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Archive for: March 2012

Grocery store owner calls campaign letter ‘complete lies’

Williams Grocery

Williams Grocery Store

Williams Foods owner Jeff Williams has called campaign letters mailed by two councilmen “complete lies” and continues to say he is willing to sit down with the city council and work out a deal concerning the $1.9 million in tax incentives promised to the new store.

In a letter dated March 24 that was mailed to Ward 4 residents, Hoss Cooley outlined his reasons for being opposed to the grocery store contract and the most recent proposal that includes interest payments to be made by the city to Williams.

“I just thought it was important to let people know the real story,” Cooley told Piedmont Today in a Friday morning interview.

However, Williams went through the letter line-by-line and offered his opinion on why he felt Cooley’s letter was full of misinformation.

The letter states Williams is paying Canadian County property taxes on a $2.5 million building and that “Williams has never shown (the city) proof that he has $3.8 million invested in the grounds of the building.” Williams’ response to the statement is the contract signed in 2010 says nothing about the “grounds of the building” but instead states the $1.9 million to the grocery store is meant to cover half of the “development and operations.”

“He is right that I am paying taxes on ($2.5 million building),” Williams said. “But that doesn’t included the equipment. The equipment is included in the operations and he knows that. The contract does exclude inventory, but I’m the one that put that in there because it wouldn’t be fair to the city. The contract does, however, include operations and equipment.”

Williams also said he has provided the city with numerous documents on his construction costs and investment in equipment.

“I spent $1.7 million in the equipment,” Williams said. “I have showed proof of total cost, and they have had it for a years.”

Cooley’s letter also said Williams is trying to get the city to pay 5.5 percent in interest, which was never a part of the original contract signed in 2010. Interest was not included in the original contract but the original contract was also designed to pay Williams one lump sum through a bond payment and Williams said he wants interest because he has had to borrow more money while he waits for the city to pay up.

“(The city) was going to have to pay some interest either on a bond or note,” Williams said. “If the judge rules they have to go with a note or a bond they are going to have to pay interest in some form.”

Williams also said Cooley was wrong when he said the city would have to pay more money to the grocery store than it might bring in with sales tax revenue.

“That is a complete lie,” Williams said. “Even the city manager has told the (council) that is not true.”

In his letter Cooley writes, “I believe (Williams) should honor the original contract dated August 9, 2010 that he signed. He should also furnish the city attorney and city council proof of what he does have invested in the buildings and grounds.”

Not only does Williams say he has supplied the city with all that information and would do so again, he is also ready to accept the original contract if the city is willing to pay him a lump sum of $1.9 million.

The letter signed by Cooley is also a near exact copy of a letter sent by Councilman Jeff Davis who is also running for reelection. Davis said earlier this month he had received information that Williams wanted to sell the Piedmont store and Cooley referenced that in his letter by saying Williams wants to make the tax incentives transferable to another owner. Williams responded to Davis’ claim by saying he has no intention to sell the store and said making the tax incentives transferable to a new owner is something any bank would require.

“Banks have to have that to get the loan,” Williams said. “I have to be able to do that so my bank can sign the contract incase I died. They would have something to go back on to make sure that note was taken care.”

Williams also reiterated that he has no intention to sell the store.

“If I had contacted anyone about selling this store it would be on the street so fast,” Williams said. “I have absolutely zero interest (in selling).”

The grocery store contract has been a common theme during the council election season with Davis and Cooley saying they are skeptical of the deal. However, several of the challengers for the council say they want to put this issue behind the city. Williams said he was frustrated to see council candidates spreading misinformation, especially since he said some council members will not talk to him about it.

“I would still love to sit down with this council and work it out,” Williams said. “I will do what’s right for the city and my business.”


Candidates begin final push for votes during forum

All seven candidates running for city council next week were on hand for a forum Thursday night where topics ranged from the Williams Foods grocery store contract, repairing roads and some strong talk against the use of negative advertising during the election.

