Friday, 03 February 2012 17:17
By Karen Lyles
Hugo School Superintendent
Growing up, my mother would say to me when she saw a run-down building or house, “They need to jack that up and run another one under it.” Don’t you wish we could do that at Hugo High School?
In 1930, when my mother graduated from Hugo High School, it was not new. Can you imagine the deterioration that has occurred over the years?
If you have not been in Hugo High School in several years, I encourage you, the citizens of Hugo, to go take a tour.
Mr. Stamper addressed some of the structural problems in his editorial last week. Is it wise to keep putting more and more dollars into an unsound building?
Daily, the majority of our students spend a minimum of seven hours in HHS. The safety of these students should be a major concern of all parents and our community.
Conditions on the basement floor include a boiler so antiquated parts cannot be purchased. When it breaks, parts have to be manufactured because it is so old they are no longer available. The flooring through the hall has rotted in places and has had to be reinforced but cannot be leveled. The one useable student restroom is also on this floor, five stalls each, accessible through a hallway so small two people cannot pass. Students on the third floor have to go to the basement to the restroom.
No doors will close as the building has shifted. In one room, water seeps through the walls during a heavy rain storm. Cracks are readily visible throughout the basement.
The main floor has cracks that have been plastered again and again, and are still cracked. Doors will not close as the building has shifted. A crack in the north wall runs from roof to the ground. Plaster has fallen from one classroom, forcing the teacher to move to another classroom. The outside doors have to be chained at night after everyone leaves the building because none of them will lock. Use of computers on the main floor is a continuing problem—the building isn’t wired for the technology. One of the leaks on this floor is over the main frame computer station. At the present, a heavy piece of plastic serves as a funnel to prevent flooding of equipment. Another leak is over a science classroom. Ceiling tiles are constantly being replaced. Repairing the roof is a major problem as there are three different roof types on this building. The oldest part has a foam roof; the newer part a vinyl one; and the gym area roof is metal.
The third floor has many of the same issues. Heating and cooling issues abound on this floor. It may be warm on the first floor still cold on the third. This floor too, has issues with cracks, uneven flooring, lack of access to technology, and leaks.
In spite of all the problems and safety hazards mentioned, Hugo High school has many dedicated teachers. They teach in this facility that is more than 90 years old, move around puddles, over wires, and either freeze or melt depending on the season, and do so without complaints.
We know they are effective because we have graduates who attend major universities and colleges and compete with the best of the best. They are to be commended for their dedication.
Our school district was fortunate to reach a settlement with Siemens’. The settlement has allowed us to pay off two major debts incurred during the year of the mold issue. We are being very conservative and hopefully can build up a fund balance so when school begins in August, we can meet payroll and survive until state aid is received.
Our current budget does not in any way generate money for a new school. Districts now have to rely on passing bond(s) to build schools.
I hope you will agree with me; our students deserve a much better facility than what we are offering. Will you be a part of the solution?
Friday, 27 January 2012 19:36
By Krystle Taylor
HUGO –– City of Hugo residents may have noticed a change on their water bills this month, that includes an extra $1 contribution or donation to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Members of the Hugo City Council voted last November to add a new line item to the monthly water bills to allow willing residents to make a $1 contribution to Parks and Recreation. The extra proceeds will be used for upgrading park facilities and city streets and electricity payments for the street lights throughout downtown Hugo.
This voluntary donation appeared on this week’s water bill, but was not clear on the breakdown of charges due to a temporary malfunction. City manager, Jeff Rabon is working with the computer programmer to develop a better format and breakdown so that the residents of Hugo will have a more clear understanding of how this voluntary program will work.
Anyone with questions is asked to contact the Water Department at 580.326.2344.
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 17:23
HUGO –– The Hugo City Council met in regular session Tuesday evening to discuss the possibility of enlisting a tourism coordinator, who will work with the city, county commissioners, chamber of commerce and other facilities for the purpose of planning and recruiting events for the area.
Hugo resident, Tonya Payne has expressed an interest in this position and feels very strongly about utilizing and marketing what Hugo and Choctaw County have to offer. Payne is civic-minded and volunteers for many community groups.
Councilwoman Francine Morris made a motion to allow the city’s attorney, Gary Brownsworth, city manager Jeff Rabon and Tonya Payne to devise a contract to be voted on at the next scheduled council meeting.
Hugo girls softball coach, Teresa Montague addressed the council and asked permission for the softball team to use the new field for practices. Montague stated that the girls never had a home-field advantage because they never get to practice on it.
The council agreed upon a motion by Bart Tedder to grant a variance in the ordinance to allow the team to practice on the field, under supervision, for one year.
The Wall Engineering work order in the amount of $9,450 for a required environmental study was approved by the council.
Also approved by the council was a $12,060 payment to Farris Electric for their work on the Boys & Girls Club. This project is still within budget and looking to open sometime during the beginning of February.
