department that staffs two full-time officers and a chief. The town has its own water wells and also has a water line that runs from Enid to supplement when needed.
From the time Stager arrived, there were citizens coming into the town hall needing assistance and answers. There didn’t seem to be a dull moment for Ms. Laubach. So, if you get a chance to visit Waukomis, please stop and say hello – she may be busy, but she will greet you with a warm smile.
Named after the Miami tribe, the City of Miami is located in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma on U.S. Hwy 69 and is the county seat of Ottawa County. Miami had already been around almost two decades by the time Oklahoma became a state. It has the longest stretch of the original Route 66 Ribbon Road which is listed as an Oklahoma National Historic Landmark. The jewel of Historic Route 66 is the Coleman theatre which has been entertaining guests since it was built in 1929. This Theatre has been catching the eye of visitors on Route 66 since 1929. Built as a vaudeville theatre and movie palace, it hosted appearances by many early stars including Will Rogers, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. It has been restored to its original style including the return of the “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ. Today, the theatre hosts ballets, theatre performances, receptions, conferences and silent movies.
On March 7th, OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager was honored to have dinner with several Miami officials including Mayor Kent Ketcher, a Miami native who left town to work for the railroad and has now returned following his retirement. City Manager Jeff Bishop and Assistant City Manager Jill Fitzgibbon were also at a local Miami Restaurant to share their experiences. Bishop has served as city manager in various Oklahoma communities with one of his first positions being an intern for former and long term City Manager Doug Henley of Nichols Hills (Doug if you’re reading this – Jeff sends his regards!). Assistant City Manager Fitzgibbon has been serving Miami citizens for 13 ½ years – between the three of them, there’s no wonder Miami has been so successful in its recent endeavors. Stager was in town to participate in the Practical Guide II workshop that was being hosted at the beautiful Coleman Theatre in Miami. While dining, Stager was given some insight to the issues that Miami is currently facing as well as solutions that they have put into place.
Miami has successfully passed a sales tax extension dedicated to building a new athletic stadium at the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College campus. The new stadium will benefit both the college and the local high school and will serve as the venue for citywide events such as the annual eight-man football tournament. For many years, the Annual Oklahoma Eight-Man Football All-Star Game has been played in Miami. The Oklahoma Eight-Man Football Coaches Association (OEMFCA), the City of Miami’s Convention & Visitors Bureau and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College join forces to host this annual event. With the building of this stadium, events such as this will continue to support and enhance Miami.
Miami residents continue to struggle with issues like the flooding which occurs primarily on the south side of town. According to Miami officials, Grand Lake operates primarily as a hydro-power reservoir. Therefore the Corps of Engineers cannot release water in anticipation of rain. Consequently the overflow ends up in the streets of South Miami creating many issues including the destruction of homes due to the damage caused by the flooding. Miami’s Special Utility Authority has hired a new attorney who plans to look at ways to address this issue.
Of course, Miami continues to look for solutions to save money for its taxpayers. They’re planning to utilize some seasonal positions instead of full-time employees who have been offered an early retirement window. The plan is also to convert their trash pickup to an automated system. All of their insurance is currently self-funded with the exception of their liability, and they have just signed with OMRF for their retirement benefits. Miami houses two fire stations with an ISO rating of 3. Their sales tax revenues have increased significantly, hopefully signifying an end to the economic downturn.
Miami claims bragging rights to the successful spoonbill fishing on the banks of the Neosho River. Apparently, anglers from all over come to the Northeastern part of the state in hopes of catching a prehistoric fish known as the Paddlefish (Spoonbills to the locals).
One component that makes Miami unique from any other city in the U.S. is the fact that there are nine Native American Tribes in their community, all of which have opened casinos in the area. Because of the cooperative relationship Miami officials have developed with the local tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a new bridge on Central Avenue, the main entrance to the college, is being built with funds through the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The city plans to have a block party to celebrate the opening of the bridge.
Dinner with Mayor Ketcher, City Manager Bishop and Assistant City Manager Fitzgibbon was a lovely evening with good food and interesting conversation. Even though it was fun and relaxing, much was discussed and learned — thank you for dinner and a wonderful time.
|Posted on March 5, 2013 at 1:15 PM|
OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager was honored to be among many to be invited to participate in Mayor Bill Shewey’s State of the City Address Monday, March 04, 2013 in Enid. The breakfast was held at the recently renovated and beautiful Convention Hall. Mayor Shewey was happy to report on Enid’s accomplishments over the past year. Whether it’s was the low unemployment rate of 3.5% for the Enid metro area, the growth in population to over 52,000 or the fact that Enid has been able to track a significant growth in jobs for 2012---Mayor Shewey was proud to say that “Enid is Still Moving”.
He continued by reporting that their local sales tax revenue was on an upward trend at 10-12% above previous years and that their city had been recognized as one of the top 10 small cities in America for affordable housing. The Enid Event Center is also set to open in June.
As the Mayor emphasized Enid’s quality of life, he reminded the audience that Tuesday, March 5, the citizens would have the opportunity to vote on the “Quality of Life” initiative that will impact the city’s parks and recreation system when voters consider two questions that would ensure the upgrade to this program. The $50 million bond proposal will allow Enid to be prepared for the next decade of growth and quality of life needs for all of Enid to enjoy. We wish Enid success as they continue to move forward!
|Posted on January 29, 2013 at 2:55 PM|
OML Welcomes Broken Arrow’s New City Manager
As 2013 commenced, Carolyn Stager, OML’s executive director, began her year visiting as many municipalities as possible. She began with Broken Arrow where she welcomed Thom Moton, the new city manager to the state. Armed with information for the new manager, she and Kelly Danner, OML’s information specialist, met with Moton and City Attorney Beth Anne Wilkening, to discuss what OML had to offer as well as some of the issues Moton was about to face in the upcoming legislative session.
As Stager went through OML’s 2013 legislative priorities, it became apparent that Moton was already familiar with these items. He explained that the Broken Arrow council had passed a resolution in support of OML’s position on the ODEQ Public Water Supply fees and notified ODEQ of the action taken.
