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Archive for: February 2012

Ward 2 race is about the last 12 months

Vernon Woods, left, and Leon Meyer, right, are the only two candidates for the Ward 2 city council seat.

The race for the Ward 2 council seat is all about the last 12 months, at least that’s the opinion of the two candidates running for the position.

Incumbent Vernon Woods said his first two years in office saw the city move forward, only to take some major steps back in the past year following the last elections and subsequent changes in city leadership.

“We were getting things done, we were progressing,” Woods said about the time before the 2011 elections. “It’s different now and I want to see Piedmont get back on track.”

Leon Meyer, who is Woods’ only challenger, sees things a bit differently.

“I think we have made some great strides this past year,” Meyer said referring to the hiring of a new city manager, city attorney and engineering firm. “Now we need to get a group of council persons that will and can work together to see us continue to move forward.”

The two Ward 2 candidates have different opinions on how the past several months have gone for the city, and Woods believes the race is also about two candidates who represent two different sides of the political landscape.

“I think that the realtors and the developers all stick together…if one of them wins they all seem to get a piece of the action,” Woods said. Meyer, who is a realtor and owner of Overland Express Realty, was not mentioned by name by Woods, but the implication was made by the councilman that certain developers have caused problems for Piedmont and have attempted to control the political climate. “We’ve got some developers here that are top notch…but there is an agenda being pushed by others.”

Meyer admits some might see him as “guilty by association” with certain politically charged individuals, but he objects to any accusation that he represents a specific agenda.

“I don’t think I’m on either side,” Meyer said. “I really don’t want to be put on either side. I want to look at everything as what does it do for the city of Piedmont. I’m not going to rubber stamp anybody or anything. If it’s not good for Piedmont, I’m not going to approve it.”

 

From the crowd to the council

Woods, who moved to Piedmont in 1987, said he was a regular attendee of city council meetings well before he was elected in 2009.

“I was a pain in the butt for the council then,” Woods says with a laugh. “I always wanted to make sure I understood what was going on.”

Woods is a former information technology specialist and was one of the first nationally registered EMT’s with the Piedmont volunteer fire department. A busy schedule kept him from running for office but after retirement he decided to run.

“I wanted to make sure I had the time to devote to it,” Woods said. “If I was going to do it I was going to do it right.”

For the first two years on the council Woods said he felt like the city was making great progress. However, voters disagreed and two new councilman and a new mayor last year resulted in several changes in city administration and a 3-to-2 political divide that Woods has often found himself in the minority on when it came to several council votes, including those dealing with the firing of City Manager Clark Williams and the decision to delay payment to Williams Foods grocery store.

“We have to repair our reputation,” Woods said.

Woods believes he isn’t the only person in town that has become frustrated with the direction of local politics. He said a “nasty campaign” last year caught the attention of a lot of residents, and while he isn’t predicting an easy race, he does believe many in town have grown as frustrated as him.

“As Japan found out after they bombed Pearl Harbor, they awoke a sleeping giant,” Woods said. “Piedmont was (politically) dead before last year. But, good or bad…the town has woke up.”

Woods has often been one of the more vocal members of the council, a distinction he isn’t embarrassed to own, and he also scoffs at the idea that the council always has to agree and get along. Over his three years in office he says he has a better understanding of how city finances work and that is why when it comes to the number one complaint of most residents – roads and streets – he believes the only way to make any real progress is through passage of a bond issue.

“I don’t necessarily like saying that and I know not everyone likes hearing that but we can’t make the kinds of repairs we need to make with just sales tax revenue,” Woods said. “If you want a good road you are going to have to pay for it. I think most people understand that but we have to be careful about how we do that.”

Woods might be frustrated with the state of politics in Piedmont but he hasn’t lost pride for his hometown.

“I am very proud of Piedmont,” Woods said. “We can do better and I believe we will do better.”

 

Selling Piedmont

Meyer sells Piedmont for a living. He opened his realty business in 1997 and has been located in the same Piedmont Road office ever since.

“Both of my girls graduated from high school here,” Meyer said. “I love Piedmont and I just saw an opportunity to get involved and do some good in the city of Piedmont.”

That’s not to say Meyer hasn’t already been involved. After retiring from 23 years of service in the Air Force, Meyer has served on the Piedmont Economic Authority, the Chamber board of directors and was involved in bringing the Vietnam memorial to Piedmont. Meyer has also co-chaired the Fourth of July festival for the past few years.

