Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sallisaw Man Hospitalized after Crash

A 53-year-old Sallisaw man was rescued from his vehicle by the Muldrow Fire Department Monday evening after a crash on Interstate 40. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported Jeffrey Wardlow was driving a 2008 Nissan west on the interstate when, at Mile Marker 318, the car went off the road to the left and Wardlow over corrected to the right. The car then rotated one quarter time, struck a tree, and came to rest in a ditch. Wardlow was admitted to Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith, and was listed in stable condition with head injuries. The crash occurred at about 5:47 p.m.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Ribbon Cutting is Wednesday at Roland Casino

Cherokee Nation and Sequoyah County residents are celebrating the hundreds of jobs Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland is bringing to the area. A public ribbon cutting and opening celebration of the new casino is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday.

The tribe broke ground on the new 170,000-square-foot gaming destination in April 2014.

The new casino is open to the public and the hotel is slated to open this fall.

Cherokee Casino Roland was the Cherokee Nation's first gaming operation, opening as a simple bingo hall 25 years ago. Over time, the property has transformed into one of the region's leading entertainment venues as Cherokee Casino Roland.

Cherokee Nation Entertainment is the wholly owned gaming, hospitality, retail and tourism entity of the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Casino Roland is located off Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 64.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Couple Hospitalized after Hitting Deer

An Edmond couple was hospitalized Sunday after colliding with a deer on U.S. Highway 59, six miles south of Stilwell in Adair County. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported Charles Partridge, 52, and Donna Partridge, 51, were on a 2001 Harley Davidson motorcycle when a deer crossed in front of them and the motorcycle struck the deer. Charles Partridge, the driver, was taken to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, and admitted in stable condition with head and arm injuries. Donna Partridge was taken to Tahlequah City Hospital and admitted in stable condition with arm and leg injuries. The crash occurred about 7:45 p.m.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Fullbright-Warner Runoff Election Expected July 25

A run-off election will be held in Sequoyah County to determine the Cherokee District 6 tribal councilman. A run-off is expected in Sequoyah County's District 6 between Natalie Fullbright, who got 588 votes or 45 percent, in Saturday's Cherokee election, and Bryan Warner who had 463 votes or 35 percent.

At-large candidates Wanda Hatfield with 26 percent of votes will also face Betsy Swimmer with 19 percent of votes in a July 25 run-off.

Nearly 20,000 Cherokee Nation citizens turned out to the polls Saturday and elected Principal  Chief Bill John Baker to another four-year-term, according to unofficial 2015 General Election voting results. Baker, of Tahlequah, took 9,786 of 18,583 votes or 52.6 percent of ballots cast. No run-off election is needed if a candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote.

Voters also chose to re-elect S. Joe Crittenden, of Stilwell, with 11,436 votes of 63 percent.

The Cherokee Nation Election Commission met Monday to certify the results. 

Eight Tribal Council seats were also on the ballot. 

Incumbent David Walkingstick of District 3 in Cherokee County was re-elected with 662 votes or 54 percent, according to unofficial results.

Incumbent Dick Lay of Ochelata, of District 12 in Nowata, Tulsa, Washington, and Rogers counties, was also re-elected with 428 votes or 61 percent, according to unofficial results.

Newly elected are:

*Rex Jordan, of Hulbert, for District 1 of Cherokee and Wagoner counties, with 63 percent or 822 votes.
*Shawn Crittenden, of Stilwell, for District 8 in Adair County with 62 percent or 456 votes. 
*Buel Anglen, a former Tribal Councilor, in District 13 with 64 percent or 499 votes.

In District 14 of Rogers and Tulsa counties, William Pearson leads with 508 votes to Keith Austin's 501, but election commission officials were counting some challenge ballots Sunday in the close race. According to the Cherokee Nation Election Commission about 62,000 Cherokee citizens are registered to vote. More than 2,000 participated in early voting and 11,000 requested absentee ballots.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Sallisaw Woman Killed, Children Injured

At approximately 3:45 p.m. Friday, June 26, Mary Patricia Kidd, 64, of Sallisaw lost her life in a two vehicle collision in Muskogee County. The accident occurred on the Muskogee Turnpike near Mile Marker 51. According to reports from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) Kidd was driving in the north bound lane and lost control of her vehicle due to wet road conditions. Reports state that Kidd crossed the center median at a high rate of speed and hit a semi-truck in the south bound lane of traffic. Kidd was pronounced dead at the scene.

There were also two passengers in Kidd's vehicle, a 12-year-old girl and a 7 year-old-boy. Both children were taken by helicopter to Children's Hospital in Little Rock. The boy sustained both head and trunk internal injuries and is listed in critical condition. The girl sustained head, arm, and trunk internal injuries and is listed in stable condition. 