Moton shared his concerns about transportation funding. He felt that the current formulas need to be changed. He spoke of an initiative in North Carolina in which they had taken legislators on a “school bus” tour through municipal roads, giving them the opportunity to experience first hand what the real needs were. The tour resulted in legislation being passed based on a percentage of roads maintained plus growth. Moton also suggested OML take a look at a plan from South Carolina which was a ‘model pennies for roads’ plan that has apparently proven to be successful.
The Rental Registration legislation, which gives cities and towns some administrative oversight over rental properties within their municipal limits, is of interest to Moton. He said that even though the majority of Broken Arrow’s housing is owner occupied, it is important to have the registration process in order for the city to know who owns property within the community in order to enforce any code issues. Danner also shared that the City of Del City has been successful with their program that requires an inspection before a residence can be rented.
The visit with Thom Moton was enjoyable and informative. OML is happy to welcome him to our great state and look forward to his many years of service on the OML board of directors as the alternate representative for Broken Arrow.
Lindsay City Manager’s Family History Rich in Government Service
During the Lindsay Goodwill Tour, Stager met with Lindsay city manager Luke Olson. It would seem that public service is part of the Olson family DNA. Olson’s father is a long-time city manager currently serving in North Carolina while his brother is currently working for the governor of Florida. Olson moved to Lindsay a couple of years ago after working for the city of Kearney, Nebraska. In October of last year, he and his wife celebrated the birth of their daughter, Savannah.
The city of Lindsay currently has one hotel and Olson is in the process of securing a second hotel in the near future.
The drilling industry continues to be active with close to 250 permits issued in the region.
The city has see a steady increase in sales tax revenue each month, with two grocery stores contributing to that rate and the local Wal-Mart, the largest generator of sales tax for the city.
Olson is actively working to secure additional business entities as well as new restaurants. At this time there are a few businesses outside the city limits which Olson would like to see annexed into the town. However, legislation passed a few years ago resulted in annexation restrictions making it a little more challenging to incorporate them.
The Lindsay Fire Department consists of 10 full-time firefighters and has recently unionized. They also have a 16-person volunteer fire unit to assist with the needs of the community.
Lindsay is currently under a DEQ consent order on wastewater but after receiving a CDBG grant, they are hopeful that these funds will help with the needed improvements.
The city has a thirty-year contract to sell water to the rural water district.
Lindsay owns a nine-hole golf course outside of town and, as with most municipally run courses, is not profitable at this time.
EMS funding continues to be a struggle for Lindsay, as it is for many communities. The service region includes 22,000 people and with the city operating EMS, it must be financially supplemented by the city trust (approximately $1 million last year) just to keep it operating.
Luke has a good relationship with his local legislators and already had a follow-up visit with Rep. Lisa Billy who had attended the OML Legislative Committee meeting the day before Stager’s visit to Lindsay.
Alex Exudes Small Town Charm
The charm of a small town was certainly ever present when Director Stager visited Alex recently. She was fortunate enough to meet with Charlet Penney, the clerk/treasurer for the town. Penney is originally from Chickasha but moved to Alex as a child and attended school there as well. She also served time on the town board, as well as serving as mayor. When the long-time clerk/treasurer retired, Penney resigned her board seat in order to take over the clerk-treasurer duties. During Stager’s visit, several citizens with a variety of concerns came to city hall, showing Stager that no matter the size of the municipality, people need assistance with a wide range of issues.
The town board consists of three members that serve four-year terms. At the time of Stager’s visit, they were preparing for an election to fill two vacant trustee positions. The board meets every third Monday of each month.
Alex has a water superintendent, three police officers and a volunteer fire department that is operated through the county.
The school district has approximately 400 students in Pre-K through 12 and includes students from the nearby town of Bradley.
The town’s sales tax revenues remain fairly constant generating between $7,000 and $10,000 per month. These revenues come from two convenience stores, a flower shop, and a boutique called Callie’s Shabby Chic.
Alex is on water wells, which the superintendent has checked every month. Two years ago the town of Alex was able to purchase a new water tower.
Penney is very proud of her community and the contributions that are made on behalf of the businesses in Alex.
A new park is being built in Alex. The local First National Bank branch out of Chickasha, recently donated funds allowing the town to add a pavilion to the park’s plans. The town also received a grant from ASCOG, which will allow the town to build walking paths along the park. The town plans to have fundraising events to secure funds for other items such as playground equipment.
In the small amount of time Stager spent in Alex, she saw a community that cares about each other, a clerk/treasurer that takes care of each and every member of her community with grace and ease. Stager witnessed Penney welcoming a new resident with kindness and information and listened as Penney calmed an upset mother. No matter how large or small the community is, people that live there are the same and need professionals like Charlet Penney on their side.
Guthrie’s New City Manager Brings High Energy
During her tour of Guthrie, Carolyn Stager had the privilege of meeting Guthrie’s new high energy and progressive city manager, Sereniah Breland. Breland comes to Oklahoma from Texas where she served in several communities while there. Breland and her fiancée are settling into Guthrie and look forward to purchasing a home in the near future. As Stager and Breland spoke, there were many comparisons between how municipal government in Texas was funded vs. Oklahoma funding for cities and towns.
Without the ad valorem tax Breland was accustomed to receiving to fund operations in Texas, she is finding this issue to be one of her biggest challenges since arriving last October. Although the hotel/motel taxes are less than in Texas; there are fewer restrictions with how cities are allowed to utilize the funds. Guthrie’s sales tax revenues have been steady and last month they were up from where they were a year ago.
Breland questioned the lack of vehicle inspections in Oklahoma and thought it would be a great source of transportation funding for cities and towns.
She believes Guthrie needs to improve on activities for their youth. The town has made improvements to the skate park and they have a public pool but feel there is still room for improvements in this area.
While in Texas, Breland was active in the Texas City Managers Association (TCMA) and plans to be just as active with the City Management Association of Oklahoma (CMAO). She attended the CMAO Fall Meeting in Edmond and the Winter Conference in Stillwater in January.