When asked what the town needs most the first answer out of Meyer’s mouth is “positivity.”

“We need to get a positive group on (the council),” Meyer said. “I think we have made great strides this year but we need a group of people on the council who can work together and continue to move us forward.”

Meyer said he has concerns about the financial state of the city, specifically when it comes to the completion of the new Piedmont police station, making payments on a new sewer line and increasing the town’s revenue, which primarily comes from sales tax.

“I’m concerned that without new revenue the town will not survive,” Meyer said. “I think the grocery store deal needs to get done…it’s been way too long, but the grocery store and the few businesses that we have will not sustain our city government.”

Meyer also believes the city needs more diversity in housing options, which will help improve the town’s labor market for service industry businesses and will allow more families to call Piedmont home, he said.

“We have to welcome those developers and I know that’s a sticky issue for some people, but I don’t see where that revenue is going to come from without them,” Meyer said. “Our ordinances need work, our charter needs work. There is just a lot of things that require work but it can get done and we can move forward.”

Like Woods, Meyer agrees current sales tax revenues are not adequate in helping the city cover its expenses and making improvements to roads. It’s not a popular idea, but Meyer said he agrees with the new city manager that rates on sewer and water might need to be increased. He is also open to the proposed bond for street repairs but isn’t sure all of its features are necessary or worth the money.

Meyer also said he is looking forward to a clean campaign and wants to base his race on talking to potential voters and helping them better understand what his views are on how the city should operate.

“I don’t want mudslinging,” Meyer said. “I just want people that have a question to walk in the door or call me.”

 

PHOTOS: 2012 state wrestling tournament

Thompson’s retirement plan became community hub

Ben Felder, news editor

When Mac Thompson retired after 43 years of working in the oil fields he knew he had to do something that would keep him busy.

“I couldn’t imagine me doing nothing,” Thompson said. “My wife said you are about to drive me nuts, you need to figure out what you are going to do. So, I thought I would go down on the corner and build a restaurant.”

Thompson owned the land where the City Stop gas station sits today and built Mac T, a restaurant that opened in 1985 and was open for 10 years. Thompson said cooking had always been one of his hobbies and he felt Piedmont needed a restaurant.

“You could get anything from a pancake to a prime rib,” Thompson said. “We also had Mexican food; chicken fried steak was one of our favorites. We sold a lot of food.”

New comers to town – including myself – might be unaware of the importance Mac T’s played in the community, but a request for comments on Facebook concerning the former restaurant resulted in a lot of praise from longtime members of the Piedmont community.

“Best chicken fried steak around,” said Ryan Morrison.

“Best brisket stack ever,” said Pam Means Koper.

Ed Cook said he loved the catfish and Stan Nance said his mouth waters just thinking about the “Mac T Burger.” Many others fondly remembered the breakfast and brunch offerings.

Thompson said everything they made at Mac T was fresh and from scratch, including the popular pies. Thompson said the ultimate demise of the restaurant was not enough workers despite having as many as 15 to 20 on the payroll.

“We were right at 70 years old when we opened that thing and if I had known we were going to have that labor problem I might not have done it,” Thompson said.

Despite the challenges of managing a restaurant, Thompson said it was the people that gave him the biggest thrill.

“I enjoyed the people that came in,” he said. “You would meet the most interesting people in the world.”

Today, many Piedmont residents continue to express a desire for more restaurants and businesses like Mac T. A lot of that depends on the community’s willingness to shop local and the amount of growth the town has in the coming years. But it also depends on business owners willing to take a risk, like Thompson, and those that have a passion for what it is they do.

Owning a small business is often a labor of love and Piedmont tends to love its small businesses.

City revisits sewer partnership, school says ‘too late’

The city council had previously voted down a proposed partnership with the school district in building a new sewer line but the issue appears headed back to the council for discussion.

However, the school district says it’s too little, too late.

Monday’s council agenda included discussion and possible action on a proposal from the Piedmont Public School District to pay $90,000 towards the cost of replacing a sewer line near 164th Street. The school district had originally made the offer last year after being told the current sewer line was inadequate for use by the new Intermediate School currently under construction. The council voted last year to reject the offer but councilmen Wade Johnson, Hoss Cooley and Jeff Davis asked for it to be brought back before the council for consideration.

