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By Traci Chapman
A lot happened in El Reno through the course of 2012. Here’s a look back.
Crimson Creek Golf Club’s sagging revenues got a boost in January, when city officials agreed to loan up to $60,000 to the club.
The loan request was made by John Dean, El Reno assistant city manager, who pointed out slashing expenses had not been enough to make up for falling revenues and a downturn in members.
The sagging economy and hot, dry summer ate into possible profits at the course, City Manager Tony Rivera said.
“It appears that the economic conditions have resulted in a drop in golf memberships,” Rivera stated via email. “We have contacted a number of those that dropped and that seems to be the major reason.”
Things would pick up for the course later in the year, and City Council members would later vote to pay off some of the club’s debt early.
Friday, Nov. 19, 2010, was “just a regular night” for a group of people partying in El Reno. By the end of that night, one 24-year-old man would be dead. In January, the man who killed him was convicted of first-degree murder by a Canadian County jury.
Thomas Twobabies, 28, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of El Reno resident Niehhi Hamilton. The jury would go on to suggest Twobabies be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole, a recommendation District Court Judge Gary Miller would follow when sentencing the El Reno man in March.
A Canadian County deputy who fired six shots into the tires of a stolen car in January was found to have acted appropriately, Sheriff Randall Edwards said.
Deputy Kelly Rowell fired six shots into the tires of a truck that was reported stolen from Oklahoma City after pursuing the truck near Red Rock and Jones roads. After the driver crashed the truck, he attempted to run over Rowell, the deputy said.
“The truck was being driven at a high rate of speed which was endangering lives. He tried to back over the deputy. The deputy absolutely was doing his job,” Edwards said.
In January, it was learned El Reno Mayor Matt White had become the subject of an investigation begun by one of his fellow councilmen.
Councilman Kent Myers met with El Reno Police Chief Ken Brown in July, filing a police report and alleging violations by White of the city of El Reno municipal charter and Oklahoma State Statutes. Myers said he acted after the resignations of Finance Director Ruth Beal and Robert Coleman, former community development director, as well as discussions with City Manager Tony Rivera.
White said the allegations were “unfounded.” While White has questioned – sometimes “harshly” – city employees concerning certain items, he said he was doing his job.
“It’s up to us to make sure everything is handled the way it’s supposed to be,” he said. “Yes, sometimes there have been times when people haven’t known what they should know, particularly when we talked about some financial problems with some of our authorities.”
The investigation was eventually dropped, and White was not found to have done anything improper, officials said.
Chesapeake Energy took its first official step on a possible new interchange at Interstate 40 and Radio Road during El Reno City Council’s February meeting.
James Roller, Chesapeake manager of corporate development, said the company partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, city of El Reno and Canadian County to make the interchange a reality.
“This interchange is necessary to accommodate the development of new facilities, as well as the enhancement of current facilities at Radio Road,” Roller said. “This will provide direct access to I-40, and it will reduce heavy industrial traffic along Route 66 and Highway 81.”
In December, the interchange location was celebrated by Gov. Mary Fallin and other officials, as well as the opening of Chesapeake subsidiary Performance Technology’s new headquarters, situated adjacent to where the new interchange will be located.
Redlands Community College officials began work in February in preparation of an expansion of Cougar Crossing Apartments.
Joel Drury, vice president of student services and institutional development, said Redlands would build two more apartment-type buildings. Each building would be capable of housing 40 students. Cougar Crossing has four apartment buildings, each capable of housing 40 students.
“I want to build 80 more beds and in a year or two, two more buildings,” Drury said. “We have a lot of students who want to live in Cougar Crossing. The apartments were full in May for the fall semester and we have a waiting list.”
A 23-year veteran of El Reno’s hospital officially took its top spot effective Feb. 19.
Officials with Mercy Health System of Oklahoma announced Doug Danker, longtime director of nursing, would be Mercy Hospital El Reno’s new administrator. Danker had served as interim administrator since late 2011.
Danker started his career at then-Parkview Hospital as a paramedic in 1989. Since that time, he said he has worked as an emergency room nurse, medical and surgical supervisor of nursing, intensive care unit coordinator, assistant director of nursing and director of nursing. In 2008, Danker also took over operations of the hospital’s struggling ambulance service.
Curtis Blanc served first on the Parkview Hospital board of directors before Mercy assumed the lease of the community hospital. He remained as chairman for the advisory board.
“I’ve known Doug for many years and have worked closely with him to make critical decisions that ensure we provide our community with quality medical care from a leading health care organization like Mercy,” Blanc said. “I think I can speak for the entire board when I say we are thrilled that Mercy has recognized Doug’s abilities.”
Ward meetings were held across the city during January and February, as Council members tried to tap residents’ concerns and preferences for street and waterline improvements.