Over the course of their conversation, Breland said she fell in love with Guthrie on her first visit. With Guthrie being a smaller community than she was used to working in Texas; being recognized when she was at the grocery store or at CVS was a new experience for her. She loves the sense of community in beautiful Guthrie.
Stroud Known for Popular Rock Cafe
During the visit to Stroud OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with City Manager Tim Schook and Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Thornton.
As it is with so many Oklahoma towns and cities, DEQ issues are ever present in Schook’s mind, which prompted a comprehensive conversation on the matter when Stager brought the information regarding OML’s position on the proposed public water supply fee increase to this attention. They talked about OML’s position regarding the $500,000 fee increase, which was to be spread evenly over ‘all’users of the system.
The City of Stroud does not utilize the ODEQ lab and instead conducts their testing with an outside, private company. Schook also informed Stager that Stroud has been under a consent order since 2007 and has recently obtained an OWRB loan, an ODOC grant and ARRA monies. These funds have allowed the city to move forward with some badly needed water infrastructure updates on a variety of projects. Although DEQ is a frequent visitor to Stroud, Schook feels he has a good working relationship with them.
After the horrific May 1999 tornado, the once popular Factory Outlet Mall’s parcel of land still sits vacant. Schook stated that the Sac & Fox Nation owns one-half of the property and there has been talk of opening a casino.
For the first time, Stroud participated in the 2012 ICSC cooperative booth in Dallas, TX and also attended the OKC event, which was hailed as a success. Like most communities, Stroud continues to search for new tax-paying businesses for the community.
Stroud is also known for the popular Rock Café along Route 66 which, although still open, has been put up for sale by its current owner. The Daily Oklahoman recently featured the café with a nice write-up reminding its readers of the many celebrities that have enjoyed the café over the years.
Three of the major issues Stroud is facing include the DEQ consent order, ambulance funding, and 911 funding. As more customers switch to cell phones and many discontinue hard line phones in their homes, the PSAP’s are facing the real possibility of failing financially. Even though this is a critical public safety issue that requires immediate attention, the possibility of raising taxes on cell phones for this purpose has not allowed it to gain much traction in the legislature. Fortunately, Schook feels the new House member, Rep. Jason Smalley, who replaced long-time legislator Danny Morgan, will be sensitive to the needs of Stroud and the other cities he represents.
|Posted on July 9, 2012 at 4:10 PM|
Lawton was one of the first cities I visited when first embarking on my goodwill visits over three years ago and I made another visit there last week to get a tour of their beautiful new city hall and to also evaluate potential meeting sites for the August OML Citizens Academy/Leadership Training that will be hosted by the City of Lawton. Lawton serves as the county seat of Comanche County and after Lawton annexed neighboring Fort Sill in 1988 they now hold the title of being the fifth largest city in the state.
The city is built on former reservation lands of Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Indians. Lawton was founded on August 6, 1901 and was named after major General Henry Ware Lawton, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in action in the Philippine-American War. Lawton’s landscape is typical of the Great Plains with flat topography and gently rolling hills, while the area north of the city is marked by the Wichita Mountains.
I initially was scheduled to meet with City Manager Larry Mitchell; however, due to an unanticipated meeting he was unable to attend. In Larry’s absence, I instead met with Assistant City Manager Bryan Long who is the son of Huey Pat Long, a longtime city manager who has served several Oklahoma cities and most recently retired from the City of Miami, OK.
Lawton has a beautiful new city hall that was formerly the old Lawton High School and Central Junior High built in 1909. The remodeling has been underway for about 10 years and is being accomplished under four phases. The McMahon Foundation has been a significant financial contributor toward the early success of this project. Other notable financial support was secured through AEP/PSO, the city’s electric utility provider, and Lawton’s 2005 CIP Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
As you drive toward the facility, you notice the magnitude and beauty of the building adorned with a large copper dome. I had been to Lawton and their new offices earlier this year to participate in their 25-year award ceremony, it was late evening and the dome was not as noticeable. In the daylight, you can truly appreciate the beauty of the dome when you see the sun shining off of it. As you enter the building there is a reception area with a beautiful atrium that can be used for receptions.
Approximately 60 percent of the building’s usable floor space has been preserved and in some areas they have kept some of the original “school-building” look and feel. The hallway leading to the administrative and mayor’s office still contains the old lockers that look just as they would have ‘back in the day’ and are filled with letter jackets and other important items you would imagine finding in a high school student’s locker. There is an old classroom set aside as an “Archive Classroom” that contains much of the historical information and artifacts relating to the building and its inhabitants throughout its accomplished use as an education facility.
The city is actually leasing the building from the school on a 99-year lease. This allows the school to continue to utilize the facility for various functions. There are many areas in the building available to host large groups, including the beautiful council chamber.
There is also a large area behind the council chambers that can be set with tables and chairs for meetings plus four breakout rooms. Downstairs there is a large room that can also be used for various events with a warming kitchen next door.
While touring city hall we stopped in at the clerk’s office that was beautifully decorated and had the opportunity to speak to Traci Hushbeck, City Clerk; Denise Ezell, Deputy Clerk, and Councilman Jay Burk.
Lunch time provided me with several options. The Leadership Lawton class was having their graduation luncheon that Bryan was attending and invited me to join him, or I could have attended Larry Mitchell’s Rotary Club, also meeting that day. I attended the Leadership Lawton graduation luncheon, which was a very nice event. I actually knew several people there including Jane Mitchell (Larry’s wife) and councilmember Doug Wells, who is also a member of the OML Citizens Academy/Leadership Training.
It was so nice to have a personally guided tour of the building and OML appreciates the City of Lawton for agreeing to host the August OML Citizen Academy/Leadership Training session. Larry wanted to host the meeting in August so that the Thursday evening social event could include attending the annual Lawton Rodeo. The Rodeo is just one of the many events and festivals that are held in Lawton each year. Others include the Easter Passion Play held in the Holy City in the Wichita Mountain Refuge each year on Palm Sunday, and continues until Easter eve. In May, Lawton Arts for All, Inc. hosts a festival, and in late September, Lawton hosts The International Festival, which showcases the many different cultural styles, arts and music of the community. Lawton is also home to Cameron University, the largest four-year university in southwest Oklahoma, offering more than 50 degree programs.