Before the council discussed the issue, Councilman Vernon Woods challenged the appropriateness of hearing an issue less than six months since it had be last heard. The city attorney advised that an issue could be brought back within six months if the majority of the council voted to have it placed on the agenda. A vote was taken to place the issue on next month’s agenda and passed 5-0.

However, district Superintendent James White said the school board’s proposal expired last year and any future action would require a new offer from the council to be reviewed by the school board.

“The only reason why a lift station isn’t already under construction is because we were waiting on the specs from the city,” White said. “An offer from the council would mean I would have to go to my board in April, which would be too late in terms of already having the lift station underway.”

During the council meeting Larry Gage said he was open to discussing the issue once again but wanted the city’s newly hired engineer firm to take a look at the plans and proposal.

“I have the same concerns but I think we can work through some of the concerns.” Gage said. “I would like our new (engineer) to take a look at this…I would like for them to get with the school and let’s look at this.”

The $90,000 offer was the amount the school district believed a new lift station would cost, which would be required if no access to the current sewer line was granted. However, Gage said he believed the cost of a lift station would be higher if maintenance costs were added, which he implied might mean the district should offer more money.

The new school is scheduled to open in August but City Manager Jim Crosby said the district could be granted permission to link to the current sewer line if plans were in place to eventually build a larger line down the road.

During Monday’s meeting the council also tabled a motion to accept an easement from the school district at the new Intermediate School. White said the easement was at the request of the city and included 17-feet along 164th Street.

Council wants judge to decide grocery store contract

The city council voted to defer the Williams Foods grocery store contract to a county judge after determining it would not be able to approve a final agreement itself, adding another chapter in a political debate that has waged for well over a year.

During Monday’s meeting the council engaged in a heated discussion on the proposed $1.9 million tax rebate proposal for the Piedmont grocery store and a vote of 3-to-2 was made to have a judge tell the city what it is obligated to pay Williams and how it should go about making the payments. Larry Gage and Vernon Woods were the two “no” votes, with Jeff Davis, Wade Johnson and Hoss Cooley voting in favor of the motion.

Ever since a judge ruled that bonds were not an option in paying the grocery store $1.9 million – at least not without a 4/5 council vote – the council has been debating on how to pay Williams Foods. Earlier this year the council appeared to be headed towards a consensus after a proposed agreement of paying the money with parts of the sales tax revenue collected, as well as 5.5 percent interest, seemed to have council support. However, concerns were raised during Monday’s meeting over the legality of using already collected sales tax funds to make payments and whether interest is appropriate. Cooley began the evening’s discussion by reading a statement in opposition to the terms of the new proposal.

“While I would very much like to put this matter behind us, I am not willing to do so on these terms,” Cooley said. “I do not support the proposed agreement of support and the developing financing assistance agreement.”

Cooley said he would only support honoring the original contract signed in 2010 that agreed to pay Williams Foods $1.9 million, which is also unclear on what exact process to use in making that payment.

Cooley said the new proposal of including interest did not comply with the original contract and he even said Williams had not upheld its end of the bargain when it came to employment levels at the Piedmont store.

Councilmen Davis and Johnson also raised concerns with the interest portion of the proposed agreement and Davis accused the store’s owner, Jeff Williams, of trying to manipulate the city.

“I think Mr. Williams has been playing games with the city of Piedmont,” Davis said before addressing Williams personally. “You didn’t have all your ducks in a row and me, as a business man, I would never have built something without having all agreements in place.”

Davis also said he was “threatened” by Williams on Feb. 21 to vote yes or he would provide financial backing to a rival candidate in the upcoming election. In a statement given to the Gazette, Davis said “. Williams himself…called me and told me if I didn’t vote for this agreement being proposed tonight that he would put financial backing behind someone who is running against me for this seat on the council.” A visibly frustrated Williams left the council chamber following the vote and in a phone interview after the meeting said Davis’ accusations were completely false.

“I said no such thing,” Williams said. “I only called to see if he had any concerns with the agreement and he said he had none. In fact, he told me the majority of his constituents want to see me get paid.”

Following the meeting Davis said the majority of his constituents were in not in favor of paying interest and that he was not sure the city had any obligation to pay any money to Williams.

“I feel like as a councilman I am doing what my voters want in voting this agreement down,” Davis said. “I don’t know if we are obligated to pay anything, personally.”

