Okmulgee County News Source

Ballenger outlines issues in city proposition

Residents living in the city limits of Okmulgee will be voting Tuesday, Nov. 4 on a proposition to alter specific restrictions on the use of $3.2 million obtained from the sale of the Creek Council House.
Okmulgee City Manager Roger Ballenger discussed the topic during an exclusive interview with the Okmulgee Times. Ballenger offers a brief history of the council house purchase over 90 years ago. He also details the issues related to the funds obtained from selling the building and grounds back to the original owners - the citizens of the Muscogee Creek Nation.
When the council house was bought back in the early part of the century, there was a bond issue voted on by the people. The bond stated that the funds would be used for parks and recreation and historical buildings.
Voters approved the bonds and bought the council house.
The Muscogee Creek recently purchased back the council house from the City of Okmulgee. The tribe paid $3.2 million for the historic building in downtown Okmulgee.
 Armed with the funding, the City of Okmulgee began to consider projects to finance. However, the sudden windfall came with restrictions.
“We realized because of the way that it was purchased that any money that it generated later on could only be used for the same purpose,” said City Manager Roger Ballenger. “Not that we couldn’t spend 3.2 million dollars  on parks and recreation or historical buildings, but the City needs to be able to make those decisions on how best to use the funds.”
Okmulgee officials put the issue to another vote of the people a few months ago. It was in a stand-alone form and narrowly missed approval.
“(It) was barely, barely defeated,” the city manager said. “I think part of that was just a misunderstanding about the intention of the money. This city council believes that the money should not be used for just regular operations of the city. It should be preserved for the best use of Okmulgee - and consider only using the money generated by investing it for special projects or needs as they come up.”
One such need is a deteriorating police station building. That could be addressed in this election.
“Part of it also is to allow the city to use a portion of the money to remodel or relocate our police department,” said Ballenger. “It will free the money up to purchase, remodel, repurpose a building we already own.”
The police department is housed in the part of Okmulgee that is being renovated and repurposed for apartments.
“The decision hasn’t been made, but personally I think that building will be better used as part of that instead of housing the police department.”
If voters approve the proposition, the council will be able to move forward in the best interest of the community.
“While we don’t have a definite plan on what we want to do, we must have the flexibility to use a portion of this money for public safety purposes. The city cannot get a loan. We already have our indebtedness on the landfill, water plant and sewer plant. We are just in the process of paying down our debt on the improvements we’ve made for the long term for Okmulgee.”
The decision voters will make will have a major impact on the city.
“This proposition is so important in that if we don’t repurpose this money, if we don’t free up this money to be used for the betterment of Okmulgee, it is just going to be sitting there. Now we could spend it all on parks and recreation but overall our plan for moving Okmulgee forward includes a lot more than that. The council could choose to use the interest off what money is not used for relocating perhaps the police department in parks and recreation.”
The downtown business district is showing wonderful promise for an economic revival. It is crucial that the City of Okmulgee have the resources to join this effort.