Lawton has a crown jewel in the form of their spectacular, new city hall and they couldn’t be prouder. Stop by if you are in the area. I am sure they would love to give you a tour.
Mary Hays, Clerk Treasurer has been with the city for 23 years, serving as clerk-treasurer since 1995. In addition to Ms. Hays, there are two or three other ladies that work in the city hall office and when I was visiting, city hall was abuzz with activity.
One of my fondest memories of Geary was when my son was a high school wrestler and the “Geary Invitational Tournament” was always a big event of the year. This tournament, known not only in Oklahoma but throughout the country, was started by Bob Steagle, a former wrestling coach, and still continues 67 years later. Schools from across Oklahoma and even out-of-state schools from Arizona and Kansas participate each year. Mary said that many of the former wrestlers have gone on to become coaches in other schools and states and they all tend to return to the tournament each year with their teams.
How can a city the size of Geary with 1,280 citizens host such an event, especially since they do not have any hotels/motels in town? For Geary, that is an easy answer: visiting schools are housed in local homes, churches, and even classrooms. Some families will host an entire wresting team during this weekend. Many of the citizens of Geary turn out for the tournament, a great indicator of how much of a generous, courteous, and friendly community this is.
As you exit I-40 heading north towards Geary, there is a Cherokee Restaurant that is in Geary corporate boundaries. This is the largest generator of sales tax for the city. There used to also be a hotel connected to the restaurant, but it burned down and existing water pressure is not adequate to rebuild the hotel. All of that may be changing soon as the city just completed a 12 inch water line out to the area, which was funded by a $1 million dollar loan form OWRB. They are waiting for the final inspection.
Sadly, Geary mayor Mitchell Paxton recently lost his battle to cancer and it was obvious his absence is still being felt by those at city hall. Vice-mayor Leslie Swinerton has stepped in to fill this position until a new election is held. She happened to be at city hall when I was there and could have been easily mistaken for one of the office staff, as she was at the copy machine, working away. We had a nice visit and discussed many of the federal and state agency regulations that affect cities and towns. I shared with her what OML is doing in this regard and that we were hopeful for changes.
Mary was very appreciative to OML for conducting the New Officials Institutes (NOI). As a long-time city clerk-treasurer, she understands the need to be current on state laws and regulations that affect municipal government. She is required to have training as a clerk-treasurer and she said that it is very helpful for the new council to also have this training. She noted that keeping them informed on things happening legislatively was another valuable service OML provided for their city. She also said she uses the inquiry department and other resources when needed.
The first Oklahoman to receive a total artificial heart (bionic heart) was from Geary. Troy Golden, who was a minister in town, had received a mechanical artificial heart and was the first person who was able to leave the hospital and come home for several months after receiving the heart. He has since died but his story was very touching and inspirational.
In addition to the Cherokee Restaurant, other sources of revenue include a couple of restaurants, gas station that also services trucks and vehicles, and a Quick Stop. A fairly new business in town, called the Plum Krazy Cottage, originally began with the conversion of an old church into a hair salon. It has grown to now include a craft store, nail and massage shop and ‘bistro’ that currently operates three days a week during lunch and offers ‘healthy’ meals. A greenhouse has also been added.
Geary has its own school system consisting of grades Pre-K through 12, with approximately 400 students. They also own a park and pool that opened for the summer on Memorial Day. The pool is old and is sometimes a challenge to maintain. They were able to open on Memorial Day, which has not always been the case because at times they have difficulty getting students trained and certified to work as life guards.
The fire department is all volunteer and consists of 13 members. Geary maintains a police department, with a chief of police and five officers, along with six dispatchers (some are part time). They hold municipal court one day a month and most offenses are traffic related.
Mary was delightful to visit with and I am certain anything you want to know about the town, she will have the answers. If you are in the area or passing through stop by and say “hi.”
Goodwill Tours continue with stops at Claremore, Commerce, Cromwell, Dustin, Grove, Guthrie, Miami, Pryor, Quapaw, Wyandotte
|Posted on November 3, 2011 at 12:20 AM|
We met for lunch with newly elected Mayor Mickey Perry who won his election by a huge margin. John Carey, a local attorney and civic leader, joined us. John and I were Leadership Oklahoma (LOK) classmates (Class XIII) and have also served on boards together. Mayor Perry is a former police chief and head of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) with over 40 years of law enforcement experience. One of Mayor Perry’s first comments was a compliment to OML for being kind to them even when they weren’t members. I told him we tried to be as accommodating as possible, although there had to be a distinction between benefits of members versus non-members. I told him we were happy to have Claremore back as part of the OML family.
There are lots of things going on in Claremore. They are working on a new plaza development and the week we were there they had just completed their county festival. The festival is held on city property but the county pretty much manages the festival with the exception of the concessions which are run by the city. After a delightful lunch, John gave us a tour of Rogers State. In 1909 it was a college preparatory school then later became an Oklahoma military academy. Of course it is now a university and in early 2000 was accredited as a four-year university with a current enrollment of 3,000. There have been many enhancements to the university including a new Innovations Center where the Economic Development Authority offices are located, new student housing, the Centennial Student Center and an Expo Center. Something I learned that was interesting is that the same board of regents for the University of Oklahoma (OU) also serves as the regents for Rogers State, which explains why they recently refurbished the gym floor at Rogers University which used to be the old OU basketball floor.
After a wonderful tour, we headed to the Claremore Daily Progress where I met with Randy Cowly, editor and Bailey Dabney, publisher. They are interested in assisting with sharing the municipal message and were also interested in assisting in an effort to change the way municipalities are funded. I sent them an Op Ed just this week on the Tax Loophole Benefits Internet marketplace, Proves Costly to Oklahoma Municipalities. You can access a copy here.