Following the meeting Williams said he was convinced that the three council members – Davis, Johnson and Cooley – were determined to see the issue end with a lawsuit from him and that even though the city would lose, the payment would come from property taxes and not sales tax, leaving the city with more money. When asked what his next step would be, Williams said he would act on the advice of his attorney.

Piedmont looking to make a STATE-ment


 

The year 1979 saw the creation of McDonald’s Happy Meal, the Seattle Super Sonics – now the Oklahoma City Thunder – won its only NBA title and Jimmy Carter was in the White House. It was also a year when the Piedmont baseball team earned a spot in the state tournament, a feat the Wildcats have yet to accomplish since.

Last year’s squad came one game short of ending the state tournament drought but with all but four starters returning this season and a pitching staff that is loaded with at least seven quality arms, Piedmont has reason to believe it can have its best season in more than 32 years.

“That killed us,” Senior Cole Davis said about last year’s loss to Woodward in the regional final. “We want it bad this year and I believe we can get there.”

Coach Kory Williams said his team’s journey to a state tournament berth will have to start with strong pitching and a defense that can keep low numbers on the scoreboard.

“We have to limit the bad inning,” Williams said. “We had one bad inning against Shawnee and one bad inning against Deer Creek (in preseason scrimmages). We have given up about three runs in 30 innings, if we take those two (bad) innings away.”
Davis will see most of his innings from behind the plate and has been rehabbing from a shoulder surgery in the offseason.  He said the team is hoping to back up its pitchers with solid defense.

Piedmont catcher Cole Davis says his team is ready to make it to the state tournament for the first time since 1979, especially after coming up just one win short last year. (Ben Felder)

“The defense is going to be a lot more important this year, especially with the new bats,” Davis said. “We got to make plays every chance we can, we can’t give teams extra chances.”

Davis said he is especially focused on holding runners close to the bag and picking off runners who attempt to steal.
First baseman Tom Parker is also hoping to provide some defensive strength for the Wildcats.

“I want to not miss the scoop at first (base),” Parker said. “I am known as a defensive first baseman.”

On the offense, Williams said he is still searching for starter in the leadoff spot, but feels his power hitting three, four and five guys are pretty good. Williams also said the team looks to me more aggressive on the base path with more steals and small ball.

“If we take care of the hustling and communicating we will be okay,” Williams said. “We’ve had a ton of practice time and we are ready to get started.”

It’s been a long time since Piedmont was represented in the state tournament but the team got a glimpse of what it takes to get there and believes it is ready to take the next step.

“We are working really hard to get there,” Davis said.

Piedmont opens the regular season on Friday with a home opener against Western Heights at 4:30 p.m., and then travels to Heritage Hall on Saturday for a noon game.

Sen. Johnson named assistant floor leader

 

Sen. Rob Johnson (File Photo)

Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, was named Assistant Majority Floor Leader last week following a vote of approval from the Republican caucus.

“I am honored that my fellow Republican senators trusted me with this position, and I look forward to serving,” said Johnson, who represents Senate District 22.  “Being a part of the Senate leadership team is a great responsibility, and I am grateful to my colleagues for their support.”

Johnson follows Sen. Clark Jolley in filling the position. Jolley vacated the role when he was appointed head of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee.

The Senate has three assistant majority floor leaders that assist in the flow of legislation. Johnson is the only freshman senator to serve in the position.

“Sen. Johnson is a proven leader with the ability to help us achieve important goals,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa, in a release.  “His experience and knowledge will be central to our efforts to move Oklahoma forward.  We look forward to him bringing his valuable leadership to the position of Assistant Majority Floor Leader.”

Johnson also serves as the current Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and Vice-Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Johnson was elected to the State House of Representatives in 2004, where he served as Majority Whip from 2006 to 2008.

BASKETBALL: Boys, girls teams win regionals, advance to area

The basketball season just got longer for Piedmont’s boys and girls teams following a regional championship over the weekend. The Lady Wildcats cruised past Weatherford, 55-38 and will face Anadarko on Friday. The boys also won big in the title game with a 57-35 victory over Elk City. The boys team will face Anadarko on Friday.

Lady Wildcats wear down No. 6 Weatherford

After cruising past Clinton in the first round of the regional tournament on Thursday, Piedmont stared down No. 6 Weatherford in the regional finals on Saturday. The Lady Wildcats used a steady defensive attack to down the Lady Eagles 55-38.

Piedmont came out looking to pressure the ball and Weatherford struggled to adjust.