“There is a lot of exciting things going on in Okmulgee,” the city manager said. “I believe that freeing up the money to let the council make the wisest decision they can on how to use it, this keeps this momentum alive that we have in Okmulgee. We have excitement going on in Okmulgee about downtown renovations. We have things going on at the old refinery site with OADC, new businesses that are coming in that area. There is just a lot of excitement in Okmulgee and a lot of positive waves going on and this proposition lends to that. I’m really hoping that we will be successful.”
City officials have another option if voters reject the proposal on the ballot.
“If this isn’t successful, we plan on putting the money in a trust,” Ballenger said. “The reason we want to put it in under a trust is that there is more flexibility on how you can invest the money - and how you can best hold that money for the future if you have it under a trust. That’s why people are wondering why we are having a trust and its the same members. Its just for flexibility and how you use and invest the money.”
Ballenger and other city officials are working to get the information to the public so they can make an educated decision on election day. As of now, Ballenger is not sure how the voters will decide.
“This is a general election so it is a little harder to predict who’s going to come out.” he said. “The previous election was a stand-alone election so people that were interested in this proposition came out and voted. In the general election everybody has to say yes or no even if they don’t really understand.
“This is a very simple proposition to let this money be used generally for the betterment of Okmulgee in more areas than just parks and recreation and historical buildings. I think it is a positive thing. The council is excited about using this money to its best end and not just letting it go into the  day-to-day operations. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to be used on a spur of the moment decision. It’s going to be well thought out and well planned and openness to the public as to what the plans for that money.”
The idea is to pull aside the funds and not just dump the money into the City’s general fund.
“Putting it under a trust insures that it is always held separately from the rest of the city funds - so that it doesn’t get co-mingled or lost in the budgeting process. Some future council might unknowingly approve a budget that would dip into that money.”
The plan is to use the funds in the best way to move Okmulgee forward. That’s the main thing the city manager wants voters to know.
“It is important that citizens understand that this council does not intend to use the money for day-to-day operations,” Ballenger said. “It has to be used for something long-lasting, has a big effect, and will affect the most people’s live that we can. We don’t want to use it as an emergency fund for someone’s mistake. It should be used for moving Okmulgee forward. If we are just limited to parks and recreation, we might see a need that really could move Okmulgee forward but it doesn’t fit the criteria and our hands would be tied.”
In simple terms, approval of the proposal is in the best interest of everyone in the community.
“There is nothing mysterious or sinister about this,” Ballenger said. “ We can utilize this money for more good for Okmulgee if we take these restrictions off.”
Polls will open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 7 p.m. or until all voters in line at 7 p.m. have a chance to complete the voting process.
Citizens who have questions about the proposition are urged to contact the city manager at city hall or their representative in the ward in which they reside.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday
for General election voting

