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Archive for: August 2011

Final sweep of tornado debris begins next week, Aug. 9 storm debris to be picked up

Crews are collecting debris from the May 24 tornado and Aug. 9 storm.

Crews have completed their first sweep of debris pickup from the May 24 tornado and are preparing to go out one final time next week.

According to city estimates, close to 400 tons of debris have already been removed from city right-of-ways. Victims of the tornado were asked to place debris ranging from vegetation to metal on the edge of their property to be picked up and a second sweep will begin on Sept. 6.

“The thing to stress is this will be the final pickup,” Councilman Vernon Woods said. Woods has served as a monitor for the FEMA-sponsored debris collection.

Woods said some neighborhoods appear to be completely cleared of debris but others, such as Flacon Lake, have a lot more that needs to be removed. Woods said some debris was not able to be removed because it was still on private property and that residents need to make sure their debris is pushed to the edge of the street without blocking traffic.

Rules for debris collection provided by the city state that only residents located within the city limits are eligiable, no debris will be taken from private land or private roads, no debris loaded on trailers will be collect4ed and tires will also not be collected.

Last month, the city council awarded a bid to Arbor Master Tree Service to oversee the debris removal from the tornado. The city has also been working with FEMA to develop a debris removal plan and City Manager Clark Williams said the final decision to award a bid was delayed as the city worked with FEMA on final details. The debris removal service will cost $195 a ton, with an estimated total cost between $150,000 and $200,000. FEMA will reimburse the city for portions of that cost, but not before the city pays the removal company first.

Earlier this week FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said escalating costs from natural disasters across the country may postpone some federal funds from reaching certain communities but said projects already in the works should not be jeopardized.

“A lot of people thought, well, the people that have been impacted by the tornadoes and floods — we’re going to take that money away from them,” Fugate told reporters at the White House this week. “The survivors that are eligible for assistance are still getting funds. Individual assistance programs were not affected by this, nor was any protective measures, or any debris clearance, or any project that had already been approved.”

The city has also announced that debris caused by the Aug. 9 storm that left damage in many parts of central Piedmont will also be picked up starting next week. Crews from WCA will begin sweeping affected neighborhoods on Sept. 7 and residents need to have debris near right-of-ways.

Deer Creek shuts out Lady Cats, 6-0

Jordan Chism got the start on the mound on Tuesday night and struck out two batters. (Photo by Greg Evans)

The Lady Wildcats never could get the bats going on Tuesday night as they fell to Deer Creek 6-0.

Piedmont got a pair of runners on base three times on but never could bring them home.

Hayley Baie, Bre Davis, Jordan Chism, Morgan Ratliff and Caitlyn Deason each recorded a single. Haleigh McAnally knocked a double.

Chism got the start on the mound and struck out two, while walking four. Courtney Anderson pitched the final one and a half innings.

Piedmont had a busy past week, playing Mount Saint Mary’s and the team competed in the Hall of Fame Festival and Tulsa Festival. The girls beat Mount Saint Mary’s, the defending Class 3A state champion, 7-0.

Piedmont streaked through the week’s games beating Healdton, Class A No.4, 9-4; Drumright, Class 2A No. 9, 4-2; Berryhill, Class 4A No. 2, 3-2; Skiatook, Class 5A No. 16, 3-2; and Western Heights, Class 5A No. 21, 14-0.

Kylie Palmer throws the ball to first during Tuesday’s game against Deer Creek. (Photo by Greg Evans)

“We played some of the top ranked teams in the state last week,” Coach Rick Scott said. “We got behind 0-2 on errors against Berryhill and scored four straight for the win. That win was one of our best regular season wins since beating Tuttle a few years ago. Haleigh (McAnally) batted in the winning run and Michelle Brandon laid down some key bunts. Courtney Miller was something like 10 for 12 in a day and Emma Nelson wasn’t too far behind. We didn’t move up in the rankings any this week, but that’s good. Districts will be announced on the 16th. If we are fifth or above, we should get a bye and host a regional. The girls have been playing well, when we don’t make errors we’re hard to beat.”

