Friday, February 15, 2019

Sallisaw Woman Faces Felony Drug Charge


A Sallisaw woman was charged this week with a felony charge of unlawful possession of controlled drug with intent to distribute and misdemeanor charges of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting an officer, failure to signal on turning and speeding. 

According to the report filed with the charges, Amber Elizabeth Cox, 41, of  Sallisaw, was stopped by a Seqouoyah County Deputy for speeding and failing to signal on Feb. 8 in Muldrow. Cox exited her vehicle and was asked to provide her driver's license and insurance verification. The deputy was advised by dispatch that the license was valid but the insurance was expired and Cox had pending and previous drug cases on her record.

The deputy asked Cox if she had anything illegal in her vehicle to which she responded that she did not. When asked if she would consent to a search of the vehicle Cox refused to answer yes or no and reportedly became increasingly nervous. 

A K9 officer was called to the scene and Cox was advised to step to the back of the vehicle to be patted down for weapons. After refusing to comply, Cox was advised she would be arrested if she continued to refuse. At this point Cox slammed some papers along with a small, white object on the hood of a nearby truck. The white object went over the hood and onto the ground. 

The deputy then placed Cox against her vehicle and she began trying to pull away until she was able to pull a folded bill from the front of her pants, drop it to the ground and kick it under the vehicle. Cox was handcuffed and placed in the deputy's unit. 

The white object was located and described as a "cut and melted straw which appeared to contain approximately a gram of a white crystal like substance suspected of being methamphetamine." The dropped bill was located and contained what also appeared to be methamphetamine. Cox denied that  the items were hers. She was arrested for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine due to the way the narcotics were packaged. 

Cox was booked into the Sequoyah County Jail and later released on a $5,000 bond. Her next court appearance is slated for Feb. 20 on Judge Waters disposition docket. 


KXMX News Staff

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Sheriff's Office Investigating Shooting


The Sequoyah County Sheriff's Dept. is investigating a shooting that occurred near Dora during an alleged domestic dispute on Valentine's Day at approximately 9 p.m. 

According to Sequoyah County Sheriff Larry Lane, a 66-year-old male was shot in the abdomen and was later transported to Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith. The victim underwent surgery Thursday night and again Friday morning.

The shooting is still being investigated and it will be determined later what, if any, charges will be filed. 

The names of the suspect and victim have not been released at this time. Both individuals are residents of  Sequoyah County.


KXMX News Staff

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Apply Now for Absentee Ballots for Roland/Vian School Election


Voters in Sequoyah County who want to have absentee ballots mailed to them for the March 5th Special Roland/Vian School Proposition Election should apply now, County Election Board Secretary Cindy Osborn said today. Although the County Election Board can accept applications for absentee ballots until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 27th, Osborn urged voters who want to vote by absentee ballot to apply early. 

Absentee ballot application forms are available at the County Election Board office located at 110 E Creek St Sallisaw Ok 74955. An online version of the form can be filled out and submitted electronically at: www.elections.ok.gov. A print form can also be downloaded at that address.

Ballots must be in the hands of County Election Board officials by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

Osborn said any registered voter may vote by absentee ballot in any election in which he/she is eligible to vote. However, a voter must be registered and reside at an address within the geographical boundaries of a school district or a municipality to be eligible to vote in school district or municipal elections. It is not necessary to give a reason for voting absentee.

“While anyone can vote absentee without giving a reason, the law still provides several advantages to absentee voters in some categories,” Osborn said.

By stating one of the following reasons on their applications, absentee voters can activate special conditions that make it easier for them to use absentee ballots. The reasons are:

• Voters who are physically incapacitated and voters who care for physically incapacitated persons who cannot be left unattended may vote absentee. They may apply only by mail, by fax, by email, online or via an agent who is at least 16 years of age and who is not employed by or related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity to any person whose name appears on the ballot.