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in numerous local and state races, including a proposition in the city of Okmulgee.
Polls open at 7 a.m. on November 4th and will close at 7 p.m.
In Okmulgee, citizens will decide on a proposition to alter restrictions on funds received from the sale of the Creek Council House. (See related article above)
In the County Commissioner District 1 race, Republican Jack Bell will face off against Democrat Ron Ballard for the office currently held by J.W. Hill.
Incumbent Rep. Jerry Shoemake (D) will face challenger James Bo Delso (R) for the State Representative District 16 post.
Cynthia Pickering and Pandee Moore Ramirez are squaring off for the post of Okmulgee County Associate District Judge.
Roger Thompson (R) squares off against Selina Jayne-Dornan (Dem) for the State Senate District 8 seat.
The Okmulgee Times will bring you the results of the election in Wednesday’s edition.

Women in Technology Conference slated
for November 7th

OSU Institute of Technology will host the annual Women in Technology conference Friday, Nov. 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the OSUIT campus, 1801 E. 4th St., in Okmulgee.
The free one-day event, aimed at female high school students and women interested in making a career change, is focused on the numerous opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that are open and available to women.
A highlight of the conference will be a panel discussion featuring three women in leadership roles within the energy sector who are members of the Women’s Energy Network.
Panelists include WEN’s North Texas Chapter President Diana Frazier, vice president of integrated asset management for Holland Services LLC in Fort Worth, Texas; Mary Curliss Patton, membership director co-chairwoman of the North Texas Chapter of WEN and a registered petroleum engineer with the state of Texas; and Freese and Nichols facility engineer Patricia Stamatoyannakis, a WEN member and OSU alumna.
“Having a panel allows us to demonstrate the breadth of opportunities for women, with multi-faceted points of view from each of the three women answering questions from our participants,” said Dr. Ina Agnew, vice president for Student Services at OSUIT. “Our panelists are prepared to share their career tracks and trajectories, and the participants will see there’s more than one career path to success in traditionally male-dominated fields.”
OSUIT’s energy-related programs such as Pipeline Integrity, Power Plant Technology and Natural Gas Compression have become vital to their respective industries and are growing on the Okmulgee campus.
“Our industry partners are demanding highly skilled female technicians,” Agnew said. “We have a number of programs at OSUIT that lead to careers represented by the Women’s Energy Network, whose mission is to educate, attract, retain and develop professional women.”
In addition to the question and answer panel discussion, participants also choose one of seven interactive career tracks that each explore two different programs or divisions offered at OSUIT.
Career tracks include: Body Mobility & Civil Engineering (Orthotics & Prosthetics and Civil Engineering Technology); Creative Design & Diesel Engines (Visual Communications and Diesel & Heavy Equipment Technology); Driving Education (Automotive Technologies and Pre-Education); Energy Resources (Pipeline Integrity Technology and Natural Gas Compression); Food & Manufacturing (School of Culinary Arts and Manufacturing Technology); Powering Health (Power Plant Technology and Allied Health Sciences); and Time to Chill (School of Watchmaking and Construction Technology)
The number of career tracks more than doubled from last year to accommodate the growth of the event, Agnew said.
“We’ve seen an exponential increase in the number of women interested in participating in this program. We had to turn away more than 100 students last year because we didn’t have enough room,” she said. “Educators see the value of this program and they bring their students. Women interested in a career change see the value and want to explore their options.”
Organizers purposely pair programs that don’t seem to go together naturally so that attendees get a broader knowledge of their career possibilities, Agnew said.
“The whole point of this program is to get people out of their comfort zone and to explore an opportunity they would not otherwise consider,” she said. “They may sign up for culinary arts because it’s a more traditional female career, and then they get a taste of manufacturing, working with complex robotics and programming.”
The goal of Women in Technology is for teenage girls and women to think outside the traditional female box and consider different career paths.
“We want them to know that they have a ton of options and they aren’t limited to the stereotypical female-appropriate careers,” Agnew said. “Female trailblazers have made it possible for women to succeed in many different industries and professions.”
For more about Women in Technology or to register go to the Women in Technology event page, osuit.edu/wit, or contact Sable Wise, special events coordinator, at 918.293.5220.