Piedmont plays at Woodward on Sept. 1 against Woodward and Guymon. The Lady Wildcats then travel to Purcell on Sept. 2 and host Western Heights on Sept. 6.

The Lady Wildcats’ season record moves to 14-4 following Tuesday night’s loss.

Horse trained by Piedmont resident beats former Derby favorite

Caleb’s Posse is seen here narrowly beating Uncle Mo at the King’s Bishop Stakes last week. (Courtesy Photo)

Caleb’s Posse, a three-year-old colt, narrowly beat Uncle Mo, the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby before battling with a liver disorder, at Saratoga Springs last weekend to win the King’s Bishop Stakes.

The horse is trained by Donnie Von Hemel of Piedmont.

“(Caleb’s Posse) is owned by Don McNeil from Edmond and Everett Dobson from Oklahoma City,” Von Hemel said. “He’s a horse that McNeil bred and I trained throughout his career. The King’s Bishop Stakes in Saratoga is a grade one race and we beat last year’s two year-old champion, Uncle Mo, by a nose. It was one of those races that makes all the hard work worth it.”

Von Hemel says that he has spent his whole life training horses but got his start with his father, who was also a thoroughbred horse trainer. After he graduated from college he went right back to the track.

“In thoroughbred racing, most of the horses are trained at the race track,” Von Hemel explained. “We have a number of horses at Remington park, and about 1,500 horses are training there throughout the season. I like to think that we have a bunch of good ones that we train.”

Caleb’s Posse has won two graded stakes at Saratoga this year. The horse took top honors at the Amsterdam Stakes earlier this year.

Another high profile horse Von Hemel trains is named Alternation. The horse won the Peter Pan grade two stake at Belmont earlier this year.

Von Hemel will travel to Louisiana on Sept. 10 for the Super Derby, where he will have horses competing.

According to his BreedersCup.com profile, Von Hemel has trained more than 70 stakes winners, including Clever Trevor, Mariah’s Storm, Evansville Slew, Custer, Leave a Legacy, Queen’s Gray Bee, Explosive Girl and Bien Nicole.

For more information about the races that the horses Von Hemel trains compete in, go to www.NTRA.com. There is a video posted showing Caleb’s Posse’s photo finish over Uncle Mo that shows off some of Von Hemel’s hard work.

Temtrol president announces retirement

George Halko

George Halko, president and general manager of Temtrol, announced last week that he is retiring.

Halko, who has been president of the Okarche company since 1985, told employees that he would transition toward full retirement over the next few years by shifting to a part-time executive advisory role on Sept. 26. Halko first joined Temptrol in 1967 and worked in various roles with purchasing, engineering and accounting before being named vice president in 1972 and later becoming president when the company was acquired by Nortek, Inc.

With nearly 280 employees, Temtrol is the largest employer in the Okarche region.

“The role and contribution that George has played cannot be overstated or duplicated,” a Temtrol release said. “George has over 40 years of unique experience and knowledge of manufacturing and product development in the custom HVAC market. He has run an extremely efficient operation and has contributed greatly to the local Okarche community.”

Andy Halko will become general manager on Sept. 26, according to a release from the company. Andy has served as controller for over 10 years.

Epic Church closes after 2 years

The Free Will Baptist Church currently owns land on Edmond Road and had hoped to build a permanent building for Epic Church in Piedmont.

Sunday marked the final gathering for Epic Church, which has officially disbanded.

Pastor Zack Archer announced last week the church would discontinue after struggling to gain momentum and enough membership. The church launched in September 2008 as a part of the Free Will Baptist Church and had been meeting at Piedmont High School on Sundays.

“In the same way God moved us into town, its just time to move on,” Archer said. “Piedmont has been a blessing to us and we hope that we have been a blessing to Piedmont.”

Archer said launching a church was challenging and it was difficult to gain a footing in a community with several established congregations.

The Free Will Baptist Church currently owns land on Edmond Road and had hoped to build a permanent building for the church in Piedmont. The church held a fellowship lunch and close out service last Sunday.

