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U.S. Congressman Frank Lucas visits Piedmont

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
U.S. Congressman Frank Lucas stopped by the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette Wednesday morning to talk about the Farm Bill, the Affordable Care Act and wind energy with Okarche resident Julie Harris, right.

Out with the old, in with the new…

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
Workers install a new Keller Williams real estate sign Tuesday morning in Piedmont at the former Cleaton and Associates location.

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
A longtime icon/sign sees its final minutes of existence Tuesday morning in Piedmont as it is about to be replaced by a new Keller Williams real estate sign.

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
More than 50 Piedmont Chamber of Commerce members, Keller Williams associates and area community business people join Susan Miller, operating partner of Keller Williams Platinum of Piedmont, and Phil Boevers, Keller Williams franchise owner and Piedmont home builder, to cut the ribbon Tuesday morning for the new Piedmont Keller Williams Platinum location, located west of F&M Bank on Piedmont Road.

Road Warriors: PHS boys soccer rolls over Altus, Duncan in district

Evan Grice/Gazette
Piedmont’s Steffen Funkhouser attempts to control the ball in midfield as a Duncan Demon player gives chase during the first half Tuesday night at Halliburton Stadium. Funkhouser finished the game against the Demons with a pair of goals as the Wildcats improved to 2-1 in district play with a 6-1 victory over the Demons on the road.

By Evan Grice

Sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

If there was any doubt about the No. 13 Piedmont Wildcats still having some fight left in them for the playoffs, those questions were answered with an emphatic statement Tuesday night.

Facing their second road game in Southwest Oklahoma in as many days, the Wildcats used a fast start to take the Duncan Demons out of the game early, eventually claiming a 6-1 victory at Halliburton Stadium.

The victory was preceded by a 5-2 victory over the Altus Bulldogs Friday night also on the road. Read more →

No. 12 Lady Wildcats exercise Lady Demons

Evan Grice/Gazette
Piedmont’s Jordan Hendren battles for control of the ball with a Duncan Lady Demon player Tuesday night during the first half at Halliburton Stadium in Duncan. Hendren scored in her first game back from injury for the Lady Wildcats in a 5-0 rout of the Duncan Lady Demons.

By Evan Grice

Sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

These days it seems as though returning players and scoring goals have gone hand-in-hand for the No. 12 Piedmont Lady Wildcats.

Friday night at Bulldog Stadium in Altus, a returning Kylie Pyle registered a hat-trick as the Lady Wildcats took out Altus by a score of 5-0.

The trend continued Tuesday night at Halliburton Stadium in Duncan as a returning Jordan Hendren claimed her goal as well, as Piedmont cruised past the Lady Demons, by a score of what else but 5-0. Read more →

Wildcat baseball fries Chicks, falls at GHS

Evan Grice/Gazette
Piedmont’s Easton Fenton slides safely into home plate to score a run for the Wildcats during Friday afternoon’s contest against Chickasha at Wildcat Field. Piedmont won the game in five innings by a score of 8-0.

By Evan Grice

Sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

It only seemed fitting Friday afternoon under the beaming sunshine at Wildcat Field that the Piedmont Wildcats would put together a red-hot performance.

Against the Chickasha Fighting Chicks, the Wildcats used a five-run third inning, along with a combined no-hitter from Trevin Michael and Dalton Egan to take out CHS by a score of 8-0, claiming their fifth straight win.

“I was throwing strikes and my defense was backing me up out there,” Michael said. “I got worried there for a minute during the game but I was just worried about hitting the glove and doing my part.” Read more →

Murder victim’s sister speaks a crime victims vigil

Traci Chapman/Mustang News
Homicide victim survivor Renee Weber speaks to crime victims during the District Attorney’s 22nd annual vigil for crime victims Monday at the Canadian County Courthouse.

By Matt Montgomery
editor@piedmontnewsonline.com

Cindy Jarman and her two daughters were murdered in a field in northeast Canadian County, near Piedmont, in 1993. Michael Hooper was put to death by lethal injection in 2012. Monday night marked a unique opportunity for Jarman’s sister, Renee Weber, to tell her story.

The 22nd annual Canadian County District attorney’s vigil for crime victims, held Monday at the Canadian County Courthouse No. 1, provided the platform for Weber to speak to victims of violent crimes, and share her experience as a murder victim survivor.