From there we headed to city hall where we again met up with Mayor Perry and City Manager Daryl Golbek. Mr. Golbek has been with the city for several years in a variety of positions including working for the cemetery, street department, and public works. He and the mayor joke that every time there was a need for an ‘interim’ city manager, the two of them tossed a coin to see who is ‘it.’ Local sales taxes are up; however all 3 cents of it is dedicated — their general operations revenues comes from owning their own utility. Mr. Golbek had pictures of his son who is a national titleholder in high jump and is currently ranked 20th in the world. He is currently attending the University of Arkansas.
A post office was established at Claremore on June 25, 1874, 33 years prior to Oklahoma statehood, when the region was the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. The city, which was named for the Osage Indian chief Claremore whose nearby village was destroyed during the Battle of Claremore Mound in 1817, was incorporated on May 2, 1903.
Claremore natives include singer Patti Page, astronaut Stuart Roosa and Lynn Riggs, author of Green Grow the Lilacs, from which the musical Oklahoma! was adapted. The area is best known as the home of Will Rogers. Claremore’s Will Rogers Memorial Museum attracts thousands of visitors each year to its 16,652 square foot structure where displays include photographs and Rogers’ original manuscripts, private letters and personal papers.
First thing that comes to mind when you think of the City of Commerce is the great baseball legend, Mickey Mantle. As you arrive into town you are driving on Mickey Mantle Highway. This and the large statue of Mickey at the ballpark are about the only obvious signs that this is the boyhood home of this great star.
Upon arriving at city hall and visiting with the city secretary, Jody, she told us where Mickey’s boyhood home was located which is just down the street from city hall at 319 N. Quincy. The childhood home looks much like you would think it did in its day. The house was locked up and pretty much empty inside. There was a marker on the front of the house so you knew you were at the right place. Also, the tin barn that was used for the backdrop during his practice with his dad, Mutt, is still standing. We were told that one cafe in town has a few items of memorabilia but they were not open the day we were there. Apparently the family has been very protective about people trying to capitalize on Mickey Mantle’s name. Jody also indicated that there were lots of people who come by to see his childhood home, some from as far away as Switzerland.
Jody was very helpful and friendly although she was the only one at city hall that day along with the public works director, Jeb. The other three ladies in the office, Lisa, water clerk; Janice, deputy clerk and Shirley, court clerk, were all unfortunately out sick with one of them having to have had emergency surgery over the weekend. I trust good health has returned to all of them.
Although Commerce does not have a grocery store, they do have two gas station/convenience store combinations along with a little café, Dairy King and a Dollar General Store that provides the majority of their sale tax base. Their fire department is a volunteer department but they do operate a paid police department. Being off of a major highway, the major violators are minors in possession and speeding. Dogs running at large and weed abatements are also two things the city would like to get under control.
Located in Ottawa County, Commerce is five miles north of Miami on U.S. Highway 69, formerly historic U.S. Highway 66. The community first organized as a lead-and-zinc mining camp, known as Hattonville, after Amos Hatton, who in 1906 developed the Emma Gordon mine that started the community. The first post office, operating from 1913 to 1914, was called North Miami. By June 1914 the postal designation was Commerce.
Developed on land that the U.S. government had assigned to the Quapaw, Commerce was named for the Commerce Mining and Royalty Company, which had bought the mining camp. In 1914 the Commerce company had the town platted, and by 1916 a mayor-council government had been put in place. It was declared a city by the State of Oklahoma in 1918.
Commerce is a neat little town that has much history to promote.
Another stop on our Goodwill Tour was the Town of Cromwell, population 286, which is in Seminole County. Linda Groves, the clerk-treasurer, served in that capacity from 1973-2000 and then came back to work for the town in 2009 to help out during a difficult time. In order to keep the town informed of activities, she writes, edits and publishes a newsletter which is mailed with the landfill bills as well as distributed at the general store, senior center and gas station.
We also had the opportunity to visit with Trustee Fraye Nellums who has served on the council since 2010.
This once divided community is now held together through a cooperative effort of the community and school. The town helps the school by purchasing pencils, pens, erasers and copy paper.
Cromwell hosted a Christmas party last year and 30 people showed up so they are looking to host an even larger party this year. Along with the Christmas party, the town has a house decorating contest that helps to ring in the holiday spirit.
The town doesn’t have a police department and relies on 11 volunteers for firefighting service. They are working on a grant for a brush truck and rely on a tax to help fund the department. However, that tax will run out in January.
Located in northeastern Seminole County, Cromwell is situated on State Highway 56, one mile south of State Highway 99A. Muskogee oilman Joe I. Cromwell bought land near the Bruner Number One oil well, in the Greater Seminole Field, and platted the original township in 1923. The oil boom town exploded to a population of thousands in a matter of weeks. A post office was established on May 17, 1924. Legendary lawman William “Bill” Tilghman was asked to come out of retirement at age seventy to establish law and order. On Nov. 1, 1924, Tilghman was killed and shortly thereafter a fire burned the business district.
OML’s Director of Governmental Relations, Missy Dean, and I recently traveled to southeastern Oklahoma to visit the small community of Dustin, Oklahoma, population 395. We were greeted by Evelyn Smith who runs a one-woman shop at Dustin Town Hall where she serves as clerk/treasurer and court clerk. You will find her there daily 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. accepting payments for water bills and speeding tickets, etc.
Located in northeastern Hughes County, 14 miles east of Wetumka on State Hwy 9, Dustin was first called Watsonville, where a post office was established on April 18, 1898, in the Creek Nation. After the Ft. Smith and Western Railroad built its Fort Smith-Guthrie line through the area in 1903, the town and post office were both officially changed to Dustin on May 9, 1904, probably to honor Henry C. Dustin of Cleveland, Ohio, an official of the railway. A local legend also holds that “dustin” was an Indian word for prairie town.
The drought that has struck our state this past year has hit Dustin especially hard and water is very sparse. Some residents who rely on ponds for their water source have had to purchase water from town hall since their ponds have dried up.