The forum was hosted by the Piedmont Chamber of Commerce at the Piedmont United Methodist Church and moderated by Craig Smith, a field representative for Sen. Tom Coburn. Close to 70 residents were in attendance and a handful of candidate responses resulted in applause from the audience, including remarks made by Ward 4 candidate Charles Coffman who spoke out against his opponent’s campaign.

Leon Meyer and Councilman Vernon Woods talk before Thursday's candidate forum hosted by the Piedmont Chamber of Commerce. (Ben Felder)

“One thing we could do to make Piedmont better is to not to have this,” Coffman said while holding up a flyer sent out by a Councilman Hoss Cooley that projected Coffman in a negative light. The comments were made by Coffman in his closing remarks and brought the largest applause of the evening.

Cooley did not address the flyer but told the audience he believed the city was headed in the right direction, especially with all of the changes that have been made with city administration.

“Our town is actually run like a business,” Cooley said. “For the first time I think our town is headed in the right direction.”

Neither Ward 4 candidate made direct mention of each other but Coffman did highlight problems he felt were created by the current council, including the continued delay on the Williams Foods contract.

“When you look at Piedmont right now you see risk,” Coffman said in direct reference to the city’s unfriendly business climate that he said was a result of not paying the grocery store its owed tax incentives. Coffman was joined by Albert Gleichmann and Vic Sanders in criticizing the current council for it’s handling of the Williams Foods contract.

Gleichmann and Sanders are running against Councilman Jeff Davis for the Ward 3 seat and said they would vote to pay the grocery store its money.

Jeff Davis talks about what he would do to repair local roads, including looking into a possible tax on commercial trucks that drive through town. (Ben Felder)

“We need to resolve the issue with Mr. Williams,” Sanders said when asked how the council could project a positive image of Piedmont. Gleichmann had a similar answer and said the arguments on the council had to come to an end if the city was ever going to move forward.

Davis never specifically addressed the grocery store contract but did say he believed the city needs “growth in businesses that are tax revenue businesses and we need, as a city council, to not give away all the money we have coming in here.” The statement could have been interpreted in reference to Williams Foods as Davis has previously voted against the deal after saying incentives for the store – with interest – is a bad deal for the city.

Cooley, who has voted against the grocery store incentives, said he felt the council had upheld its end of the bargain when it came to the Williams Foods incentives.

“I don’t think we have done anything wrong,” Cooley said. “I think we have upheld our end of the bargain with every business we have brought to this town.”

Ward 2 candidates Leon Meyer and Councilman Vernon Woods never addressed each other. Woods said several times during the forum that he felt the city had developed a bad reputation due to its handling of the Williams Foods grocery store, and while Meyer never specifically addressed the topic of the store, he said it was time for the city to move past some of its challenging issues.

Ward 4 candidate Charles Coffman drew the largest applause of the forum when he criticized negative campaigns in week before the election. (Ben Felder)

“I just think that we have to get five people on that council that will put things aside and do what’s best for Piedmont and the people of Piedmont,” Meyer said. Meyer also said the city needed to find ways to grow in both residents and businesses in order to increase revenue for services and infrastructure.

While the grocery store contract was a common topic during the forum, so were roads as each candidate acknowledged the city’s streets were in need of work. Meyer, who said he would be willing to look at a bond to fix the roads, maintained that the city must also figure out a way to maintain any streets it replaces. Woods said a bond issue was the only way the city could make major progress on its streets and even said a recently proposed $4.5 million bond might not be enough.

“It’s going to have to be a bond issue,” Woods said. “In my mind the proposed bond issue is not nearly enough; it’s just a first step.”

Coffman said the city should also look at creating inter-local agreements with Canadian County and Cooley said as a councilman he had been working to build a relationship with Oklahoma City to partner on road repair projects.

Davis suggested looking into a way to tax commercial trucks that drive on Piedmont streets with the revenue going to road repair. Gleichmann said taxing trucks wouldn’t work and Sanders said the only real solution was a bond that “the people of this town can live with.”

The candidates were also asked if they felt the city charter should be revised or rewritten and all seven candidates said they were in favor of making changes to the charter.

Cooley said there are “too many holes” in the charter and complained that it was too easy to recall a councilman. A recall campaign against Cooley last year successfully set a recall election date but the councilman was able to defeat the election in court.