Members of the city council retired into executive session for close to one hour to interview applicants for the position of city treasurer. Applicants who were interviewed were: Dama McLemore, Ronald Teague and Wanda Ward. More interviews will possibly be conducted during the next scheduled council meeting.
Purchase order lists, financial statements and the minutes of the Jan. 3 meeting were approved by the council. All members were present.
Hugo Municipal Authority Meeting
The Hugo Municipal Authority met in regular session directly following the city council on Tuesday evening.
Matt Lail, water/waste water supervisor at the Hugo Water Plant, addressed the council regarding the repair of a Headworks filter screen. Lail stated that the filter screen removes debris from water while it moves through and has been down for more than a year. He also stated the plant currently has the parts to repair it.
The council tabled the decision to hire the manufacturing company to send two men to repair it, until the current mechanic can assess the situation. The current mechanic is out on medical leave and is waiting to be released by doctors.
Approved by the authority were the minutes of the Jan. 3 meeting. All members were present.
Friday, 20 January 2012 17:50
HUGO — After hearing seven witnesses and additional evidence presented by First Assistant District Attorney Johnny Loard, Judge Gary Brock ruled Thursday that there was sufficient evidence to bind Kelvin Kretell Knight over for trial for the murder of Willie Bell Gill.
Knight was previously charged with first degree murder in connection with Gill’s death. She was found dead in her home, the victim of numerous stab wounds.
During Thursday’s preliminary hearing, the state called the following witnesses:
• Amanda Morris – who testified that on the 13th of June 2011, she had some friends over at her home and the defendant, who she knew in passing, arrived with another person. Around midnight everyone else had gone except the defendant and he asked her for a ride. She gave him a ride to his grandmother’s house. She also testified that the next morning he called her from a number she did not know and asked for a ride, but refused to tell her where he was. She refused to give him a ride.
• William Jennings – who testified that he was a friend of the family of Willie Bell Gill and on the 16th day of June, he was contacted by Ms. Gill’s brother who had not heard from her in several days and asked him to check on her. He testified that he went to her house and no one answered the door. He asked several neighbors about her and none of them had seen her in a couple of days. He stated that he went back to her home and found the back door unlocked. He went into her home which was dark and found her on the floor in her hallway. He checked her wrist for a pulse and found none. He then left the home and called 911.
• Jody King – who testified that he is a deputy with the Choctaw County Sheriff’s Office. He testified that he responded to the call on June 16 at the home of Willie Bell Gill. He was the first officer on the scene. He met with Mr. Jennings and then entered the home. He found Ms. Gill on the floor and noticed she had multiple injuries to her neck and there was a large pool of blood on the floor. He then checked the rest of the house and finding no one else there left and contacted OSBI.
• Brad Knight – who testified he is an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. He specializes in crime scene investigation. He testified that he examined the crime scene and photographed it. He testified that he noted that two of the bed rooms had been ransacked. He also found a rubber glove and a stocking on the floor and collected those items. He testified that he noted a bloody drag mark on the carpet from the front door around the corner to the body of Willie Bell Gill. He also testified that he found and collected a broken finger nail belonging to Ms. Gill on the chest of Ms. Gill.
• Chris Davis – who testified that he is an agent with the OSBI. He specializes in finger print analysis. He testified as to the discovery of two palm prints on the outside of the bathroom window at the home of Ms. Gill. Davis testified that the prints were lifted and he compared them to known prints of Kelvin Knight and there was a match.
• Sonny Morris Stewart – who testified that he is an agent with OSBI. He testified that pursuant to a search warrant obtained by agent Chris Dill, he collected DNA swabs from the mouth of Kelvin Knight.
• Chris Dill – who testified he is an agent with the OSBI. He is the case agent on this case. He testified that he was familiar with the home that Amanda Morris took the defendant to and is familiar with the home of Willie Bell Gill. He testified that they are in relative close proximity to one another, divided by a wooded area.
The State then introduced reports from the OSBI DNA lab that noted the comparison of the known DNA samples from Kelvin Knight and the samples taken from the fingernail, the stocking and the glove found at the crime scene.
The court then terminated the preliminary hearing finding that there was probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed and that there was probable cause to believe Kelvin Knight committed the crime. The state then introduced records regarding the defendant’s prior conviction for robbery in Lamar County, Texas. The defendant was then bound over for trial on the charge of murder in the first degree after former conviction of a felony.
Judge Brock set the arraignment date for Feb. 7, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. The defendant remains in the Choctaw County Jail where bond has been denied.
Knight was represented by Joe Robertson with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.
Friday, 13 January 2012 21:18
ANTLERS — A full house of sportsmen and women filled the Wildlife Heritage Center in Antlers Thursday night during a special meeting called by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to give regional residents input into a slate of new game and rule changes.