• Voters who are confined to nursing homes in the county may vote absentee. An Absentee Voting Board actually goes to the nursing home a few days before the election, sets up a small polling place and allows these persons to vote under circumstances similar to those at a regular precinct polling place. They may apply only by mail, by fax, by email, online or via an agent who is at least 16 years of age and who is not employed by or related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity to any person whose name appears on the ballot..

• Military personnel and residents of the county living overseas and the spouses and dependents of each group are eligible receive absentee ballots. These voters may apply only by mail, fax, or by email. Military personnel should contact the Voting Service Officers in their units for application forms and additional information or visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website (www.fvap.gov/oklahoma) for more information and instructions. Residents of Oklahoma living overseas can obtain the same materials from any United States military installation and from United States Embassies and Consulates as well as on the FVAP website. 


KXMX News Staff

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Cherokee Casino and Hotel Roland Hosts Wade Hayes

American country music artist Wade Hayes to perform a free show on March 1 on the Lee Creek Tavern stage, inside Cherokee Casino and Hotel Roland.

Country music’s power has always been in its ability to reflect real life, and few artists have a stronger gift for capturing both heartache and hope than Wade Hayes. The singer-songwriter has navigated a recently complicated journey, all while producing some of the most potent songs in his already impressive career. On March 1, Hayes hits the Lee Creek Tavern stage inside Cherokee Casino and Hotel Roland for a free show.

Hayes takes the stage at 8 p.m.

The star from Bethel Acres moved to Nashville in 1991 and has since produced 14 hits reaching the Billboard country charts, neatly packaged into five studio albums. Among his fan favorites are the No. 1 single “Old Enough to Know Better,” the No. 2 song “On a Good Night” and other hits, including “I’m Still Dancin’ With You,” “The Day That She Left Tulsa” and “What I Meant to Say.”

Hayes was nominated for Top New Male Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1995. 

In late 2011, Hayes was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Shortly after learning of his illness, he was inspired to pen "Is It Already Time," a ballad about his battle with the disease. He has been in remission since June 2012.

Hayes has since released his 2015 album, “Go Live Your Life,” featuring upbeat anthems that became part of his healing. His newest piece of art, “Old Country Song,” was released in June.

For more information on Hayes, visit www.wadehayes.com

Cherokee Casino and Hotel Roland is located off Highway 64 on Cherokee Boulevard in Roland.

For more information on Cherokee Casino and Hotel Roland, visit www.cherokeecasino.com or call (800) 256-2338. All guests must be at least 21 years of age. 


KXMX News Staff

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Free ACT Prep Boot Camp Available for Native American Students

Cherokee Nation Foundation is offering a free ACT Boot Camp on Saturday, March 30. The one-day course will be held at the Sequoyah High School Gym in Tahlequah from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“We encourage all students to be proactive in planning for their academic future, and preparing for the ACT is a vital step in that process,” said Janice Randall, executive director for Cherokee Nation Foundation. “We have a wide variety of ACT prep programs, and by diversifying how we deliver the content, we hope to reach more students and help them achieve their highest score possible. The boot camp is a great way for students to learn more about the test and themselves.”

ACT Boot Camp is led by Mastery-Prep, an organization dedicated to building students’ confidence on test day by providing essential test-taking strategies and skills. Instructors will guide students through content strategies for all four subjects on the ACT and administer mini-tests to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses.

The course is offered to Native American students in grades 10-12, with preference given to Cherokee Nation students.

The deadline to register is March 15. Students interested in the course can call the foundation at 918-207-0950 or apply online at www.cherokeenationfoundation.org


KXMX News Staff

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Be Strong, Inspiring, Giving, Heroic. Be a Donor! Feb.18-19


Oklahoma Blood Institute needs strong, inspiring, giving, and heroic blood donors to save the lives of local patients!

Blood donors will receive their choice of inspirational t-shirt in one of three featured colors: coral, sky blue, or gray. Healthy adults, age sixteen and up, can give blood at one of the following drives*:

· Sequoyah Manor Nursing Home; Monday, February 18, 12:15 to 4:30 p.m.