“You gain a few families and something happens and they go,” Archer said. “Starting a church is just hard, especially when its just my family and one other at the beginning.”

Commenting Policy

The interaction of a newspaper and its readers is vitally important. Gone are the days when the only way a reader could express their opinion was to send in a letter to the editor. Today social media and the Web allow readers to vote on polls, leave comments, send links and have real-time communication with reporters in a way that can enhance the reporting.

A simple example might be earlier this month when a reader left a comment on Facebook that a headline was misleading. After further review, the headline was adjusted to offer more clarity. That same day a reader was able to express problems they were having navigating a section of our website and the issue was fixed within minutes. Some journalists don’t like that the wall between the newsroom and the reader is shrinking, but I think it has great advantages for the future of journalism, ranging from increased accountability to better customer service.

Last moth the commenting function on Piedmont Today was disabled. The simple reason was that moderating the comments was becoming too time consuming. Some days featured as many as 50 comments a day, which for a newsroom of two writers can be a major task. The decision was made to pull the plug on the comments and review the commenting guidelines. After some thought and research, the commenting function of Piedmont Today is back with additional guidelines. Will there still be issues? You bet, but hopefully these guidelines can communicate to readers what our intentions are and help them better understand why some comments make it and other do not.

When reviewing comments the following criteria will be addressed when considering deletion:

1)   Comments should be on topic, meaning they relate to the subject of the article.

2)   Comments should NOT be threatening, commercial in nature or derogatory towards others. It is okay to ask questions of others and to express your opinion, but keep in mind that the conversations on Piedmont Today, while passionate at times, should be constructive, civilized and respectful. We will error on the side of being too careful when it comes to deleting a comment.

3)   Some stories will not have comments, such as those related to criminal activity, injuries, or other topics deemed too sensitive.

4)   Comments will never be deleted based on ideology. All opinions are welcomed, but readers are asked to communicate their opinions in a way that meets our guidelines.

If you feel like a comment should be reconsidered please contact myself at bfelder@piedmonttoday.com. Also, a good rule of thumb is to pretend that all comments are taking place in person, which means readers should write what they would be willing to say to someone in person.

PHOTOS: Kiddie Cheer Clinic

Over 100 girls aged from pre-K to fifth-grade participated in the Piedmont Cheerleading Kiddie Clinic at the high school on Aug. 27. The girls received cheer lessons from varsity cheerleaders and ended the day with a performance for family members.

Over 100 girls aged from pre-K to fifth-grade participated in the Piedmont Cheerleading Kiddie Clinic at the high school on Aug. 27. The girls received cheer lessons from varsity cheerleaders and ended the day with a performance for family members.

Over 100 girls aged from pre-K to fifth-grade participated in the Piedmont Cheerleading Kiddie Clinic at the high school on Aug. 27. The girls received cheer lessons from varsity cheerleaders and ended the day with a performance for family members.

Over 100 girls aged from pre-K to fifth-grade participated in the Piedmont Cheerleading Kiddie Clinic at the high school on Aug. 27. The girls received cheer lessons from varsity cheerleaders and ended the day with a performance for family members.

Over 100 girls aged from pre-K to fifth-grade participated in the Piedmont Cheerleading Kiddie Clinic at the high school on Aug. 27. The girls received cheer lessons from varsity cheerleaders and ended the day with a performance for family members.

Over 100 girls aged from pre-K to fifth-grade participated in the Piedmont Cheerleading Kiddie Clinic at the high school on Aug. 27. The girls received cheer lessons from varsity cheerleaders and ended the day with a performance for family members.

Over 100 girls aged from pre-K to fifth-grade participated in the Piedmont Cheerleading Kiddie Clinic at the high school on Aug. 27. The girls received cheer lessons from varsity cheerleaders and ended the day with a performance for family members.

Over 100 girls aged from pre-K to fifth-grade participated in the Piedmont Cheerleading Kiddie Clinic at the high school on Aug. 27. The girls received cheer lessons from varsity cheerleaders and ended the day with a performance for family members.