The meeting was directed by Southeast Region Supervisor, Joe Hemphill, as nearly two-dozen area game rangers and wildlife personnel looked on.
The proposed rule change that brought the standing room only crowd revolved around the ODWC’s proposal to close the Honobia WMA to ATVs and ORVs almost year-round, allowing only access with these machines during deer season. The proposed rules also sought to place numerous other restrictions on ATV riders, such as not crossing creeks, not riding double, must be 700 cc engine size or less, and even restricted ATV use to lawfully licensed deer hunters.
Hemphill said owners of property who had leased their lands to the Oklahoma Wildlife department, “wanted to gain control of their land back.”
One-by-one, citizens voiced their concerns and oppositions to the proposed rules. One woman, who advised she and her husband had invested a lot of money in rental cabins on the road between Cloudy and Pickins, said her business would be gravely hurt if the new proposals were adopted, as a large percentage of her clientele enjoyed riding four-wheelers along the mountain roads.
Another person questioned if the ultimate goal of the John Hancock Insurance Company and other landowners was to “run the hunters off and lease the land directly.”
State Representative R.C. Pruett commented that on a recent drive through the area, he noticed a significant amount of garbage and beer cans scattered along roadways. “These landowners have a lot of money invested and occasionally, they have other companies, who are interested in purchasing numerous sections of land, visit and tour the area. Obviously, they aren’t at all pleased when they see a lot of beer cans scattered along their roadways.”
Several sportsmen in attendance said the ATV riders would be willing to form “adopt a roadside” programs similar to the adopt-a-highway programs... and keep the area picked up and clean. Others said they would be willing to sign insurance waiver documents if liability insurance was an issue for the landowner.
Hugo Daily News Publisher Stan Stamper said he took exception to the fact that anyone not deer hunting was being discriminated against by virtue of the seasonal ATV use proposal. Stamper said he and his family would be required to take another vehicle 100 miles round trip just to retrieve a vehicle used to shuttle canoes up-river.
Addressing his comment to both Hemphill and ODWC Commissioner Mike Bloodworth, who was present at the meeting, Stamper said, “I think it is imperative that the Wildlife Commission adopt a policy that says it will not adopt access policy that discriminates between any of the lawful land users. Someone fishing or hunting squirrels should have the same access privileges to the WMA as a deer hunter.” He added, “People who are avid fishermen shouldn’t be treated like second class citizens.”
Stamper also took exception to proposals to ban ATVs crossing creeks or Little River, saying that such a policy would force sportsmen to have to drive many miles to access a hunting or fishing area and remain legal.
Longtime Hugo hunter and sportsman Tom Pence also addressed the Commission. “I’m 71-years-old and I’ve been hunting in these mountains for many years. I don’t think a four-wheeler riding or crossing creeks or streams does any damage at all, and it certainly doesn’t do the damage the timber companies do with their massive logging equipment.”
Pence’s comment drew a number of “amens” from the large gathering.
Also in attendance was State Sen. Jerry Ellis, who stated, “I think the land companies are getting a pretty good deal in Oklahoma (in their dealings with the Wildlife Commission.) They get fire protection from the state. They get a huge tax break. We all know that 98% of the people who use their lands are law-abiding citizens and there’s no way we can stop the 2% who want to break the rules from doing that anyway. I don’t think it makes sense to punish the law abiding citizens for the transgressions of just a few. We have a fragile economy right now. I don’t think we need to be taking any action that makes it more difficult for our business people to survive.”
Ellis said he attended a similar meeting many years ago when a group of Weyerhaeuser managers were discussing locking the sportsmen out of their lands. “One of the managers tossed a penny box of matches on the table and said that right there can do more damage to our lands than all the sportsmen combined.” Ellis said the WEYCO leaders quickly backed away from the idea of locking the sportsmen out.
Ellis said he hoped the Commission would table any action on adopting the new regulations and give all parties concerned an opportunity to find common ground and go forward with a cooperative plan.
Ellis asked Mike Bloodworth, who is currently the Chairman of the Wildlife Commission, if he would support a two-year moratorium to give all parties an opportunity to work together toward a long-term plan that would address everyone’s needs.
Bloodworth said he thought the two-year moratorium was a solid plan. “I fully agree and much prefer that we take a step back and try to work out a plan that addresses the needs of all three parties involved,” Bloodworth said. “The Commission hears what you are saying. I agree with Sen. Ellis. If there is any alternative to adopting these proposed regulations, I want to see if we can find it and work with area sportsmen and the property owners.”
Bloodworth said he was not sure when the matter would be placed on the Commission’s agenda for action but assured he would let area sportsmen know.
In discussing other rule changes being proposed by ODWC, Hemphill said bear hunting regulations would be changing from a quota system to a 21-day no-quota plan. He said last year 31 bears were harvested in two days in 2011, and 10 of the hunters reported they would have waited longer for a larger or more mature animal if given the opportunity to do so.
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