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Archive for: March 2012

Ward 4 candidates have different takes on city’s problems

While most people may begin cursing the city as they shakily maneuver Piedmont’s dilapidated roads, Charles Coffman thinks to himself that he ought to run for city council.

“When I would drive down my roads, I thought to myself that if I don’t work to fix my roads, no one is going to,” Coffman said. “It’s really up to me to fix things.”

Repairing the city’s roads is a major platform from which Coffman is running for the Ward 4 city council seat, but it’s not the only area he sees in need of fixing. In fact, Coffman might consider himself a handyman for several issues in the city that he sees as broken and in need of repair. From the roads and infrastructure, to the city’s reputation in the business community and its relationship with the school district, Coffman has a long list of areas in town he considers damaged, but he is also quick to follow that list of problems with his own set of ideas for how to bring solutions.

Coffman, like most Piedmont residents, sees a great need to repair the city’s streets and he believes the best place to start is by creating a prioritized plan to determine which roads require the most urgent repair. Of course, funding is an issue, which is one reason the current city manager has proposed the idea of a $4.5 million bond. Coffman is open to the idea of a bond, but he also wants to see the city do a better job of partnering with the county to get some of its border roads and major routes repaired and replaced.

“Communities can enter into interlocal agreements with the county,” Coffman said. “Many of our major traveled roads are county border roads and I think there is an opportunity to work together to see some work get done. We already should have reached out to the county on this.”Will

Coffman also doesn’t want to see the city use long-term funding sources to perform quick repair jobs that will only last a few years. However, even if a bond were approved by voters and the city partnered with the county, it would still require the city to find additional funding and revenue sources, which is why Coffman said he is so troubled by the Williams Foods grocery store controversy.

“Funding has to come from somewhere and that’s where this Williams Foods thing is so troubling,” Coffman said. “It really troubled me when the city said it wanted (Jeff) Williams to file a lawsuit against the city. It really gave (Piedmont) a black eye and the city’s reputation in the business community is another thing that needs to be repaired.”

Coffman is in favor of approving the Williams Foods incentive deal and, if elected to the council in April, he plans to cast a favorable vote for the incentive deal. However, the other Ward 4 candidate, current councilman Hoss Cooley, voted against the latest incentive proposal and said his vote was made in an effort to protect the city.

“I am in favor of the original (proposal) with Williams for $1.9 million paid out through 2-cents sales tax,” Cooley said. “But I’m not in favor of paying interest, which is what Williams wants.”

Cooley admits the controversy with Williams Foods hasn’t been a positive image for the city, but the councilman said he tries to explain to businesses that might be considering a move to Piedmont that the problems have all been with Williams, not the city.

“Williams knew going in that he didn’t have the required votes to sell the bonds that he was after,” Cooley said. “All I do when I talk to other businesses is explain that to them. (Williams) took a big gamble.”

Beyond explaining his opinion on the issue with business leaders, Cooley said he is supportive of the Chamber of Commerce and believes Piedmont can and will attract new business.

Cooley may disagree with Coffman on the reputation Piedmont has in the business community, but he is in agreement that roads are a major issue and believes steps have been taken over the past year that will help Piedmont move forward, including a new city manager and engineer. Cooley, who voted to fire former city manager Clark Williams, said Jim Crosby has been a good find for the city and believes he has the expertise to help Piedmont grow. Cooley is also in support of the idea that a bond of some kind will be needed to fix the city’s roads.

“The only way this town is ever going to get all of our roads repaired is we are going to have to pass a small bond issue,” Cooley said. “Within this year, without a doubt, (a bond vote) will happen.”

Other issues important to Cooley include improving the city’s relationship with the school district, helping local youth sports clubs, such as soccer, finding space to construct new fields and facilities, and updating the city’s tornado and emergency sirens, which Cooley said fall short of being able to effectively send out a warning to the entire town. Cooley also points to his previous work on helping complete a deal with the school district to construct a new sewer line and helping find qualified leaders for key positions at city hall.

Both candidates point to their professional experience when campaigning for votes. Coffman, who moved to Piedmont in 2001, is a quality management systems program manager with the Federal Aviation Administration. Coffman said his job has prepared him to solve problems, perform research and lead people together in an effort to achieve a common goal. Coffman has a passion for planning and that is one reason he began attending city meetings a few years ago.