Linn sworn in as new police chief

Piedmont City Manager Clark Williams, right, presents newly hired Police Chief Tom Linn with his badge on Aug. 26. (Photo by Ben Felder)

On Aug. 25 Tom Linn was sworn in as Piedmont’s new police chief, bringing with him over 25 years of experience in the FBI and most recently serving as chief of the Blanchard Police Department.

“I take this oath very, very seriously,” Linn said shortly after being administered his oath of office. “It’s a commitment of not only my heart but my life, if necessary.”

Linn most recently served as the chief of police in Blanchard for over two years. His experience also includes positions with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations and Norman Police Department.

From 1976 to 2001 Linn was a special agent and relief supervisor for the FBI. According to his resume on file with the city of Piedmont, Linn’s time with the FBI involved task force management, foreign counter intelligence and violent crime investigations. At one point Linn was assigned to bank robbery cases in Los Angeles where the FBI responded to an average of 17 bank robberies a day, Linn said.

“I specialized in the FBI as a VCMI (violent crimes and major investigations) officer,” Linn said.

Linn said he also taught firearms and tactics to new agents while with the FBI.

“I have been involved in federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement for over 40 years,” Linn said in his resume.

Blanchard Police Department

Last year  officers with the Blanchard Police Department filed grievances against Linn and the city and one officer expressed disappointment with not being hired as police chief. Linn said the grievances stemmed from disciplinary actions taken by the department but he could not address the specifics of a personnel matter.

“The police department and the city manager’s office responded to those grievances as required,” Linn said. “The grievances complained about disciplinary action taken that I am not at liberty to discuss.”

Linn said the majority of officers that have worked for him find him to be fair but he acknowledged that he runs a police department with high standards and holds his officers to those same standards.

“I am fair, I recognize that police, along with the rest of humanity, make errors,” Linn said. “But I do demand 100 percent compliance on three issues…integrity, honesty and professionalism. If we don’t have those three elements in our police department, how on earth can the community feel safe under our watch?”

Linn later resigned as chief in Blanchard when he said the political situation changed. Three new council members were elected in April and one of their first actions was to fire the city manager. Linn said he believed the same council would attempt to fire him and he decided to resign.

Tony Strickland, a reporter with The Blanchard News, told the Gazette that Linn had been caught in the crossfire of a messy political situation and that many people associated with the police department enjoyed working for Linn.

“I think he just wanted to beat the council to the punch,” Strickland said. “It was kind of a political situation more than anything.”

Running a police department

Linn said he would spend his first days on the job assessing the community and conducting a review of local crime and traffic accident data in an effort to target important issues. Linn said he knows former police chief Jerry Koester and that he has been working with him in an effort to be brought up to speed on the Piedmont community.

“The citizens are not only welcome to contact me but encouraged to contact me with problems,” Linn said. “The police cannot police the community by themselves; it requires the support of the citizens.”

Linn also said he wanted to update the police department’s database of local businesses. He is encouraging local business owners to verify that the department has emergency contact information for each business owner and secondary contact information that can also be used. Linn said business owners are asked to stop by the police station in person, call or send a letter.

“If there is a situation where we need to notify a business owner of a problem we want to be able to to so,” Linn said. “This information will be protected.”

Giving back to Oklahoma

Part of Linn’s desire to serve the community through law enforcement comes from the breaks he received as a kid. Linn spent most of his childhood living in foster homes and at the age of 9 went to live at Boys Ranch Town in Edmond for six years before eventually joining the Navy. The home for boys is sponsored by the Baptist church but Linn believes it is also the generosity of Oklahoma residents that supported the home and gave him a chance to succeed.

“The ranch literally saved my life,” Linn said. “It’s not just the Baptist (church) that helped raise me but it’s the citizens of Oklahoma that I felt helped raise me as a child through their support of the program.”

As Linn comes to Piedmont he is convinced that there are some in the community that helped provide support for children like himself and part of his desire to serve in law enforcement comes from his desire to give something back to the people of Oklahoma.