Jarman’s two children, Tonya, 5, and Timothy, 3, were shot to death by Hooper then buried in a shallow grave. Each had been shot twice in the head or face. Police arrested Hooper and searched his parents’ home. The police recovered a .9 mm weapon Hooper had purchased several months prior to the murders. Ballistics confirmed that the shell casings near the grave site were a match to this weapon. Police also recovered two shovels with soil consistent with soil from the grave site, and tennis shoes that matched the footprints found there, according to previous reports.

Weber took Wednesday night to trace her experience and her thinking about the whole process of being a victim, Canadian County District Attorney Mike Fields said.

Canadian County District Attorney Mike Fields

“She began by talking about the day she first heard her sister, niece and nephew were missing,” Fields said. “Shortly after that, being notified they had been murdered.”
Weber then talked about sitting through a three-week jury trial and the emotions she felt during that time.

Shortly after the murder trial, Weber’s mother, Alicia Weber, convinced Weber to start attending church and at some point after that, she felt called to forgive Hooper for killing her sister, Fields said.

“She said it was at that time she released that anger and negative feelings she’d been having toward Mr. Hooper,” he said. “She replaced those with forgiveness for him.”

Fields said after Weber forgave Hooper for his crime, she, her sister and mother visited him in McAlester and sat down with him to speak with him.

“She talked about that meeting and described how Mr. Hooper expressed remorse for what he had done,” Fields said. “For the first time, he admitted he had done it. He then asked them for their forgiveness. They granted it to him at that time.”

Fields, who organized the event to coincide with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, told members of the audience Monday “Every year, millions of people have their lives changed forever by crime,” Fields said. “They are our family, our neighbors, our friends, and our colleagues. Crime victims often struggle to work, to pay bills and to support their loved ones. Many have life-changing injuries and need long-term care and support. Others have emotional scars that are very slow to heal.”

During the vigil, Weber described the day of Hooper’s execution, Fields said. The Weber family visited the three departed’s grave before the execution then went to the prison to witness the execution.

She talked about how she still has her moments when she wonders why this happened and what it is she is supposed to do? She said telling others her journey of being led to forgive was cathartic for Weber and the crime victims in attendance, Fields said.

Fields said he takes a lot of pride in providing this platform for victims.

Lady Wildcat tennis wins title at WH Invite

Evan Grice/Gazette
Players and coaches from the Piedmont girls tennis team pose for a team photo at OTC.

By Evan Grice

Sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

After claiming their first tournament title of the season in Tahlequah, the Lady Wildcats tennis team decided to repeat the performance Thursday afternoon at the Oklahoma Tennis Center.

Fueled by two singles championships, and two solid finishes from the doubles teams, the Lady Wildcats were able to claim the overall girl’s title at the Western Heights Invitational. Read more →

PHS boys track claims Piedmont Invite title

Evan Grice/Gazette
Piedmont’s Austin Owens tries to stick the landing during his attempt at the Long Jump event Saturday afternoon at Stout Field during the Piedmont Invitational track meet. Owens and the rest of his teammates managed to claim the overall title on the day in the boys team standings as they beat out Bishop McGuinness.

By Evan Grice

Sports@Piedmontnewsonline.com

Sometimes, there really is no place like home.

This was never truer than this past Saturday at Stout Field for the Piedmont track teams.

At the Piedmont Invitational, the Wildcats used a strong performance in multiple events to overtake Bishop McGuinness, and win the overall team title. Meanwhile, the Lady Wildcats turned in a strong fourth place finish, with the Lady Irish running away with the overall title. Read more →

Union Mutual declared insolvent, placed into receivership and rehabilitation

©2014 Piedmont-Surrey Gazette
By Matt Montgomery
editor@piedmontnewsonline.com

Piedmont-based Union Mutual Insurance Company has been declared insolvent by Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak, and placed into receivership and rehabilitation.

John Doak

Documents filed in Oklahoma County District Court   View PDF   show Doak was appointed receiver for Union Mutual after he filed for a permanent injunction in Oklahoma County District Court on Jan. 24. Terry Smith was appointed assistant receiver by the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

Doak determined that “Union Mutual is financially impaired and/or insolvent in that the company’s surplus as regards to policyholders has fallen below the statutory required capital and surplus of $150,000,” the injunction reads.