“People can recall you because they just don’t like you,” Cooley said.

Whether or not the forum will impact voter decisions is up for debate and when Woods asked if any in the audience had not yet made up their mind there were virtually no hands raised. However, the forum did give voters another chance to hear the candidates address some of the biggest issues with just five days left before the April 3 election.

Those currently on the council said they felt the city was moving in the right direction, although Woods, who has found himself in a political minority on the council, seemed to side with those challenging for office that said the council struggled with a lack of trust from the public.

“There is no trust between the people of this town and the city council,” Sanders said. There is no trust in anything in this town right now.”

How much this town trusts its current council will determine the shape of city leadership next week.

Child hit while riding bike in Surrey Hills

A child was hit while riding a bike Thursday afternoon in Surrey Hills and was transported to OU Medical Center with non life-threatening injuries.

A 13-year-old girl failed to yield at the intersection of Hastings Boulevard and Surrey Hills Boulevard and was hit by a westbound car on Surrey Hills Boulevard, according to an Oklahoma City Police spokesperson. The accident occurred around 3:15 p.m.



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Filing for recall election begins April 11

Wade Johnson, Ward 5 Councilman

The filing period for a city council recall election in Ward 5 opens next month, along with four Canadian County positions.

Councilman Wade Johnson faces a recall election June 26. However, the councilman has filed a lawsuit challenging the election. The filing period for the election begins April 11 and ends April 13. Those interested in running should file at the Canadian County Election Board offices between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The same dates are in place for those interested in running for District 2 County Commissioner, County Court Clerk, County Clerk and County Sheriff.

Candidates for state offices should file with the Secretary of the State Election Board.  Candidates for county and local offices file with the Secretary of the County Election Board.

Police complete investigation into bike accident

Oklahoma City and Piedmont police conducted an investigation into a March 5 bike accident on Piedmont Road. (Ben Felder)

An investigation by the Oklahoma City Police Department into the bicycle accident of March 5 has ended but it is unknown if charges will be brought against the motorist who hit two cyclists on Piedmont Road.
Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow said the investigation has been completed and the lead investigator will discuss his findings with the Canadian County District Attorney’s office. An official with the district attorney’s office told Piedmont Today on Tuesday that no information on the accident has been turned over at this time.

Eric Johnson and Gary Caldwell were hit by a pickup truck while riding bikes on Piedmont Road near the intersection of 150th Street. Both cyclists were hit in Oklahoma City limits but landed in Piedmont. Both cyclists were transported to the hospital and Caldwell remained in critical condition for several days as he recovered from a brain injury and multiple broken bones. Caldwell was released from the hospital last week, according to his family.

The initial accident report completed by police states one of the cyclists may have swerved to avoid some gravel when he was hit but there is no official cause or fault listed in the accident report.

A statement made by a witness of the accident also did not provide many details.

“All I saw was the aftermath of bikes going over and over and dust flying,” a witness wrote in the accident report.

The driver of the pickup truck that hit the cyclists also provided a statement in the accident report and said he observed both cyclists riding side-by-side and that the cyclist on the left swerved to the left. The pickup truck driver also said he blew out his front right tire in the accident.

Per Piedmont Today policy, the name of the truck driver will not be published as no charges have been filed. However, a search of the driver’s name in court records on Wednesday morning showed no charges have been filed.

Sidewalk ordinance discussed by council

A new sidewalk ordinance remains in the discussion phase after the city council voted Monday to continue reviewing an ordinance that was approved by the Planning Commission earlier this year.

The council had its first official look at a proposed ordinance Monday that would require all residential lots of 1 acre or less and all commercial property to have sidewalks. The proposed ordinance would only apply to new construction and would not require changes for current buildings and homes.

The Piedmont Planning Commission approved the proposed ordinance earlier this year but the council delayed discussion on the issue and requested a joint workshop with the commission to discuss possible concerns. The joint workshop was help earlier this month and several commissioners expressed their frustration with what they believed was the council bringing concerns late in the game.