The semi-truck driver, Ed Haan, 46, of Weatherford, Oklahoma was not injured in the accident.

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Tenkiller Fireworks Show Postponed Due to High Water

The annual Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza at Lake Tenkiller has been postponed until Labor Day Weekend due to the current high water level of the lake. 

The Greater Tenkiller Area Association's Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza has been postponed until Sept. 5 on Labor Day Weekend. The water level in the lake is at 26 feet above normal, which has hampered lake access for people wanting to launch their boats. John Ellis, association member, said, "The association feels that more people will be able to safely enjoy the fireworks show if we wait until September when, hopefully, the lake level is back to normal."

Ellis said the marinas, restaurants and other businesses on and around the lake are open and will welcome visitors. Tenkilller State Park and many of the U.S. Corps of Engineers Campgrounds still have some camping spots open, so call to see what is available. Call Tenkiller State Park at 918-489-5025, Greenleaf State Park at 918-487-5622, or the Corps Office at 918-487-2003.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Woman Killed in Thursday Wreck

A 21-year-old Locust Grove woman was killed in a one-car crash at about 10:44 p.m. Thursday, six miles north of Tahlequah on State Highway 82 in Cherokee County. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) reported Dacia Wilkins-Cooper died at the scene due to injuries sustained in the collision. The OHP reported David Sowell, 22, of Pryor was driving a 2005 Chrysler south when he crossed the center line for an unknown reason and left the highway to the left. The vehicle came to rest in a ditch after striking a tree and a culvert. Sowell was treated and released for internal and arm injuries at Tahlequah City Hospital.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Bennett Talks about Tax Credits

State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) said Friday the 2015 legislative session was marked by progress in the area of tax credit reform.

"The abuse of tax credits in Oklahoma is breaking our budget," Bennett said. "We really are not getting a return on our investment in these areas. The fiscally responsible thing to do is to cut them and ensure we set up a committee to evaluate all tax credits to ensure the citizens of Oklahoma are getting a return on our investment. The 2015 session led to some important reforms, but we still have much work to do."

This year's House Bill 2182, which has been signed into law, establishes an independent committee to evaluate tax credits and their return on investment. The new law also establishes deadlines for the tax credit evaluations. Bennett co-authored the legislation.

"We have out-of-control abuse on tax credits in the state of Oklahoma," Bennett said. "This bill will set up an independent committee to evaluate our return on investment and the state legislature will be able to cancel the tax credits that are not working and keep the credits that are benefiting the state. As your legislators, we are responsible for being good stewards of your tax payer dollar and that is what we will do."

Two additional bills will limit the use of tax credits by the wind industry. Senate Bill 502, now signed into law, prohibits companies engaged in wind power production from claiming a tax credit for new jobs and investment. Senate Bill 498 ends property tax exemptions for wind power developers that have assets placed in commercial operation. Bennett co-authored both bills. 

"Currently the five-year property tax exemption allows wind developers to avoid paying property taxes for the first five years that a wind farm is in operation and accounts for over half of the total exemptions claimed by all eligible manufacturers in Oklahoma," Bennett said. "I personally went after and researched this issue because of Clean Line Energy. My constituents overwhelmingly oppose this line from coming through their land so I went after the root of the problem. Basically with all the tax credits we taxpayers were funding Clean Lines' project. Taking away an incentive to receive tax credits will likely scare away any investors."

Bennett said, "Clean Line Energy is currently trying to steal residents' property via eminent domain to construct a direct current line that goes across Oklahoma."

"Oklahomans get no public use from this line and it only hurts the constituents in Sequoyah County," Bennett said. "The citizens asked me to help stop Clean Line so I went after the tax credits in the wind energy used to construct the towers that will provide the power to this line. Hopefully it will prevent any entities from investing in a line that goes across our county."

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Fans and Air Conditioners Needed to "Beat the Heat"

Catholic Charities Helping Center in Salllisaw is asking residents to help others beat the heat of the Oklahoma summer by donating new or gently used fans and new window air conditioning units for those without cooling systems in their homes.

"We're asking, begging people to think about those without cooling in their homes and to think about what it must be like for them in the heat of the Oklahoma summer," MaryLynn Lufkin, Helping Center coordinator said. She explained that the elderly and those who have no cooling system in their homes are given priority for the fans and window air conditioners. "We serve the neediest of the needy first," she said. "That's the only way to be fair."

Lufkin added, "It doesn't have to be a big fan. Sometimes just a little fan by the bedside will help."