Dustin has a school that serves K-12 but it may be forced to close due to the low number of students. Currently there are 48 children in elementary school and 19 in the high school. If the school does close, students will have to travel to Wetumka for classes.
The town’s police chief, who has been on the job since August 2, also plays a dual role since he is the town’s lone police officer in addition to being the police chief. The town received a $20,000 donation which helps to run the department and there are plans for the chief to write grants to obtain additional funding.
The water superintendent is also a one-person shop. Funding from the department comes from REAP and CDBG grants as well as assistance from the Creek Nation. Dustin is changing over to rural water which will save the town several thousand a year in DEQ fees. Currently the town pays $7,000 to DEQ which is extraordinary for a town of its size. Switching to rural water will cost them only $600.
No town could have more support from its residents than Dustin. Citizens hold pie auctions for the fire department, pie auctions and brisket sales for the senior citizens and for school supplies. Everyone chips in to help keep Dustin great.
Upon arriving at the office of City Manager Bruce Johnson, I immediately noticed the latest edition of the OML Handbook open and right on top of his desk. It was good to see him putting it to good use. Bruce explained that he had been in discussions with a rural water district and had requested some information from them. He was referring to the open records information in the Handbook to ensure that he was correct regarding his request. He noted that the Handbook was very helpful and I was happy that one of our members is benefitting from our publications. The 2011-12 OML Handbooks were recently sent to the city manager or clerk of all OML-member municipalities. We have plenty more available for purchase. For ordering information go to http://fs12.formsite.com/cchristo/form34/index.html.
Of course, the surroundings are what can’t be missed when arriving in Grove. Bruce has to be thanking his lucky stars to be able to work and live in such a beautiful place, situated right next to Grand Lake … can’t get much better than that.
Grove is currently participating in a unique Tax Increment Financing (TIF) project. They have demolished the old Integris Hospital and built a $60 million hospital in a new location. Their hope is to develop retail on the old site. Although TIF’s can sometimes be controversial in communities, Bruce indicated that this one was not. Since there is no current ad valorem value in the property, the county and school district had no problems with it. I asked him if he was participating in the upcoming International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) convention in San Antonio and he said that he was. Last year, several Oklahoma cities cooperated by hosting a shared booth at the ICSC in Grapevine, TX, which proved to be a big success.
The city is preparing for a November hotel/motel tax vote. Although a similar measure failed in the past, probably because it shared the ballot with an unpopular initiative, they’re cautiously optimistic about this one.
Bruce reports that Grove is not currently under any DEQ or EPA consent orders, unlike the more than 50% of other Oklahoma municipalities under consent orders. Bruce attributes this to the city’s practice of increasing water rates incrementally, allowing them to continue to update their systems. They are also changing over to a new meter reading system using the Datametric database system. They estimate that up to 50% of current water use is unaccounted for. Their hope is that this new, automated system will help capture the majority of water usage, thus increasing revenues.
Grove’s police officers participate in a union but the fire department is non-union. Bruce says he has a good relationship with both groups. Although their sales tax revenues have been down, they are slowly improving, but not enough yet to be able to provide salary or cost of living increases to city employees. Bruce mentioned that he would like to get city employees out of OPERS and into OMRF, although it would require legislative action to make this happen. I advised him that OML can assist in that effort.
On Dec. 27, 1888 Tredwell Remsen, a former Union soldier from New York, attained approval for a post office for Grove. Situated in the Delaware District, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, at a spring in a grove of trees, Grove was a long-used trail from southwest Missouri to Afton, Vinita, and points west. More businesses began to locate near the post office, and by the 1890s, probably about 1895, the town was incorporated.
I recently met with Matt Mueller, city manager of Guthrie. Matt began his career with the City of Edmond and
then moved to Claremore as an assistant city manager and now is at the helm of his first city manager position. He is
very impressive and I have enjoyed his friendship and professional working relationship through the years.
One of Guthrie’s struggles is that they do not operate their own utility unlike the two cities he has worked in before.
He said that really brings home just how flawed Oklahoma’s system of funding is for cities and towns.
Guthrie is sandwiched in between two retail giants – Stillwater & Edmond. Given the difficulty to compete in the
retail market, Guthrie has chosen to focus on tourism which is their biggest business.
Guthrie partners with the City of Edmond on the airport. Guthrie has a unique downtown and, although there are
a lot of vacant buildings where business offices have moved out, this has also created a great opportunity for new
businesses to move in.
I asked Matt if he was participating with the Oklahoma cities who were once again partnering to in a joint booth
at the upcoming ICSC (International Center for Shopping Centers) to be held in San Antonio in November. He said
he was not personally but had utilized the services of Ricky Hays for years to assist in this effort.
Although the census numbers for the city proper do not show Guthrie growing that much, South Logan County is
one of the fastest growing (non-incorporated) areas of the state.
We talked a lot about the challenges being faced by all municipalities in Oklahoma and both agreed that there is
much unrest at all levels of government. You need only pick up a newspaper in any city/state or turn on the news to
see this happening from Wall Street to Main Street. Unfortunately, municipal officials are closest to the people and
most accessible so they seem to take the brunt of much of this.
We discussed the need for cities to have access to ad valorem and that if we could join forces with the public
safety community (both police & fire) and create public safety districts, this would be a win/win for all involved.
Guthrie has a combination fire department including EMS and also operates its own ambulance system. The ambulance service is funded largely through property tax, there are no utility assessments.
Guthrie still has issues pending with the Rural Water District with a mediation hearing scheduled in the near
future. They also have initiatives being proposed by citizens on a number of issues, one which would allow the
citizens to be able to vote on all utility increases. Guthrie is in great shape in regards to water thanks to a new water
plant and feels comfortable that they will be able to adequately serve their customers for 60 years. During the hot
dry summer, Guthrie did not face rationing. They receive their water from Guthrie & Liberty Lakes and Cottonwood
WalMart is their largest retailer and although sales tax is good and up from the previous year, they, like many cities,
still have not gotten back to the pre-downturn in the economy levels.