Tim Craighton issues warning after missing person incident
Okmulgee Times editor

An elderly woman with dementia recently walked away from her home in Okmulgee County. The incident set off a 12-hour search to find the lady and return her safely to her residence.
Luckily, there is a happy ending to this story. However, Okmulgee County Emergency Management Director Tim Craighton knows it could have been very different had it occurred this weekend instead of last Saturday evening. The October weather was unseasonably warm last Saturday.
That will not be the case this weekend.
“We are going to have freezing temperatures here,” Craighton said. “A person could die if they were outside all night in that kind of weather.”
The OCEM director said the incident is similar to others. It sparked him to issue a warning about the coming winter - and the growing danger of senior citizens with dementia slipping away from their families and their caregivers. Such an action is unsafe at any time of the year. However, it can be down-right deadly when winter brings in freezing temperatures.
In this most recent case, the couple was outside at their residence. The husband went inside to get something. When he came back outside, his wife was gone.
“This person has walked away several times,” Creighton said. “They are gone that quick.”  
The lady, in her 70’s, walked into the woods while her husband was inside the house.
The family searched for her for about 6 hours. The search team joined the effort and worked tirelessly to find her.
“We spent about 6 hours out there Sunday night,” Craighton said. “They called us when we were getting our gang together on Monday (to go back out). They had spotted her across the lake.”
Luckily, the woman was unharmed from the time she spent out in the woods. She was found about a quarter-mile from her house, in the woods near a lake.
“It was a happy ending,” the director repeated.
Craighton has advice for others who face a similar situation. Here in Okmulgee County there is a growing population of older citizens with dementia. Cases of these dementia patients walking away are becoming more frequent all the time. The alarming trend creates a dangerous situation, especially in the winter months when exposed to the weather can be fatal in a short period of time.
“ They walk away and family thinks they can find them,” Craighton said. “They don’t call us right way.  I want to focus on people that take care of dementia and Alzheimer's patients. If they’ll call us immediately when someone walks away. It’s a big deal in our community. We have lots of those patients around now. The family needs to know that, with winter coming. With hypothermia and so forth, people can’t survive out in the cold like they could in the summer. So we need to know immediately when someone walks away from their home or somewhere else, so that we can get our teams together to search for them.”
The Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Office has 5 people trained in tracking. The Muscogee Nation Emergency Management also has a team.
 They should call 9-1-1 .. and give them as much information as possible about the missing person.
Families or care-givers should call 9-1-1 immediately upon learning someone has walked away or is missing. Any delay in cold weather presents a life-threatening situation.
“We’d rather go out there and find them immediately, easy, and have a good turn instead of waiting and having a bad turn.”
There is no fee for the searches.
“As public officials, we are there to help,” the OCEM director said. “That’s what we do.”
The public can help.
“It’s going to take more watching on people - being aware of the senior citizens, period,” ”Craighton said. “Because the young and the old are the most vulnerable.”
The OCEM director also discourages people from leaving elderly people waiting inside parked cars while they go inside stores to shop. It’s a dangerous idea in the summer time and it is also dangerous in the winter months.
“With winter coming on, that’s a bad idea,” he said.
In a related note, if you see an elderly person who is out in the public and appears to be disoriented, call 9-1-1 and give them the information. They can dispatch an officer to the site to check on the person’s well-being. If there is a doubt or concern, it is better to have them check on the person to be sure they are OK.
If an elderly person carries a cell phone, authorities might be able to use the GPS signal to track down the location of the phone. However, the phone itself would have to be in an area that could receive cell service or a ping from the nearest cell tower.
The best advice is to keep a close watch on these people. However, if they do slip away, immediately call 9-1-1 and request help in locating the person.
• Winter preparedness
“No. 1, we need to prepare for winter because it is supposed to be a hard winter,” he said. “People need to carry blankets, a snack (food), some water, in case they are stranded and have to stay out (in the elements).
• About dementia  
Dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities. It mainly affects older people, although it is not a normal part of aging.
It is estimated that 35.6 million people worldwide are living with dementia. The total number of people with dementia is projected to almost double every 20 years, to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050, with majority of sufferers living in low- and middle-income countries.


April Marie Souza
April Marie Souza, age 31 passed away on October 24, 2014 near Beggs, Oklahoma.  April was born July 30, 1983 in Charleston, SC to Frank and Audrey (Webb) Souza.   April graduated from Beggs H.S. in 2001.  She was a loving mother and devoted daughter who enjoyed music, and photography.  She had a keen eye for taking photos and especially loved taking a good “selfie” which usually included one of her children.  
She is survived by her adoring parents, Frank & Audrey Souza; her daughter, Samantha and son, Hunter; her fiancé, Andrew Fulton; her brother, Michael Webb & fiancé, Brittney; sister, Winomie;  grandmother, Florine Deznowski and many other loving family and a host of wonderful friends.
A memorial service will be held 2:00 pm,  November 8th 2014 at the First Assembly of God church located at 301 N. Seminole, Okmulgee.  

Peggy Darlene Price
Peggy Darlene Price, 72, passed Friday, October 24, 2014.
Services were 1:00 PM Friday, October 31, 2014 at First United Methodist Church, Fairland under the care of Brown-Winters Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Miami.
Friends may send notes of encouragement by viewing Mrs. Prices Tribute Page at www.brown-winters.com.