“I’m resentful to the fact that we are here tonight,” Commissioner Steve McCormick said during the joint workshop on March 12. “There is a lot of work that went in to this (ordinance)…I resent the fact that we are going to sit before the council for another meeting.”

A few clarification questions were asked by the council but no major issues were brought forward during the workshop and the ordinance was left unchanged. On Monday the proposed ordinance was on the council’s agenda and a discussion took place before it was decided to table the issue.

Councilman Hoss Cooley said he was concerned with the ordinance’s requirement that a residential development is required to install sidewalks once it reaches 80 percent occupancy. Cooley felt the requirement would mean installed sidewalks could be damaged by construction crews that are still working in a development. Cooley also said he believed the requirement for residential lots to have sidewalks should be reduced to half an acre or smaller and that the requirement for sidewalks to be at least 5 feet wide was too big.

Councilman Vernon Woods also listed concerns he had with the ordinance’s language and wanted better clarification on whether a school or public building was included in the ordinance. Woods expressed his desire to see schools included in the ordinance.

A motion to postpone the discussion was approved by the council so that Woods’ comments could be addressed by the planning commission.

The proposed ordinance would require sidewalks for any future residential lot of 1 acre or smaller and on all commercial and industrial lots with frontage on public streets. All sidewalks are required to be at least 5 feet wide and the responsibility of maintenance and repair would rest with the property owner the portion of sidewalk is on, according to the proposed ordinance.

Vehicle burglarized on Monday night

At 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning, a Piedmont police officer was dispatched in reference to a burglary of a vehicle at 3200 block of Horseshoe Bend NW.

The owner of the vehicle said she had pulled into her driveway around 8 p.m. on Monday. When she came out to her vehicle at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday, she discovered her purse, which contained her Social Security Card, Driver’s License and Chase Bank debit card; a bag of clothes containing two sets of scrubs and a pair of jeans and another wallet were missing from her car. The reporting party stated her vehicle was left unlocked while parked in the driveway.

The reporting party had already contacted her bank and advised them of the stolen debit card when the police officer arrived. The reporting party was able to show the officer on her smartphone that her debit card had been used at three Circle K locations, once in Oklahoma City for $72 at 9:11 p.m. and twice in Norman for $4 at 10:37 p.m. and $5 at 10:39 p.m.

The officer advised the reporting party that a report would go on file and that the vehicle owner should notify the police if anything else is found missing or if there is any new information.

Undercover officer makes child-sex predator bust

Stephen Sloan, 30, faces child-sex predator charges following an undercover operation by county sheriffs. (File)

Investigators with the computer crimes unit of the Canadian County Sheriff’s office arrested a Stillwater man after he arrived at a Yukon theater believing he was meeting two underage girls.

Stephen Sloan, 30, had been conversing with an undercover officer for several days who he thought he was a 15-year-old girl.

“Sgt. (Adam) Flowers had been posing as a 15-year-old girl only minutes online when he was approached by Sloan,” Sheriff Randall Edwards said. “Sloan immediately began talking about having explicit sex with what he believed to be a 15-year-old girl.”

Investigators convinced Sloan to go to a Yukon theater where he believed he was going to meet with the girl and her friend. Sloan was immediately arrested after arriving at the theater on March 23 and was taken into custody where he provided a full confession, Edwards said.

Sloan was transported to the Canadian County Jail where he awaits arraignment and bond set by a district court judge on child-sex predator charges.

Drought status lifted for area after heavy rains

Recent rains have allowed local vegetation to sprout, including flowers of this canola plant in a field on 164th Street in Piedmont. (Ben Felder)

More than half of the state is free of drought conditions following last week’s heavy rain and the Piedmont area is no longer listed under abnormally dry status.

Each week the National Drought Migration Center reports on drought conditions throughout the country and eastern Canadian County was listed under abnormal dry conditions on March 13. However, a March 20 report showed the status had been lifted following 2 to 4 inches of rain that fell earlier this month.

“The abundant moisture produced flooding in eastern and central Oklahoma, but also alleviated drought impacts that had plagued the state over the last 19 months,” said Gary McManus, associate state climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. “The result was a much-improved Oklahoma drought picture.”