Guthrie sprang into existence during the Land Run on April 22, 1889 which opened up Unassigned Lands in
Indian Territory. The town derives its name from Kansas jurist John Guthrie. A post office was established on April
4, 1889, and a U.S. Land Office opened on April 22, 1889. George W. Steele, a Republican from Indiana, was the
first territorial governor, and Guthrie served as the state capital from 1907 to 1910. The U.S. Congress passed the
Enabling Act on Nov. 6, 1906, which provided for creating the State of Oklahoma and writing the constitution. A
year later, on Nov. 16, 1907, statehood ceremonies were held on the steps of Guthrie’s Carnegie Library. On June 11,
1910, a majority of people voted to move the state capitol to Oklahoma City.
The Guthrie Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and became a National
Historic Landmark in 1999.
Guthrie was also the first capitol of the state and the former capitol building is now the beautiful Masonic Lodge.
The downtown is unique and the Pollard Theatre hosts the Territorial Christmas play each year in December. So,
plan on enjoying the city’s famous Victorian Walk Evenings which feature live window scenes celebrating life in
Territorial Guthrie. Carolers, peanut vendors and lights galore will illuminate the Historic District.
We met with interim City manager Tim Wilson and his assistant, Judy Francisco, at the Stone Hill Grill in Miami, where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch and discussed the many highlights of Miami, Oklahoma. Not to be confused with that big city in the southeast, this Miami pronounces its name “Mi-am-uh.”
Although it was a Friday, not all Miami city employees were working, as the city has adopted a rotating shift schedule of 4-day 10-hour shifts. Initially, there was some reluctance to adopt the new schedule, touted as saving energy and increasing efficiency, but the new system seems to be working well for both employees and citizens. Since office hours are extended, folks have more opportunities to conduct business at city hall.
The new census data indicates that Miami’s population has declined slightly, but that is rapidly changing for the better. Tim reports that when the small town of Picher’s buyout was completed, many of the families chose to relocate in Miami. Judy asked a question about whether census information was available by city block and I was able to connect her with Steve Barker of the Census Bureau. She reported later to me that he walked her through the “mile deep” website to find Miami’s needed information. I was glad to be of assistance and was reminded that this is the kind of service we at OML strive to provide to our members. We want to be the “go-to” resource for information and technical assistance.
Tim also thanked me for the new OML Handbook and mentioned how helpful the Handbook is to them. They requested two additional books be sent to the city and again, I got on the phone to get that process started.
Tim has worked with the city for many years and has come up through the ranks by working in several different areas of city employment. He says Miami faces many of the same challenges as most cities but it also has much to be proud of. There are four Native American tribes in the area and Tim serves on the Ottawa Tribal Council. The city maintains a good, cooperative relationship with all of the tribes and one benefit was realized when they received tribal assistance with a new road built to connect to a brand new casino. The city of Miami also collects a 4 cent hotel tax. In addition, they work through the Miami Area Economic Development Service (MAEDS) which is mostly funded by local merchants.
When I asked Tim to tell me about the best thing in Miami, he was quick to respond that Miami has become a destination for entertainment. No visit to Miami is complete without a visit to the Coleman Theater. We took a tour with volunteers who were both enthusiastic and quite knowledgeable about every detail. They explained that the Coleman has recently undergone a complete restoration, which brought it back to its original grandeur of the roaring 20s, all accomplished with private donations. Everything was restored to its original design, with one exception – they did expand the width of the theater seats from 19 to 21 inches, since we all seem to be “expanding.” Also, the original “hat racks” under the seats were eliminated, since as our guide mentioned “baseball caps just don’t fit.” The Friends of the Coleman, a non-profit organization, is responsible for the ongoing project. They have also recently opened the Coleman Conference Center Ballroom, a facility to host weddings, proms, parties, and special events. You can get more information by visiting their website at www.colemantheatre.org. This jewel alone makes the visit to Miami worthwhile, along with the great food at Stone Hill Grill or any of Miami’s other great restaurants.
W.C. Lykins, president of a fledgling town company, was the driving force in Miami’s creation. He traveled to Washington, D.C., and successfully petitioned Congress to pass legislation on March 3, 1891, to establish the town. Coincidentally, also there on business was an acquaintance, Thomas F. Richardville, chief of the Miami tribe. He met with Lykins and agreed to confer with the U.S. Indian Commission and the Ottawa tribe, talks which led to Congress authorizing the secretary of the interior to approve the townsite purchase from the Ottawa. For his support Lykins, a member by adoption of the Peoria tribe, agreed to let the town be named after Richardville’s Miami tribe. They and Manford Pooler, chief of the Ottawa, are generally identified in historical accounts as fathers of Miami.
Mayor Tramel is very proud of Pryor and rightfully so. Upon arriving, we immediately jumped in Mayor Tramel’s vehicle for a tour of the town. Next to city hall is the county courthouse and jail and close by is also the site for the new city hall.
Located about an hour’s drive from Tulsa, Pryor Creek is the county seat in Mayes County. The town was first named Coo-Y-Yah, but in 1887 the Post Office changed the name to Pryor Creek, and in 1898, the town officially took the name. The stream, Pryor Creek, just to the west and south of town, had been named for Capt. Nathaniel Pryor, who had operated a trading post there.
Heading downtown Mayor Tramel pointed out where a new Sam & Ella’s Pizza Place would soon be opening. Now if you say the name real fast and do not adequately pronounce the “and” it might sound like you are saying “salmonella.” Nothing could be further from the truth as I have personally eaten at the Sam & Ella’s Pizza Place in Tahlequah and this new restaurant will be a great addition for Pryor.
On the corner of Highway 29 and 60 (basically Main Street) Mayor Tramel pointed out a corner building that was formerly an old bank. It has withstood storms and the outside façade had been covered with some kind of covering for many years. It has now been restored to its original architecture including beautiful stained glass that was under all of the materials that had hidden the beauty of the building for many years. The building is about 3,500 square feet and the owner has donated it to the city for a conference center. The city is also investing in the remodeling – the only stipulation from the owner was that it would be used by the chamber and the city. Renovations are almost complete.