Tolen Earl Parker
Tolen Earl Parker, 96 year old longtime Okmulgee, Oklahoma resident passed away Tuesday, October 28, 2014 in Okmulgee. Tolen was born May 19, 1918 in Roff, Oklahoma to Homer Earl Parker & Essie S. (Oliphint) Parker.  Tolen served his country during WWll with the United States Navy. Tolen was a retired machine operator with Ball Brothers Glass Plant where he had worked for 35 years. He enjoyed fishing, wood working and was a Hamm Radio Operator. Tolen was united in marriage to Iva Batterton on January 14, 1939 in Henryetta, OK. She preceded him in death. He was also preceded by his parents, 3 brothers; Thurman, Homer, and Bill Parker and 1 sister; Thelma Fuller. Tolen is survived by 2 sons; Doel Parker of Choctaw, OK, Larry Parker and wife Gail of Okmulgee, OK, 1 daughter; Anita Corley & Husband Homer of Garland, Texas, 2 brothers; Hayden Parker of Okmulgee, OK & Morris Parker of Webbers Falls, OK, 3 sisters; Louise Lasiter & June Tennison both Okmulgee, OK, Wanda Thurman of Coweta, OK, 8 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren and many great-great grandchildren.
A visitation was held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday, October 30, 2014 and Funeral Service 2 p.m., Friday, October 31, 2014 both at the First Baptist Church, Okmulgee. Dr. Dennis Taylor officiated. Military Rites were performed by the United States Navy Honor Guard. Interment was in Wilson Salt Creek Cemetery, Wilson, OK.

MaryBeth Divis died October 24, 2014, at home surrounded by her loving family.  Born March 10, 1943 in Okmulgee, OK;  the eldest of four children born to Harry and Bessie Taylor.  MaryBeth moved to Richardson, TX in 1978 with her now deceased husband Henry Divis where she spent much of her life till she moved to Garland, TX in 2001.
She retired in 2008 as a paralegal with the social security administration and has since spent many hours enjoying books, being an expert bridge player, and making friends where ever she went.  MaryBeth will be especially remembered for her quick wit, fighting spirit, and the dedication, love and kindness she showed to her family and friends.  Not to mention the devotion she gave to her maltese, Beau.
Survivors include:  her sons, Donald Exum and Doug Exum; daughters, Kimberly McLeod and Rebecca Divis; granddaughter Cassidy Exum; daughters-in-law, Lisa Exum and Christy Exum; and siblings, Jim Taylor and Kathy Jones.
Memorial Service will be at 6:00PM on November 15, 2014  at her home in Garland, TX.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the National Kidney Foundation.

Wanda Gail Adams
Wanda Gail Adams, beloved wife and mother, passed away Monday, October 27, 2014 in Okmulgee at the age of 69.  She was born July 29, 1945 in Pilot Point, Texas to the late Leo and Lois (Stricklin) King.  Wanda married David Adams on December 28, 1962 in Dallas, Texas.  They moved from Dallas, Texas to Okmulgee, Oklahoma in 1988.  Wanda loved spending time with her grandkids and crocheting.  She worked for many years at Loans Plus.  She was a former member of the Red Hat Society and Queen of the Ladies of the Red Chapeau.  
    She was preceded in death by her parents.  Survivors include her husband, David Adams, a son, Jerry Adams, a daughter, Grace Knipple and husband Bryan, granddaughters, Amy Stone and Beth Knipple, grandson, Noah Knipple, and great granddaughter Natalie Stone.
Private family services will be held.
Arrangements and cremation services provided by McClendon-Winters Funeral Home of Okmulgee.
Memories, condolences, photos and videos may be shared with the family on Wanda’s Tribute Page of our website at www.mcclendon-winters.com

David Cowans Sr.
David Cowans Sr. 89, a native  of Okmulgee, died October 13, 2014 in Denver, CO. A funeral service was held in Colorado on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. Arrangement Pipkin-Boswell Funeral Service of Denver.