“I do a lot of project work so it’s fun to see how people planned,” Coffman said. “Back then there were differences on the council…but they still got things done. Over the years it seems like things are getting worse and we need someone who can help bring the council together.”

Cooley, who moved to Piedmont in 1979, is a former Marine and currently owns a construction business.

“I’m well qualified for (the council),” Cooley said. “I have had 36 years of operating my own business and it’s been a successful business.”

Cooley is proud of his record on the council and believes his term has been a successful one, although he admits it has been a challenging year. Cooley was successful in his legal challenge of a recall election set against him last year and he continues to fight the city for a reimbursement of his $9,000 in legal fees. Given the political turmoil of the past year, it would be easy to not seek reelection, and, in fact, that was the advice given to him by his family.

“My family really did not want me to run again because it’s been tough on my family,” said Cooley. “I just feel like there are things that are not completed yet that I wanted to get done before I walked away.”

On April 3, Ward 4 voters will decide if Cooley should get a chance to complete the work that is yet to be done, or if a newcomer should get a shot.

Williams denies he is trying to sell Piedmont grocery store

Williams Foods owner Jeff Williams said a rumor that he is trying to sell his Piedmont store is a lie in every sense of the word.

In a Tuesday interview with Piedmont Today, Councilman Hoss Cooley said he had heard that Williams was trying to sell the Williams Foods grocery store in Piedmont and would pass the tax incentives onto the new owner. Cooley said he learned this information from Councilman Jeff Davis who, while attending an Oklahoma City Thunder game, met a banker who said he had knowledge of Williams’ attempt to sell.

Davis told Piedmont Today he did not want to comment on the rumor but said Cooley’s account was correct.

When asked about the rumor Williams  said he has never considered selling his store and called the statement by Cooley and Davis “pure lies.”

“They haven’t even called me to ask about this,” Williams said. “I’ve got an open door (policy). They won’t return my phone call…what kind of council is that to not return (the calls) of the largest sales tax contributor?”

The city council voted last month to seek a judge’s decision concerning promised tax incentives for the store. A hearing is set for April 13, according to court records.

County inmate caught after escape attempt

Edward Adair was caught 8 minutes after he had escaped from Canadian County Jail on March 16. (File Photo)

A faulty electronic sensor provided an opportunity for a Canadian County Jail inmate to make an escape attempt, but minutes later he was apprehended and now faces the prospect of an extended sentence.

On March 16 at approximately 3:30 p.m., Edward Adair, 24, was taken into custody by Canadian County investigators for outstanding warrants in Custer County, according to information from the Canadian County Sheriffs office. While being booked into Canadian County Jail on hold for Custer County, Adair escaped through a double door sally port that was supposed to be locked. According to Sheriff Randall Edwards, the first door is not suppose to open until the second door is locked, but a faulty electronic sensor allowed Adair to exit through both doors.

Adair was immediately pursued by jail staff that chased him to a relative’s house just west of the jail facility, according to Edwards. The inmate was taken back into custody eight minutes after his initial escape.

“His 8 minutes of freedom is going to cost him more than that in years,” Edwards said. “He is now looking at a charge of escape from custody, by doing that, he has violated his federal parole on a former prison sentence for possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.”

Edwards said Adair’s parole officer has said the parole previously available to Adair will be revoked.

Edwards also said the faulty sensor on the door is being changed out and additional sensors will be added to both doors.

Councilman proposes bicycle ordinance

Cyclists ride down Piedmont Road during a memorial ride last week for the two bike riders who were hit by a car on March 5. (Ben Felder)

A proposed ordinance imposes fines for hitting cyclists and clarifies where bikes are to ride on Piedmont streets.

Councilman Vernon Woods said he hopes to have his proposed ordinance on the agenda for the Piedmont city council’s next regular meeting this month. The proposed ordinance comes two weeks after two local cyclists were injured after being hit by a motorist on Piedmont Road.

Woods said the proposed ordinance was partly a response to the accident on March 5 when Eric Johnson and Gary Caldwell were hit while riding bikes, but it has also been something discussed by Piedmont Parks and Recreation Director Lyn Land.

“The accident triggered my response to file this,” Woods said. “But (Land) had been talking to be about this for a while and it was time to move forward on it.”

Woods’ ordinance would impose a $500 fine on a motorist for seriously injuring a bicyclist and a $1,000 fine for killing a bicyclist. The ordinance states motorists are to give cyclist three feet of space when passing but there is no listed fine for driving too close to a cyclist unless the motorist hits the bike.