· Gore High School; Tuesday, February 19, 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

“Whether it’s an emergency or a life-threatening illness, someone needs blood every two seconds,” said John Armitage, M.D., president and CEO of Oklahoma Blood Institute. “Blood is needed 365 days a year at our local hospitals. We encourage Oklahomans to be heroes for patients and donate as often as they can.”

Oklahoma Blood Institute relies on donations from approximately 1,200 donors each day to meet the needs of patients statewide. One blood donation takes only about an hour and can save as many as three lives.

Only ten percent of people in the United States who are eligible to give blood actually do. Whole blood can be donated every 56 days. Platelet donations can be made as often as every 7 days, up to 24 times a year. Those with negative blood types are especially urged to give.

If donors opt not to take the t-shirt, Oklahoma Blood Institute will make a monetary donation to Global Blood Fund for blood center assistance in developing countries.

As a non-profit blood center, Oklahoma Blood Institute’s generous donors provide every drop of blood needed for patients in more than 160 hospitals statewide. Appointments are not required but can be made by calling Greg at 479-652-2362 or visiting obi.org.

*16-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds and provide signed parental permission; 17-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds; 18+ year olds must weigh at least 110 pounds.


KXMX News Staff

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Bunch Man Pleads Guilty to Assault


The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma announced Monday that Jeremy Lee Poafpybitty a/k/a “Chooch”, age 33, of Bunch, Oklahoma entered a guilty plea to Assaulting An Employee Of The United States With A Deadly And Dangerous Weapon punishable by not more than 20 years imprisonment, a fine up to $250,000.00 or both.

The Indictment alleges that on or about July 24, 2018 the defendant did knowingly, intentionally, and forcibly, with the use of a deadly and dangerous weapon, to wit: a knife, assault, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with and did inflict bodily injury to an employee of the United States Postal Service while in and on account of the performance of official duties.

The charges arose from an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Kimberly E. West, U.S. Magistrate Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, in Muskogee, accepted the plea and ordered the completion of a presentence investigation report. 

Assistant U.S Attorney Shannon Henson represented the United States.

KXMX News Staff


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Filing Period Ends for Cherokee Nation Election


The filing period for the upcoming Cherokee Nation general election ended last week.

Candidates filed for the positions of Principal Chief, Deputy Principal Chief, and tribal council for Districts 1, 3, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14 and At-Large.

Filing for principal chief are Chuck Hoskin Jr., Dick Lay, David Walkingstick and Rhonda Brown-Fleming. Those filing for deputy principal chief include Meredith Frailey, Linda Sacks and Bryan Warner.

Candidates filing for District 1 council are Randy Dirteater, Rex Jordan and Ryan Sierra. Those filing from District 3 include Jim Crosby, Billy Flint, Brandon Girty, Wes Nofire, Larry Dean Pritchett, Debra Proctor and RJ Robbins.

District 6 councilman filings are Ron Goff, Gary Trad Lattimore and Daryl Legg. Candidates filing for the District 8 council position are Shawn Crittenden, Jodie Fishinghawk and Ralph F. Keen II.

Those filing for District 12 council member include Todd M. Branstetter, Phyllis Lay, Dora L. Smith Patzkowski and Don Scott. Buel Anglen and Joe Deere filed for the District 13 council position.

Keith Austin and Cara Cowan Watts both filed for the District 14 council position, while filings for the At-Large position include Steve Adair, Julie Coates, Pamela Fox, Wanda Hatfield and Johnny Jack Kidwell.

Filings are not official until they are certified by the election commission on Feb. 25, according to Marcus Fears, Cherokee Nation Election Commission administrator.

Voters have until March 29 to register to vote for the election, and the absentee ballot request deadline is April 19. Absentee ballots are expected to be mailed out starting April 30.