Before last week’s rain, 27 percent of the state had been free of drought or abnormally dry conditions, but now 63 percent of the state is included in that category, including Piedmont. Oklahoma has been suffering from a severe drought for at least 19 months, which has caused problems for farmers across the county and state.

Nearly the entire state received at least an inch of rain last week, bringing the state’s average rain fall in March to 4.3 inches, ranking this as the 10th wettest March on record, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

“The drought was just getting a toehold in March 2011, which ended as the eighth driest on record with a statewide average of 0.71 inches,” McManus said. “The relief this March continues the momentum of drought eradication that began in October 2011. Since that time, also known as the start of the water year, the state has received an average of 17.3 inches of rain, a surplus of 3.6 inches. The water year thus far is the 12th wettest on record, compared to the same period last year, which was the seventh driest.

Whether Oklahoma will continue to experience relief in the coming months is yet to be seen as the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center states precipitation predictions in April, May and June is unknown.

“Anything but below normal rainfall will continue to alleviate existing drought impacts, and prevent more droughts from developing,” McManus said.

Local girl’s compassion shines bright

After making candles for a class project, Kara Brant, 10, started her own candle making business and has raised over $500 for children around the world struggling with poverty and hunger. (Ben Felder)

Kara Brant’s personality dances like the flame on a wick and the impact she is having on others reaches much further than the glow of one of her homemade candles.

The Northwood fifth-grader is helping to alleviate poverty through each candle she sells and in just six months Brant has proven that the creativity and compassion of a child can make a difference. When you ask Brant how she came up with the idea to make candles, sell them and donate a portion of the money to Compassion International, she seems puzzled at the idea that the concept could come from any other place than where it came from.

“Just God gave it to me,” a smiling Brant said.

Brant, 10, was introduced to candle making through a class project where students had an opportunity to make candles as Christmas presents for family and friends. Brant loved the activity and figured she could not only start her own candle making business, but help other kids in the process.

“One day I was in the grocery store with my mom…and I thought of this really great idea that God gave to me,” Brant said. “I called it Light Candle Action.”

Each candle sells for $15, with $5 of each purchase going to Compassion International. Brant has donated over $500 and has already begun to expand her product line with Care Cubes, wax cubes that release a scent as they melt.

Making candles is no easy task as just gathering the necessary supplies can be a challenge.

“You have to get a pot, a little pan, a thermometer, a mixer, wax, scents, the jars to put the wax in, the wicks, just a lot of stuff,” Brant said. “It’s tiring.”

With the help of her parents, Brant melts the wax before adding scents and pouring the wax into a glass container. She has several scents and colors to choose from – Apple Harvest is her favorite if she’s forced to pick – and each candle is wrapped in ribbon, includes a charm and Brant’s trademark slogan: “Each time you light your candle you are taking action to make the world a better place.”

Brant’s grandfather, Ross Hill, has done some work for Compassion International, which is how she got the idea to donate to the Christian child advocacy organization. However, after sending off her first donation she received an unexpected call from Wesley Stafford, president and CEO of Compassion, who told Brant her work was making a difference for children all over the world that struggled with poverty.

“I was surprised,” Brant said about Stafford’s call. “He took out his time, because he is always busy and traveling, and I felt very special that he did that for me.”

Brant also received a photo of a child in Taiwan her money has helped and she has been able to write letters to a girl in the Dominican Republic that she hopes to someday visit.

“They don’t really have water or they don’t get very much food,” Brant said about the children her candles help. “I found out that when I donated the money it buys the food for them to eat.”

Brant is also learning how to run a business as she learns how to track inventory and supplies, manage a bank account and market her company. Brant has also learned what it takes to run a website as her company’s site, www.lightcandleaction.com, provides another outlet to purchase candles and find out more about the children she helps.

Brant, who is ambitious and personable, has a list of professions she would like to have when she grows up, which range from a singer, an architect, or even a teacher. After the last few months Brant has added a candle maker to the list of possibilities, but whatever she ends of becoming, her passion for helping others will no doubt shine through.

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