“I am open to any other things or changes that the council might like to make,” Woods said. “I just wanted to get something on the table.”

The ordinance would also require cyclist to ride as close to the right shoulder as possible. However, some cycling experts say riding on the right side of a lane is dangerous. Mike Flenniken is a Piedmont resident and president of the Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition who teaches cyclist to ride near the center of the right lane.

“We teach (cyclists) to be just to the right of the center of the (right) lane,” Flenniken said in a previous interview. “That concept forces motorists to consider the cyclist, who has every legal right to be on the road.”

Flenniken said cyclists who ride near the right shoulder give motorists the impression they can safely pass without changing lanes. Flenniken said it also doesn’t register with the driver that they need to adjust their speed until it’s too late. By riding near the center of the right lane, a cyclist forces the motorist to change lanes.

However, Woods said his proposed ordinance is meant to start the conversation on improving bicycle safety. Land said creating a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists is a goal of hers and it can also help Piedmont better attract federal and state transportation grants. In preparing to apply for a Safe Routes to Schools grant, Land said the city asked residents what grade level they would most feel comfortable letting their children walk or ride a bike to school. A large amount of residents said they would not allow their child to walk or bike at any age because of safety concerns.

“We need to do the things we can to make it safer and adopting ordinances that address safety is a step in the right direction,” Land said.

Land acknowledged some residents might feel encouraging more cyclists to hit the road could increase the risk of accidents, but studies have shown the opposite is true.

“The more you have people on bikes and the more bicycles there on the streets, the safer it is and the fewer accidents there are,” Land said. “When we don’t have people walking or biking it’s not something that motorist are looking for.”

Hearing on councilman’s legal fees postponed

Hoss Cooley, Ward 4 coun

A hearing on whether the city has an obligation to pay the legal fees of a city councilman was postponed today and a new heading date has not been set.

Councilman Hoss Cooley has filed a lawsuit against the City of Piedmont claiming he should be reimbursed for his  $9,000 legal bill after successfully defending himself against a recall election last year.

According to Canadian County court records, a hearing was scheduled for Monday at 9 a.m. but those who showed up for the hearing were told it had been rescheduled. A clerk in Judge Gary Miller’s office said a request by both attorneys had been made to postpone the hearing.

Cooley told Piedmont Today in a phone interview that his attorney notified him last week the hearing would be rescheduled for some time in April. Cooley is a candidate for the Ward 4 council seat on April.

City received protests to development, but not the 50 percent required

The developer of the proposed Skyline North Addition in Piedmont withdrew his PUD application and rezoning request this week because he said the project had received some criticism from area residents, but even though the city did receive protest letters from adjacent property owner, the developer could have moved forward with a simple majority of the city council.

A Piedmont city ordinance states that if 50 percent of the property owners within 300 feet of a proposed development object to the project then the project could only be approved with 4/5 of the council vote, rather than the normal simple majority required. However, the ordinance does not give every property owner equal weight but is based on square footage.

For example, the protest letter of a property owner of one half acre would not hold as much weight as that of a property owner of five acres. The 50 percent necessary for a protest to trigger a 4/5 vote fmor the council is based on 50 percent of the square footage within 300 feet of the proposed development, not 50 percent of the total number of property owners.

The 43 protest letters received by the city represented about 50 percent of the number of property owners within 300 feet of the proposed development, but represented only 40 percent of the square footage, according to City Manager Jim Crosby.

The Skyline North Addition was scheduled to be discussed by the Piedmont Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, but an attorney representing developer Phil Boevers said his client was tabling his application because of what he considered misinformation about his project.

PHOTOS: DUCK Week carnival at high school

As part of the DUCK Week festivities at Piedmont High School this week, a carnival like atmosphere was created on Wednesday for students that featured lawnmower races, inflatables, games and a cookout.

Oklahoma, Piedmont shows conservative, anti-Obama feelings on Super Tuesday

When Mitt Romney made a stop in Oklahoma City last November he buttered up the crowd by implying its genius for previous voting habits, specifically its show of support for Sen. John McCain in all 77 counties during the 2008 presidential election.

Speaking to a supportive crowd at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, Romney referred to Oklahoma as the “reddest state in the nation,” and there isn’t much debate that in eight months the state will back the Republican nominee, whoever that might be.