The Cherokee Nation general election is set for June 1, with early walk-in voting May 25, 28, 29 and 30. If a run-off election is necessary, it will be July 27.


Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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Candidates File for Municipal Elections


The ballots are set for area municipal elections.

The Sequoyah County Election board has released the candidate filings for town offices.

Filing for Gore Board of Trustees, Office 1 are Larry C. Pack, 61, Dorothy Rummerfield, 70, and James String Thomasom, 64. Ryan Callison, 44, is the sole filing for Office 3 at Gore. Detis Stricker, 76, and Bob Warren, 62, both filed for Gore Board of Trustees, Office 5.

In Muldrow, Anthony Luke Cox, 37, Carl L. Mize, 67, and Darren M. Keith, 42, were all unopposed for Board of Trustee Offices 1,3 and 5, respectively.

Ron Anderson, 66, and Allen Halverson, 66, both filed for Paradise Hill Board of Trustees.

In Roland, Larry L. Osborne, 68, and Jimmy Don Peterson, 70, will face off for the Board of Trustees, Office 1, while James Hyatt, 58, Dean Myers, 52, and Daniel Blake Rainwater, 35, will vie for Board of Trustees, Office 3. Billy Ed Lee, 60, was unopposed for Office 5 trustee, and Cindy Wilson Barker, 57, was unopposed for town clerk and treasurer in Roland.

Up for the Board of Trustees in Vian are Larry W. Patterson, 67, Emanuel Drew, 61, Rick Peoples, 53, and E.O. Jr. Smith, 68.

The municipal elections are set for April 2 across the county.


Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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County Commissioners Discuss Ambulance Service


During Monday’s regular meeting of the Sequoyah County Commissioners, the main topic of discussion involved the possible approval of an agreement with Pafford EMS of Ok, Inc. and Sequoyah County to provide ambulance services.

District 2 Commissioner Steve Carter said he was very pleased with the previous work that has been done with the Pafford County EMS, as did others in attendance, including Sallisaw Mayor Ernie Martens.

The commissioners decided to hold another meeting later in February to include a representative from every city in the county to determine if the Pafford contract should be approved. Commissioners said the goal of the contract would be to prevent outside ambulance services from setting up shop and hurting local business.


Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Cherokee Heritage Center Hosting Annual Indian Territory Days March 28-29

Students get firsthand experience with cultural arts such as basket weaving
 at the Cherokee Heritage Center during Indian Territory Days.

Area students have the opportunity to spend an interactive day learning about the Cherokee arts, language and lifestyles of the 1890s at the Cherokee Heritage Center during Indian Territory Days on March 28-29.

The annual educational event features a variety of hands-on learning activities for public, private and home-schooled children grades K-12. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., and the event concludes at 2 p.m. each day.

The museum and villages are open for self-directed tours, with demonstrations highlighting the many unique aspects of the time period held throughout the day. 

Cultural stations are located throughout the grounds to introduce students to the art of Cherokee pottery making, basket weaving, finger weaving and more. Students are also encouraged to try their hand at cultural games such as blow gun shooting, stickball, marbles and chunkey.

Admission is $7 per student and accompanying adults are $2. School personnel accompanying students are free. Payment can be made to the Cherokee Heritage Center with cash, check, purchase order or credit card. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged.

For more information or to register your class, contact Tonia Weavel at (918) 456-6007, ext. 6161, or by email at tonia-weavel@cherokee.org.

The Cherokee Heritage Center is the premier cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, culture and the arts. It is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive, Park Hill, Oklahoma.


KXMX News Staff

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New Sallisaw Office Location for Cherokee Nation Human Services


Cherokee Nation Human Services in Sallisaw has changed office locations.

The new location is 307 and 309 N. Dogwood. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Services provided at the Sallisaw office include the following:

*Child Care Subsidy program may provide eligible families with financial day care assistance. 