Irene Evans
Our beloved precious mother, Irene M. Evans, age 90, passed from this earth to her Heavenly Father’s arms, Tuesday morning, October 21, 2014, at 9:01 AM
Irene Mizell was born March 21, 1924 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, to Floyd and Viva (Smith) Mizell. There were seven children in her family.  She married Stephen M. Evans, Jr., in April of 1942, also in Okmulgee.  Of this union, two daughters were born, Donna Sue Evans Perry and Shirley Ann Evans Merkey.
Irene loved the Lord first and served in various ways throughout her life.  She taught the young boys’ Sunday School class in the old church, First Assembly of God, on 3rd Street, Bartlesville, and she taught teen girls in Waco, Texas where the family moved for a couple of years when Mr. Evans was transferred with Phillips Petroleum Company in the ‘50s.  She was an excellent seamstress, making costumes for grade school plays and her daughters’ clothes and prom dresses.  She was quite the hostess and was an excellent cook and pie maker.  She was always taking meals to people who were in need.  She was president of Women’s Missionary Council (WMC) at Bartlesville’s First Assembly of God and was in the quilting circle at church where the ladies made quilts and worked the funeral dinners, bean dinners and volunteered at Agape Mission.    She also worked for Mr. Fanchier running his household for many years.  She was named “Coconut Pie Queen” at church.  She was such a prayer warrior….she didn’t just teach her daughters, she “lived the life in front of them”.  She will be so missed by everyone.  There are no words to express what a wonderful mother she was to her daughters.    
Irene was preceded in death by her husband of 60 years, Stephen Evans, Jr.; her parents, Floyd and Viva; sisters, Gladys Morris and Lee Whisman; her big brother, Junior Mizell; and son-in-law, Tony Merkey, Sr.
She leaves behind her daughters, Donna Evans Perry and Shirley Ann Evans Merkey; two grandchildren, Michele Balduff of Aurora, Illinois, Tony Joe Merkey, Jr. of Hodgen, Oklahoma; three great-grandchildren, Shawn Balduff, Aaron Balduff and Shelby Balduff, all of Aurora, Illinois; two sisters, Oleta Baker of Muskogee, Oklahoma and Betty Edwards of Del City, Oklahoma; and brother, Johnny Mizell of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  
The family also wants to thank her caregivers, Clesson and Robin, who kept her going; Verla who took care of all of us; and thanks also to Faye who took care of her hair.  She will be so missed by everyone who knew her, but we know she is in Jesus’ arms.  
Come and go visitation will be held on Saturday and Sunday from 2-8 PM in the Arnold Moore & Neekamp Funeral Home, 710 S. Dewey Ave.  
Services will be held on Monday, November 3, at 10:00 AM in the Spirit Church (formerly
First Assembly of God), 900 S. Dewey Ave.  The Rev. Ike Amaro will officiate.  The family will depart Bartlesville at approximately 12:30 PM to travel to the Okmulgee Cemetery, Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where committal services will be held at approximately 2:00 PM.  
Arrangements for Mrs. Evans are under the direction of the Arnold Moore & Neekamp Funeral Home.  Online condolences may be left at www.honoringmemories.com.  

Charles Sadler Jr.
Charles "Chuck", "Charlie" G. Sadler passed from this life October 29, 2014 at his home in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  He was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma on February 9, 1947 to Charles and Jean Sadler.  He attended schools in Okmulgee all his life, graduating from Okmulgee High School in 1966.
He was a veteran of the United States Army serving in Korea.  He had many interests and talents.  He loved to read, loved the Oklahoma Sooners, and liked to visit with others.  He graduated from motorcycle mechanic school in Daytona Beach, Florida.  He also graduated from gunsmith school and heat, air and refrigeration school in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He is survived by his sister and brother-in-law Sharon and Gary Washburn, Shawnee, one niece Stefanie Washburn, Norman, and his Aunt Nadine Burzio of Sapulpa.  He is also survived by several cousins.
Mr. Sadler was preceded in death by his parents, and his grandparents,  Arthur and Doris Gunter and Charlie and Anna Sadler.
Graveside services will be held Monday, November 3, 2014 at 11:00 a.m at the Beggs Cemetery in Beggs, Oklahoma under the direction of the McClendon-Winters Funeral Home of Beggs. Memories, condolences, photos and videos may be shared with the family on Charles'  Tribute Page of our website at www.mcclendon-winters.com

Dorothy W.  Reed
Dorothy Wagoner Reed passed away on October 26, 2014.  She was 92.  A funeral service to celebrate Dorothy’s life will be held 2:00 P.M. Monday November 3, 2014 at the McClendon-Winters Funeral Home with Reverend David Hamilton officiating.