Heading down Highway 69, Mayor Tramel pointed out 120 acres that were donated to the city by Rockin G Ranch whose owner is a great civic leader. Jimmy said he was invested in the community and if there were students of 4H that needed an animal and could not afford one that he would purchase the animal and even allow them to come to his ranch to work with it. The city has already built a new animal shelter on a small portion of the donated property. A dream that Mayor Tramel would like to see is for there to be a large animal vet center as an extension of OSU.
Pryor has so much going on including a farmer’s market on Saturday. The kid’s park is the hub of activity in town along with another park that has walking paths. There are also two senior centers in town. Whittaker Park is the focal point of the city. They have a huge pool that was built in 1953. Mayor Trammel thinks there may only be one larger municipal pool in the state. One of the swing sets at the park has been there since 1927 and on the opposite side of the park are tennis courts that were built with donations and matching funds.
Thunderbird Youth Academy is located in Pryor. The academy works with troubled youths on self-paced programs but they do not accept court-ordered youth. The Academy is operated by the National Guard.
Pryor’s higher education opportunities include an annex of Rogers State University. The city also has two fire stations with 10 full-time employees, the chief and assistant and 15 volunteers (a true combination fire department).
The recreational center has every kind of offering for exercise imaginable including a pool utilized by the high school swim team as well as a facility used for citizens wishing to swim or with arthritic ailments. Another portion of the recreation center has a literacy program that includes a private entrance in the back where students of all ages can enter discreetly. The weekend following our visit they were actually hosting a ‘mud run” complete with obstacle courses and plenty of dirt and mud. Mayor Tramel said the annual event raises $12,000 and the money raised goes to the elementary school programs. The mayor was planning on participating in the mud run so I want to make sure I ask for pictures next time I see him.
There are two elementary schools in Pryor as well as a state-of-the art early childhood development center that has a gym that would surpass most high school gymnasiums I have seen. The early childhood center as well as every classroom in the entire Pryor school system has smart boards.
As we were pulling up to city hall, someone honked their horn and I look over and what a treat it was to see former mayor Lucy Belle Schultz come driving up to say hello. Mayor Tramel says Lucy is 88 years young and still as active as she ever was.
I am sure Mayor Tramel would be willing to show off his city to you also – why not give him a call?
During a recent visit to the town of Quapaw I visited with acting clerk treasurer Krista Owens. She has been filling in for long time clerk treasurer Gwen Maute who is ill. Dave Barnes the deputy clerk was at city hall visiting with Richard Synor project specialist from FEMA. Early this year Quapaw was hit with a very bad snow storm that shut down the town. Mr. Synor was there doing research to see if Quapaw qualifies for FEMA reimbursement.
Quapaw has two restaurants that generate sales tax but no grocery store. They also receive revenue from street and alley funds and from Empire utility.
The Quapaw tribe, after which the town is named, is building a 38 unit housing facility for the elderly. The town will benefit from the sale of water to the facility.
According to oral tradition, the ancestors of the Dhegiha, a group that included what would later be known as the Omaha and Quapaw, once lived together east of the Mississippi River near the mouth of the Ohio. Those who moved up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers became known as the Omaha (“those going upstream or against the current,” including those who would later be recognized as the Omaha, Kansa, Ponca and Osage peoples. Those that moved down the river toward its confluence with the Arkansas river, would later be known as Quapaw, the name of a major village that became the designation for the entire group. The name Quapaw derived from okaxpa, now also spelled ogahpah, is often interpreted as “those going downstream or with the current.”
In Wyandotte, I met with Dani McCall, clerk-treasurer since April who took the place of the former clerk-treasurer who had held that position for over 30 years. The Town of Wyandotte has a new city hall located right across the street from the K – 12 Wyandotte School. Ms. McCall studied finance in school and although she is fairly new to her job and admitting there was a big learning curve, it was quick to notice she already had a great grasp on so many things and asked lots of great questions.
She had recently attended the OML New Officials Institute (NOI) and it was fun to see she had her certificate prominently displayed on her wall. She was very complimentary about the institute and said she had learned a lot! I suggested she might think about connecting with another clerk in a nearby community to serve as a mentor and to assist with routine issues that might come up.
Although Wyandotte is a town of only about 300 population, they have a huge country market along with a new casino right on the outskirts of town. A new Dollar General, that is supposed to be one of the largest, was slated to open soon.
Dani and her family have been in Wyandotte for only a couple of years although her husband’s family all live there. She told me the cutest story and even agreed I could share. After her 13-year old son began school, he met a darling girl and they were an item for about three days and he even kissed her. He soon found out it was his first cousin. He promised he would never have a girlfriend in Wyandotte but would look to neighboring communities when looking for a new girlfriend. Now, this is small town Oklahoma and what a fun little story.
Wyandotte has a volunteer fire department and they, like many across the state with the extreme dry conditions, experienced a lot of grass fires. She was interested in grants and said she had found one through the Agriculture Department for rural fire departments but could use more help as the transmission had gone out on the brush pumper and it was cost prohibitive to repair. The town does not have its own police department but does hold court in town. They contract with the Wyandotte Nation for their police services.
One of the things Dani is also working to do is transfer all of the town’s records to an electronic data base including all of the town history. This way she can provide back-up and have all of these historical documents secure. Stop by and say ‘hi’— you can’t miss it as the Wyandotte Casino sits right on the corner.
The Town of Wyandotte, population 333, honors the Wyandotte tribe, removed to the area in 1867. In 1876 the Prairie City post office moved three miles east to present Wyandotte and changed the name to Grand River. Grand River changed its designation to Wyandotte in 1894. From 1922 to 1927 Mamie Foster served as mayor, and the city marshal, as well as most other city officials, were women. In 1966, as it planned a rural water district, the town could not find any record of incorporation. Residents petitioned the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners to approve an election and voted for incorporation in April 1966.