However, while Romney might have been right to refer to the Sooner State as the nation’s reddest, or most conservative, it was his campaign rival Rick Santorum that appealed to the state’s conservative nature during the March 6 primary election in Oklahoma, and Santorum was also a voter favorite in Piedmont.

The Republican presidential primary election in Oklahoma saw Santorum take 34 percent of the state’s GOP vote, but Santorum received even better support from Piedmont’s two precincts with 36.2 percent (377 votes).

Like the rest of the state, Romney came in a close second in Piedmont with 28.10 percent (292), followed by Newt Gingrich with 24.92 percent (259) and Ron Paul with 10 percent (104).

Santorum’s victory in Oklahoma came as no surprise to Canadian County Republican Chair and Piedmont resident Robert Hubbard.

“I thought he would win (Oklahoma),” Hubbard said about Santorum. “Actually, I really expected Santorum to (get more) votes from what I could see at the events that I attended.”

Hubbard, who said he never reveals his candidate of choice in an effort to remain a neutral chairman, said recent endorsements by well-known Oklahomans for Romney and Gingrich may have affected Oklahoma voters, but he does believe the conservative nature of the state was the driving force behind Santorum’s win.

“We are the reddest state in the nation,” Hubbard said. “I think people in Oklahoma understand what a checkbook is, they don’t write checks without money in their accounts. Oklahomans just have good, honest values.”

The Super Tuesday vote, along with the last presidential election, shows Oklahoma is a strongly conservative state, or, at least, a strongly anti-liberal state. Oklahoma recently was home to a two-term Democratic governor, but in the 2008 presidential election every county in the state went to GOP candidate McCain. Two years later, the state’s dislike for President Obama appears to still be flourishing as the incumbent received just 57 percent of the state’s Democratic vote, a relatively low number for a current president running virtually unopposed in his party. However, Obama received just 48.5 percent of the Piedmont Democratic vote and actually lost to candidate Randall Terry in 12 other Oklahoma counties.

“There is no question,” said Hubbard when asked if he felt Oklahoma was a strongly anti-Obama state. “I have not visited with anyone, Republican or Democrat, that is in support for the president.”

Obviously, Obama has his supporters in the state, although not many. The Super Tuesday and 2008 presidential election may seem to peg Oklahoma as one of America’s most conservative, but in a recent Gallop Politics survey, Oklahoma didn’t even crack the top 10 of the most conservative states.

However, regardless of where Oklahoma ranks among conservative states, there is no question that local politics fall to the right and Washington Post writer Aaron Blake recently took a look at the state’s significant disapproval of the president with his article “Why Oklahoma is so anti-Obama.” Blake came to the conclusion that Oklahoma voters have a stark opposition to Great Society liberalism and that even registered Democrats in the state have a conservative foundation.

“Obama continues to prove his values are even outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma,” GOP consultant Chris Wilson told Blake in his article.

Then again, part of the low numbers for Obama on March 6 could come from the fact that the only registered Democratic willing to vote in an insignificant election were those looking to make a statement. Youth turnout was also low, which makes up a large segment of Obama’s supporters. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reported that voters under the age of 30 accounted for just 5 percent of total voters on Super Tuesday in Oklahoma.

Down the road in Surrey Hills it was a similar conservative tone during the primary elections, but it was Romney that came out on top with 32 percent (249) of the vote, followed by Gingrich with 30 percent (233) and Santorum with 29.8 percent (232). Paul received 7.2 percent (56) of the Surrey Hills’ vote. Obama did better with Surrey Hills Democrats with 75 percent (66) of the vote.

With Oklahoma leaning so heavily to the right, it most likely indicates that Super Tuesday was the state’s best chance to make an impact on the November election. No matter who the nominee ends of being come November, Oklahoma is expected to once again be a red state, meaning neither Obama or the GOP candidate is likely to pay much attention to the state in the coming months. Santorum has used his victory in Oklahoma and other social conservative states as a claim he should be considered a serious contender, but Romney remains the frontrunner and is banking on the idea that he is perceived to be the Republican with the best chance to beat Obama in November, an idea Hubbard isn’t exactly sold on.

“I don’t know particularly how I feel about Romney being the only one who can beat (Obama),’ Hubbard said. “I don’t necessarily think Romney is a good debater at all. If I were going for someone to beat Obama in a debate it would be Newt Gingrich. Voters think he is the smartest but they aren’t sure what he is going to do because of his record.”