Meetings at all four Council districts were scheduled between Jan. 30 and Feb. 23 to allow residents to give feedback on road and waterline improvements proposed in their areas. As part of the Capital Improvements Project, the city has about $3.8 million to pay for infrastructure improvements throughout El Reno.
After meetings were concluded, Mayor Matt White said Council members and city staff could then go through both the water and street projects and outline a list based on need and the amount of money available to complete them.
“It might take us awhile, but we know this is a good start,” he said.
Bullying in El Reno schools came to the forefront in February, after a local resident went to television media and filed a criminal complaint after he said a child hit his son at Roblyer Middle School.
Jason McCormack decided to withdraw a complaint made to the El Reno Police Department on Feb. 23, after he spoke with the mother of a boy he said punched his son three times, he said. That wasn’t until after he said he sent emails to two television news channels, advising them of what he called “a well-known pattern of bullying” at Roblyer.
Superintendent Ranet Tippens said while there were problems at times with bullying in schools, it was not widespread, and she said she never heard from him.
“This parent didn’t go to the principal or to me or even a school board member,” Tippens said. “He went directly to the media.”
For the first time in its history, it was announced in March Fort Reno’s Tombstone Tales will not be held in September. Organizers say that’s not the only change in store for the event.
“The public performance has also been changed to an evening dinner and performance this year and by lantern,” Fort Reno Director Karen Nix said. “We’ll have a ‘Taste of Fort Reno’ so people can enjoy a nice evening together.”
The change was made after board member Jimmy Johnston and others noticed a dwindling of attendance at the annual fall event. Three performances were set for April 27, and attendance was “much better,” Nix said at that time.
El Reno officials had good news in March, when it was learned projected revenues would exceed initial estimates by more than $1.5 million.
However, City Manager Tony Rivera still advised caution when moving forward.
“Before we start singing, ‘We’re in the money, the sky is sunny,’ it is important that we recognize the source and be prudent,” Rivera told City Council members at their March 6 meeting.
That source was oil and gas operations in the area, which Rivera said dictated caution against banking on tax revenues remaining at their current levels forever.
“Having experienced oil booms in the past as much as we have here in Oklahoma, we should be mindful of the cyclical nature of the business and budget accordingly,” he said.
Voters gave Maple School students the gift of a new gym, after a $3.6 million bond issue vote was passed unanimously March 6.
The first proposition, which will fund the gym and renovation to the school’s cafeteria, passed by 80.5 percent, while a second transportation issue for new buses prevailed with a 79.9 percent vote.
Maple School Superintendent Art Eccard said he was “thrilled” at the passage of the two issues. Maple students have been playing in the same gym for about 46 years. The new gymnasium construction was expected to cost $2.4 million, he said.
“The last one we did was in 1966, so we thought it was a good time to try to do this,” Eccard said.
In March, a would-be burglary attempt at an oil pump site turned deadly when one man was killed and another seriously injured.
Sheriff Randall Edwards said deputies were called to an oil field located near 122nd and Heaston Road after a man called to report he heard yelling and screaming at the site. Upon their arrival, deputies found Steven Ray Cavenee, 30, lying near a Quantum Resources Management rig.
“He was in a great deal of pain and covered in blood with a mangled leg,” Edwards said. “He said he was working on an oil field pump with his partner when the pump went on. They did not find a knife or other weapon at the site,” he said.
Cavenee told deputies he and his “partner” were dropped off at the site by fellow oil field employees, and his partner was still at the rig. Deputies found Michael Paul Cradduck, 22, critically injured at the pump.
Cradduck later died at an area hospital. Investigators learned neither man worked for Quantum Resources, and Cavenee was later charged in connection with the incident.
A Mustang woman accused of killing her husband heard what witnesses could say about her at trial during a preliminary hearing that began in March.
Rebecca Bryan was arrested in connection with the Sept. 20, 2011, shooting death of Keith Bryan. Bryan was shot once as he sat on a couch in the couple’s Rosehill Drive home at about 10 p.m.
During the hearing, which was not concluded in March, witnesses testified Rebecca Bryan did not show concern for her husband in the wake of the shooting. She would be held over for trial at the multi-day hearing’s conclusion.
Webster Elementary School’s Kristi Sierra was named the “best of the best” of El Reno’s teachers for the 2011-2012 school year.
The fifth-grade teacher was honored as El Reno District Teacher of the Year. Webster Principal Mendy Klepper sang Sierra’s praises.
“Kristi always has a positive attitude and a smile on her face,” Klepper said. “She works hard to present engaging, appropriate lessons to her students.
Sierra has worked at Webster for five years. She said she moved to El Reno after graduating from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Married to Jesse Sierra, the couple has a black Labrador and a black cat. Sierra said she loves watching Thunder basketball, going hiking and spending time with her family and friends.