Donated fans and window air conditioners may be dropped off at The Helping Center at 409 Adams between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Lufkin said the donations should be brought to the back door on the south side of the center. The fan and air conditioner drive will  continue through Labor Day, Lufkin said, because the need is so great and the heat is so hot.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Muldrow Police Seek Info on Stolen Motorcycle

Muldrow Police are asking for the public's help in finding a stolen motorcycle. The motorcycle was stolen from a Muldrow residence late Wednesday or early Thursday morning and may have been loaded onto a trailer. The motorcycle is a custom-built Honda with a blue frame and single seat. Anyone who sees the motorcycle or knows anything about the theft is asked to contact the Muldrow Police Department at 918-427-3296.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Two Arrested for Armed Robbery

Two men were arrested by Sallisaw police for an armed robbery that occurred on Friday. Sallisaw Police Chief Terry Franklin said Jacob Ray Howard, 19, (above, top) and Dequan Isaac Scott, also 19, (above, bottom) were booked into the county jail on multiple charges including armed robbery with a firearm. According to Franklin, officers were dispatched Friday night to a residence in Ramm's Trailer Park in Sallisaw on an armed robbery call. During the investigation police recovered stolen property and evidence that led to the arrests of Howard and Scott on Saturday. The investigation into the robbery is ongoing, Franklin said, and further arrests may follow.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

City Postpones Rotunda Removal

The old Sallisaw High School rotunda will remain, at least for the time being, and Sallisaw city employees will get their merit raises, the Sallisaw city commissioners decided Monday during a special meeting at the Sallisaw Civic Center. About 50 (above) attended the meeting, many in support of saving the rotunda. Ernest and Elizabeth Harris of Sallisaw, (above with signs) put their thoughts in writing to display to the commissioners.

Robert E. Jamison Jr., a Sallisaw attorney, spoke on behalf of those who hoped to save the rotunda. He pointed out that it held memories for many who graduated from the old high school and that the property could be made into a park. The park could feature picnic tables, a small stage for local music groups to perform, or as a place for the popular Movies on the Lawn activity by the Sallisaw Main Street group. "There are more than enough of us to take care of it," Jamison, a Sallisaw High School graduate said. "Memories mean something. Give something back to us."

City commissioners, at their June 8 regular meeting, voted to tear down the rotunda, which is all that remains of the old high school, because it is a target for vandalism. The old school was destroyed by an arson fire 11 years ago. Ward 2 Commissioner Jim Hudgens called the remaining rotunda an "attractive nuisance" and made the motion to remove the rotunda. At Monday's meeting, Hudgens said the city does not have the money to continue to repair the rotunda but he has no objection to a group of citizens taking over the property, its care and its liability.

City Manager Clayton E. Lucas III suggested the city issue a request for proposals, give the citizens group 60 days to present a proposal, which would be presented to the commissioners. The commissioners approved the request for proposals unanimously. The vote was applauded by the audience.

The motion to give city employees their merit raises passed but was not unanimous. Ward 4 Commissioner Daryl Legg made the motion to award the merit raises, and Ward 1 Commissioner Ronnie Lowe and Ward 3 Commissioner Julian Mendiola voted for the raises.

In his argument against the raises, Hudgens said he had nothing against the city employees but that the city has financial issues that should be addressed first. He said the city needs a debt reduction plan; that the city is faced with a $750,000 bill to move utilities along U.S. Highway 59 on the north side; that a new cell must be opened at the landfill; that maintenance is suffering due to budget cuts; among other issues. "We have to get the city finances back in shape, and I don't know where the money is going to come from," Hudgens said.

Lowe argued that not giving the raises would impact the employees' morale and families. He said cuts could be found in other places. Lucas said the raises would amount to 0.3 percent of the total budget. He said he and the staff are also still working on more budget cuts, and he recommended the merit raises be approved.

The three to two vote to approve the raises was applauded by the audience.

The commissioners also agreed not to continue a hiring freeze but to hire on a need basis, after looking at each job individually.

Lucas stated that the Sallisaw School System has now offered the old middle school to the city. The school system built and moved into a new middle school in the spring. That subject will be on the next city meeting agenda in July.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Marble City Celebrates July 4 Early

Marble City is exploding for July 4 festivities earlier than other communities, with a celebration set for June 27.

Mayor Tamara Hibbard said the town and Marble City Festival Committee wanted to get a head start on the holiday because so many other fireworks shows and celebrations were held nearer or on the July 4 holiday.

She said Marble City has added several new events this year, including a Speed Challenge, which will clock vehicles as they speed up the famous, or infamous, Marble City hill. Hibbard said she received 70-80 pre-registrants for the new event, many for well-known sports cars. Those who pre-register, she explained, are guaranteed one trip up the hill. The entry fee is $25 and the winner receives a trophy while the top 10 will receive t-shirts. The Open Speed Challenge will run from 2 to 6 p.m. and then close to make way for other events. Those include the 11th annual Marble City Fireworks Show at dusk, sponsored by St. Clair/U.S. Lime.