The Lady Wildcats beat Weatherford on Saturday to earn a regional championship and a area tournament berth.(Dave Fuller)

“Our girls came out and our press hurt Weatherford at first,” Coach Amanda Tims said. “But then they kind of figured it out. Kylie (Boggess) gets so many deflections, and they were afraid to dribble into trap. On offense our girls found holes in their defense and our shots were falling. Ashley Almond shot outstanding.(Our girls) played great as a team.”

The Lady Eagles went on an 8-0 in the third quarter, but Piedmont stayed composed and the Lady Wildcats were able to fend off the rally.

“I was really impressed by the composure of our kids,” Tims said. “After their run, the kids got their composure back and kept a steady lead. That showed a lot of maturity by our kids. Just being able to do that was fantastic.”

Piedmont advances to play Class 4A’s No. 2 team, Anadarko, this Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Chickasha.

“(Anadarko) has a pretty deep bench,” Tims explained. “They run a high pressure man-to-man defense. They have one girls who is supposed to be the best in the state, so they are going to be a challenge. It’s fun to play those teams, though. That’s what makes it worth it.”

Wildcats get off to good start, beat Elks 57-35

The Piedmont boys team was expecting to play rival Bethany in the regional finals on Friday, but an upset by Elk City changed the game plan for the Wildcats. However, Piedmont wasn’t phased by the change and cruised to a 57-35 regional championship.

“We got off to another good start,” Coach Ryan Wagner said. “We took an early lead and just, basically, took care of business the whole game. We led 33-14 at the half and they only had one guy score. We were able to play everybody in a regional final, which is very rewarding for our kids. Cameron Peters, Collin Bricker, Hunter Kirton and Tanner Larson all played really well for us.”

Piedmont had its hands full in the first round of regionals but was able to escape a tough Woodward team to advance.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Wagner explained. “When you are expecting to play someone else and then having to redo your preparations. But the thing we talk about as most important is having the fast start and establishing ourselves. That’s what we did. In the second half, we just sustained our level of intensity. We were able to play everybody and that’s something you don’t get to do very often. We’re very proud of our kids.”

The Piedmont boys basketball team beat Elk City in the regional title game Saturday. (Dave Fuller)

This year’s Piedmont Wildcats team entered playoffs with a 12-11 record, which led many to think the Wildcats were having a down season after last year’s squad entered the playoffs with just four losses. Despite its record, Piedmont put itself in position to get back to the Big House.

“We’re really ecstatic and proud of these kids,” Wagner said. “We again have to win one game to make it to state. As a team that had to bring in a lot of new faces and work through inexperience; they have battled through the adversity of the season and the long arduous journey. They have gone and exceeded our expectations. They’ve responded and we’re very proud of them.”

Piedmont will face one loss and No. 4 ranked Anadarko in the area finals this Friday at 8 p.m. in Chickasha.

“(Anadarko) is just really really athletic,” Wagner said. “They are a well coached basketball team with two really good guards and a really athletic post. Last time we played them, they did a lot of ball control on us and they like to hold the ball a lot. We have to get off to a great start and build a lead or they will go into a delay and we will have to chase the whole way. We hope to see another great Piedmont crowd down in Chickasha.”

 

Hane wrestles his way to state title

Aaron Hane won a state title on Saturday in the 126 pound class. (File photo)

Another Piedmont wrestler added his name to the Wildcat record books this weekend when Aaron Hane beat Ryan Clevenger of Catoosa 7-4 to take the 126 pound state title.

Hane defeated Payton Davenport of Vinita in the first round by fall 3 minutes 38 seconds into the match. He then beat Derick Shrum of Jay 5-2 in the semifinals.

Hunter Winkle, Blane Culp and Coulton Parker each brought home fourth place finishes.

Parker Lost in the first round, but rallied in the consolation bracket and fell to Cody Lake 3-2 in the third place match.
Culp won his first round match, lost in the semifinals but was able to rally and reach the third place match. He lost to Jacob Dawson of Catoosa in the third place match 12-9.

Winkle finished with a 2-2 record at state this year by winning his first round match with a fall at the 3:29 mark, he lost his semifinal match 9-3 but was able to reach the third place match by defeating Harley Tillerson of Locust Grove with a fall at the 2:27 mark. Winkle lost to Billy Wilson of Tuttle in the third place match 7-1.

Reece Henry also qualified for state but lost his two matches.

PHOTOS: Baseball scrimmage at Deer Creek

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