*Child Care Licensing program approves child care homes, inspects and monitors child care centers and homes for compliance with health and safety regulations. 

*Child Care Resource program provides resources about quality child care and information on parenting issues. 

*Child Support Services program assists families establish parentage and child support court-orders, monitors and enforces court-ordered child support payments. There are no application fees. 

*Family Assistance Services programs provide elder care services and family services. Family services, which are require clients to meet eligibility guidelines, include emergency housing, utility assistance and burial assistance.

For more information on Cherokee Nation Human Services in Sallisaw, call 918-775-6226.


KXMX News Staff

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Severe Thunderstorms Bring Strong Winds and Minor Damage

A horse barn at the former Blue Ribbon Downs received damage during 
the early morning hours Thursday.

Thunderstorms passing through the area Wednesday night and early Thursday morning caused minor damage throughout Sequoyah County.

Residents report roof damage to structures both in Sallisaw and on the outskirts of town due to strong winds.

Sequoyah County Emergency Management Director Steve Rutherford said the storms that blew through caused some downed trees and limbs as well. He said city crews were dispatched around 3 a.m. for a light pole that had blown over. No injuries were reported.

Rutherford said the thunderstorms brought wind gusts of up to 60 to 70 miles per hour in the overnight hours.

“We were under three different warnings back to back for different parts of the county,” Rutherford said. “We were fortunate that we didn’t have any more damage.”


Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

High Speed Chase Results in DUI Arrest

Hubert Bagley

An attempted traffic stop in Sallisaw Tuesday night resulted in a high-speed chase through parts of Sequoyah County and ended in the DUI arrest of a former local school teacher.

Capt. Jeff Murray with the Sallisaw Police Department said officers attempted to stop a 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Hubert Bagley, 77, of Sallisaw, traveling westbound on Lenington Road for defective vehicle equipment at approximately 7:39 p.m. when the driver suddenly sped up, turning northbound onto Farm Road, then turning westbound onto U.S. 64.

Four Sallisaw patrol cars continued to chase the suspect toward Vian, reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, according to Murray. Before reaching Vian, the chase went north on Tower Road, then back to U.S. 64, when the suspect turned eastbound toward Sallisaw. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol eventually took over the pursuit.

“About halfway through, we requested OHP to take over since it was outside our jurisdiction,” Murray said. “We were unfamiliar with the roadways.”

OHP continued to chase the suspect for reckless driving and suspected intoxicated driving eastbound on U.S. 64 toward Sallisaw. The suspect turned northbound on Dwight Mission Road and OHP troopers were able to perform a tactical vehicle intervention maneuver without any injuries after an approximate 30-minute pursuit.

Trooper Adam Wood with the OHP Public Information Division said after the suspect’s vehicle spun around from its forward path due to the maneuver, the subject then got out on foot and ran from the vehicle.

After a brief foot pursuit, Bagley was taken into custody by the OHP and was booked into the Sequoyah County Jail on charges of felony eluding and felony DUI.


Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Information You Need for Tuesday's Election


Voters will go to the polls Tuesday for the February12 Gans/Braggs Board of Education Primary Election, Sequoyah County Election Board Secretary Cindy Osborn said today.

Please keep the following information and tips in mind as the election approaches.

- Early voting will be available at the Sequoyah County Election Board on Thursday February 7, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Friday February 8 from 8 a.am.-6 p.m. 

- Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Lines are possible at peak voting times. Wait times will likely be shortest at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Anyone in line to vote at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot.

- Anyone who needs to look up their polling place, verify their registration information, or view a sample ballot can do so online. The Online Voter Tool can be accessed on the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website: www.elections.ok.gov. Those who vote by mail can also check the status of their ballot using the Online Voter Tool. Sample ballots are also available at the County Election Board office.