Other events include a car show, which begins at noon, with a $15 entry fee and a burnout contest, with a $10 registration fee. Registration for the burnout contest is open until 4 p.m.

Hibbard said the festival also includes many activities for kids, including games, a magic show, inflatables, face painting, an ice cream eating contest, a water balloon toss and others. Good music and good food will also be available and the July 4 menu includes hamburgers, hot dogs and pulled pork.

For more information contact Hibbard at 918-315-2583. Hibbard said the July 4 festival raises money for Marble City's Spring Fling and Fall Festival.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rotunda, Merit Raises on Sallisaw Special Meeting Agenda

The fate of the old high school rotunda, city employee merit raises and other agenda items may be decided at a special meeting of the Sallisaw City Commissioners Monday. The commissioners will discuss those topics in a special meeting at 5 p.m. at the Sallisaw Civic Center.

The commissioners voted to have the structure demolished at their meeting June 8. Comments from the public have prompted the commissioners to reconsider what to do with the building.

The commissioners continue to work on saving money in the city budget, and will again discuss the city employee merit increases and discuss a hiring freeze already in place. Also on the agenda are a contract for economic development services between the city and the Sallisaw Economic Authority.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Early Voting for Cherokee Nation Election Begins Tomorrow

The Cherokee Nation will hold its general election June 27 to elect the positions of principal chief, deputy principal chief and eight tribal council seats. A total of 42 polling precincts will be open to voters across the tribe's 14-county jurisdiction in northeast Oklahoma. 

All voters will vote for principal chief and deputy principal chief. The eight tribal council races up for election are District 1, District 3, District 6, District 12, District 13, District 14 and an at-large seat. Districts can be found on the above Cherokee Nation voting precinct map.

In races with more than one candidate, the winner shall be declared if one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held July 25.

Early voting is also available at the Cherokee Nation Election Commission in Tahlequah. Early voting is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 20, and Tuesday, June 23, through Thursday, June 25. The Cherokee Nation Election Commission office is at 22116 S. Bald Hill Road in Tahlequah, about one-quarter mile east of the main tribal complex.

Citizens can hand deliver notarized ballots Tuesday, June 23, through Saturday, June 27. Should a runoff election be necessary for the office of principal chief or any tribal council seats, citizens who requested an absentee ballot for the general election will be automatically mailed a runoff election ballot.

If citizens did not request an absentee ballot for the general election June 27, they may still request one for a possible runoff election. Requests for runoff election ballots must be received in the election commission office by June 29. 

Election day polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Any questions about registration or to find a polling place, call the election commission at 918-458-5899 or 800-353-2895.

Some area polling places include:

Adair County

Bell-Bell Public School, Rt 5, Box 4470, Stilwell;

Cave Springs-Lyons Community Association Building, 463101 E. 914 Road, Bunch;

Chewey-Illinois River Ranch Clubhouse, 63320 S. 4625 Road, Proctor;

Stilwell-Ozark Electric, 470479 Hwy. 51, Stilwell;

Westville-Westville Public Schools, 500 W. Chincapin, Westville;

Sequoyah County

Belfonte-Belfonte/Nicut Community Center, 474894 Hwy. 101, Muldrow;

Gore-Gore City Hall, 201 S. Main St., Gore;

Marble City-Marble City Town Hall, 120 A. North Main, Marble City;

Muldrow-Cherokee Community Center, 603 N. Main, Muldrow;

Sallisaw-Cherokee Nation Housing Authority, 2260 W. Cherokee Ave., Sallisaw;

Sallisaw-Sallisaw United Methodist Church, 2100 McGee Drive, Sallisaw;

Vian-Vian Public Schools, 203 W. Hunter, Vian.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Rain Storm Causes Little Damage

The remnants of Tropical Depression Bill hiccuped and tracked slightly north of Sequoyah County Thursday, and county officials are happy about that. 

Steve Rutherford, Sequoyah County Emergency Management Director, said Friday, "It went just a little bit north of us before it went into Arkansas, by about 30 miles." That resulted in less rain in Sequoyah County, but more in Cherokee and Adair counties.

According to the Mesonet web site, over the past four days, Tahlequah received 6.18 inches of rain, Cookson received 6.34 inches of rain, Sallisaw got 5.56 inches of rain and Webbers Falls had 1.90 inches of rain.

Rutherford said a few county roads were flooded (above, Drake Prairie Road's low-water bridge is flooded) and received some damage but not as badly as in May. May's rain-storm damage is estimated to have cost the county at least $350,000 or more and FEMA has agreed to help the county pay for repairs.

Rutherford noted that rain amounts vary from place to place, even within the same area, and the county did get, over the past four days, about what the National Weather Service had predicted. No rain is currently predicted for the next week.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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