“There is no doubt in my mind that citizens from Piedmont helped support that ranch and people like me, and that’s why I am here today,” Linn said. “I feel a strong bond with the people of this state and have a strong commitment to the state of Oklahoma and its citizens.”

This story is an updated version of an article posted last week.

Pride of Piedmont leaders come from every grade

Despite only nine seniors, the Pride of Piedmont marching band will field its largest group ever this year. (Photo by Greg Evans)

The Pride of Piedmont will feature its largest band ever this year but with only nine seniors much of the band’s leadership will come from the younger members.

“The vast majority of these kids started back in seventh-grade,” Director Darnell Zook said. “They’ve been here every day since, and they are a really good group. Many are in their fifth year of doing marching band.”

The leadership in the Pride of Piedmont are the section leaders, a group of kids who help mentor and lead their instrument group. The section leaders range from sophomores to seniors, and there are no age limits on who can be a section leader.

“We started naming section leaders about four or five years ago,” Zook said. “Having more student leaders just made sense logistically. It gives us layers of responsibility. Back when we were smaller, everyone could come directly to me or an assistant director to get answers to their questions. Now, if we did that I’d have a line of kids every day and it just doesn’t make sense.”

When someone has a question, they first ask someone who is older than them, then they can go to a section leader, then a drum major, then a staff member, then an assistant director, and then Zook. By having that structure in place, someone’s question can be answered without the need to wait in a long line.

Zook said that many of the students who take on leadership positions in the Pride go on to study music in college, and many even come back to Piedmont to help with the band program.

“We have former students teaching at Mustang, Putnam City, Edmond Santa Fe, and Yukon who graduated in the last three years,”

Zook said. “It’s something really neat for me to see. If I’m a director, I want to know where my assistants are coming from. For someone to graduate from a 4A school and be on staff at a 6A school, that says a lot of good things.”

The student leaders in the Pride of Piedmont set the example of how the rest of the band should act. While music ability is always looked at when it comes to leading an ensemble, the peer-to-peer relationships and a person’s ability to help those who need help far outweigh the musical aspects.

Councilman confronts recall petition seekers

Lauren Boatman shows video she took of Councilman Hoss Cooley following her as she attempted to collect signatures for a recall petition. (Photo by Ben Felder)

Two citizens collecting signatures for a recall petition called police last week when they said a councilman and others were harassing them by following in a car and disputing the claims of the recall petition as they attempted to go door-to-door.

On Aug. 24 Ron Hau and Lauren Boatman were collecting signatures for a petition seeking a recall election for Ward 4 Councilman Hoss Cooley and said the councilman began following them in his car. Hau and Boatman went to the Piedmont police station to report the incident and then continued canvasing for signatures when Cooley returned.

“Hoss finally got out of his vehicle…and said everything this man is selling you is a lie,” Hau said. “He was keeping us from collecting signature, which is our right.”

Police were called again and an officer arrived on the scene where he spoke with Cooley and local businessman Phil Boevers who was also present, according to police.

Boatman used a video recorder on her phone to record several minutes of the incident. The video shown to the Gazette shows a car following the reporting party for several minutes and another video shows Cooley speaking with a police officer with an issue of the Gazette in his hand.

Cooley said he followed Hau and Boatman because he wanted to tell them that the time to collect signature was over. Cooley referred to an article in the Gazette that stated the deadline to turn in the recall petition was Aug. 24. However, a later issue of the Gazette reported that city officials changed their interpretation of the charter and that the deadline to turn in a petition with 188 signatures is now in September.

“I followed them through the neighborhood and when they headed west out of my ward I turned around,” Cooley said. “I didn’t go over there to try and fight and start any trouble. I just wanted to explain the truth.”

The effort to recall Cooley has been issued by a group of citizens that say the councilman violated ethical standards in voting for a development for Boevers, who Cooley has a business relationship with. Boevers was reported to have been at the scene of the incident and a police officer said he spoke with Boevers who remained in the car at all times.

Boevers said he was not familiar with the incident before declining to comment any further.

No citations were issued during the incident. According to the police report the responding officers told Cooley that he would need to stop following the individuals collecting signatures.

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