The presidential election is still eight months away, making it too early to set any real prediction on what the outcome will be. But no matter what happens on November 6, Oklahoma’s political identity will most likely be defined by a strong support of the Republican candidate and a deep dislike for Obama.

City open to sewer deal, wants district to chip in more money

The new Intermediate School in Piedmont is currently under construction on 164th Street and is scheduled to be open for the 2012-13 school year. (Ben Felder)

The city council showed a willingness to partner with the school district on construction of a new sewer line but said the district should increase its original contribution.

The school had proposed chipping in $90,000 last year for construction of a new sewer line but the city council rejected the offer. On Tuesday the city council voted to ask the district to come back to the table but said the school should pay $105,978.

The district’s original offer was based on the price of a lift station at the new Intermediate School but new projections from the district show the lift station will cost $105,978 and the council said the new estimates should impact how much the district pays.

City Engineer Joe Davis said a preliminary estimate of building a new sewer line to handle the addition of the school is close to $300,000. Davis also said the sewer line could be built before classes began in August, but if for some reason the line was not ready a contingency plan of pumps to bypass sewage would be available for the school.

The school board voted Monday to hold off on approving final plans for a lift station in order to see the results of Tuesday’s council meeting. Jerrod Moser was the only member of the school board present at the council meeting and following the meeting Moser said he wasn’t sure how he or the board would vote when it meets Friday, but said the district would prefer to spend its money on a new sewer line, rather than a lift station.

However, during the council meeting Moser addressed the council and said the board’s position is that it is unwilling to jeopardize the opening of the school building.

“We have waited and waited and waited for this partnership to make it work,” Moser said. “The reason that the price (of the lift station) has gone up is that when we originally estimated the price it was low and then we have waited for you.”

During the meeting City Manager Jim Crosby said the city had enough money in its capital improvements account to cover the cost of the project. State law prevents the school district from paying money for an infrastructure project that is not complete, so the city would have to front the entire amount at first and be reimbursed by the district upon completion.

While the council voted 5-0 to make an offer to the district, some council members took the opportunity to express their frustration with the school district and what it considered a lack of communication when it came to the Intermediate School.

“When you build a school…it impacts the community,” Councilman Larry Gage said. “The roads, the sewer, everything. When the school would not even discuss it with us (last year) that caused a little riff.”

Mayor Valerie Thomerson also told Moser the city had tried to contact the school district and its engineer about its plans and how they would impact the community, but never received communication back.

“Your engineers dropped your ball,” Thomerson told Moser.

The school board is scheduled to meet Friday at noon and will either accept the city’s offer or vote to move forward with the lift station.

“We want a win-win with the city,” Moser said after the council meeting. “But we also want what’s best for our school.”

Caldwell continues recovery a week since bike accident

The family of Gary Caldwell continues to report positive news as he recovers from a serious bicycle accident last week.

Caldwell, who is senior pastor and First Baptist Church of Piedmont, was hit by a pickup truck on March 5 while riding a bike on Piedmont Road. Eric Johnson, who was riding with Caldwell, was also injured during the accident but was released from the hospital several hours later.

Caldwell has remained at OU Medical Center and is still recovering from serious injuries, including a broken ankle and pelvis, some bleeding on the brain and the loss of his right ear. According to an update posted on the church’s website, Caldwell continues to struggle with his memory but has been able to take a few steps and sit up.

“Tonight, he was talkative and funny for a little bit before he drifted off to sleep,” Gavin Caldwell, Gary’s son, said Monday evening. “He still has some serious complications from the accident that need your prayers.”

Gavin also said his father was happy to hear about the memorial bike ride that was held Monday evening.

“He thought it was cool that 70ish riders came out for the awareness ride in Piedmont, and then he promptly forgot what we were talking about,” Gavin said. “He seems to slowly be getting better at remembering though.”

Caldwell had surgery Tuesday morning to repair his broken cheek bone and his ear.

In addition to providing updates on the church’s website, the family also released a statement of thanks to the community for its support over the past week.

“I just wanted to say thank you again for the food, prayers, and all of the other things we have had done for us during this time. The ability to focus on dad and the peace that has resulted from everything that has been done for us has been very helpful and greatly appreciated. Thanks again and please keep praying.”

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