From a quarterly financial statement, filed with the Oklahoma Insurance Department on Nov. 30, 2013, the company’s net capital and surplus was a (-$1,534,486).

“Insurance companies file statutory financial statements with the insurance department,” Doak said. “Periodically, examinations on companies are conducted on behalf of the insurance department to verify accuracy of the statements.

In 2013, Union Mutual was examined and a number of adjustments were made to their statement resulting in the company’s not having the required statutory capital.”

The order, filed in district court decreed the receiver, Oklahoma Insurance Department, to take possession of the property of Union Mutual; vested by operation of the law with the title to all of the property, accounts, assets, contracts, rights of action and all of the books and records of Union Mutual.

Doak said the Oklahoma Insurance Department is working with Union Mutual to return them to a solid financial condition.

“As insurance commissioner, I am responsible for the financial solvency of domestic insurers,” Doak said. “I am also dedicated to protecting consumers, which state law allows me to do in this case. My staff has been working with Union Mutual for some time. I’m hopeful the company can be returned to solid financial condition.”

He said when a company is in hazardous condition, the insurance commissioner can petition the courts to place the company into receivership and order the commissioner as receiver to take possession of and operate the company.

“In this case, the district court ordered the receiver and the assistant receiver to rehabilitate Union Mutual,” Doak said. “The Oklahoma Insurance Department will monitor the company’s progress and offer recommendations to the commissioner as receiver and the assistant receiver as they believe appropriate.”

Doak said that while this is a civil proceeding and not a criminal proceeding, many factors contributed to the current financial condition of Union Mutual and the exact causes are still under review.

Appointed assistant receiver Terry Smith said Union Mutual has made significant progress since supervisory action was taken late last year.

“Progress includes the implementation of a number of different cost-control initiatives and administrative changes to restore Union Mutual to profitability to position it for long-term success,” Smith said. “The staff of the Oklahoma Insurance Department, including the commissioner, has provided Union a significant amount of assistance in improving the operations. Union’s employees are working hard as well to maintain the level of service that policyholders and agents are accustomed to receiving. Working through the court-supervised rehabilitation process, we are doing everything possible to enable an Oklahoma company that has been in business since 1938 to endure for many years to come.”

Documents show that any and all officers of Union Mutual are prohibited from transacting any further business of Union Mutual.

Piedmont City Councilman and Union Mutual Claims Manager Donnie Robinson said his brother, Jack Robinson, who had served as an officer with Union Mutual and his nephew, Jackie Robinson, had left the company and were pursuing other business interests.

Donnie Robinson

“Jack has retired from the company,” Robinson said. “Jackie has left and is wanting to do something else for a living.”

Legislators discuss current political issues at Piedmont’s legislative breakfast

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
District 22 Senator Rob Johnson

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
District 23 Sen. Ron Justice

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
Rep. Mike Sanders, House of Representatives District 59

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
Rep. John Enns, House of Representatives District 41

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
U.S. Congressman Frank Lucas was represented by Jeremy Bennett

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn was represented by Craig Smith

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe was represented by Brian Hackler

By Matt Montgomery
editor@piedmontnewsonline.com

Several regional legislators and state legislators spoke to Piedmont community members about current political issues during the Piedmont Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Breakfast, held Thursday morning at the George Fina Municipal Building in Piedmont.
Some of the issues that were discussed included the Affordable Care Act, the Farm Bill, and budget issues at both the state and federal levels.
Area Senator Ron Justice spoke about issues he is working on in the Oklahoma senate. Area Representatives Mike Sanders and John Enns spoke about some pressing issues regarding the Capitol, including repairing the building issues at the Capitol itself. Enns spoke about the problems with Obamacare and standardized testing in state schools. Rob Johnson encouraged soon-to-be voters of Senate District 22, to learn about those who are running for the seat, after Johnson announced he would not seek another term.
Sen. Tom Coburn’s representative, Craig Smith, took time to visit with Piedmont community members about what the senator is working on in Washington. Congressman Frank Lucas’ representative, Jeremy Bennett, spoke about the Farm Bill. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s representative, Brian Hackler, took time to talk about issues the senator is fighting for including infrastructure and the defense budget.

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