- Oklahoma law requires every voter who votes in person at the precinct polling place or during early voting at the County Election Board to show proof of identity before receiving a ballot. There are three ways for voters to prove their identity under the law (only one proof of identity is required): Show a valid photo ID issued by federal, state, or tribal government; or show the free voter identification card issued to every voter by the County Election Board; or sign an affidavit and vote a provisional ballot. (If the information on the affidavit matches official voter registration records, the ballot will be counted after Election Day.)

- Physically disabled voters who cannot enter the polling place, need help marking their ballots, blind or visually disabled voters and illiterate voters may be assisted by a person the voter chooses. In all cases, a person providing such assistance may not be the voter’s employer or an agent of the employer or an officer or agent of the voter’s union. A person providing assistance also must swear or affirm that the voter’s ballots will be marked in accordance with the voter’s wishes. Alternatively, all blind, visually impaired, and physically disabled voters in Sequoyah County may use the audio-tactile interface (ATI), a feature offered on all Oklahoma voting devices, to vote privately and independently, either at Sequoyah County Election Board during early voting or at their assigned polling place on election day.

- Voters who have moved since the last election, but who have not transferred their voter registration to their new address, may do so on Election Day by going to vote at the polling place where their registration has been in the past. While voting, they may fill out a form instructing the County Election Board to transfer their registration to the new address before the next election.

- Those who became physically incapacitated after 5 p.m. Tuesday February 5th still can request an emergency absentee ballot. Those who might qualify for an emergency absentee ballot should contact the County Election Board office at 918-775-2614 as soon as possible for more information.

- Any violation of election law will be reported to the proper law enforcement authorities. Electioneering is not allowed within 300 feet of a ballot box. It is also unlawful to remove a ballot from the polling location, possess intoxicating liquors within half a mile of a polling place or to disclose how you voted while within the election enclosure.

For additional election-related information, visit: www.elections.ok.gov.



KXMX News Staff

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Monday, February 4, 2019

KATS Continues to Provide Transportation for Area


On any given weekday, 19 Kibois Area Transit System vehicles are transporting more than 300 riders to either work, dialysis, medical appointments, classes, the grocery store, shopping or other appointments.

Charla Sloan, KATS director, shared information about the transportation services KATS has provided since 1998 and continues to provide today to members of the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce last week.

“Our buses are open to the public,” Sloan said. “We take people to work. We take people to dialysis. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor or rich; we all need transportation.”

Sloan asked for people to think about what they would do – or wouldn’t be able to do – without transportation.

“This is what KATS does; we take up that slack,” she added.

Seventeen of KATS’ vehicles are ADA-compliant, with wheelchair lifts. Drivers are not only certified drivers, but are also trained and certified in CPR, and other areas.

“We try to put the best people out there,” Sloan said.

Demand response hours for KATS are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; cost is $1.50 per trip and only .50 cents with a CIB card.

Sloan said work routes and TANF routes run from 6 to 8 a.m., with free transportation for Medicaid clients through SoonerRide. They also offer rides for veterans as needed.

A Cherokee Nation route from Sallisaw to Tahlequah leaves Cherokee Casino in Sallisaw each weekday at 6:25 a.m., arriving in Tahlequah before 8 a.m. It leaves Cherokee Casino Sallisaw again at 4 p.m. to be in Tahlequah by 5 p.m. to return riders back to Sallisaw. Cost for that route is .50 cents each way and free on Fridays.

“And this route is open to the public,” Sloan said, adding that a rider doesn’t have to be a Cherokee Nation citizen to ride.

For those with business in Roland or Muldrow, routes go from Sallisaw to those cities Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while routes to Vian and Marble City run on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sloan said routes to Fort Smith run several times a day.

“We also go from here to Stigler, Muskogee, Tulsa, or Oklahoma City,” Sloan said, stressing that the rides are open to the public. “We want to provide transportation. We want to make it as affordable as possible.”

If you need to schedule a ride or would like more information about KATS services, call 918-775-7433 or drop by the office at 1206 W. Redwood in Sallisaw.



Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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Board Hears Update on Safe Room Grants

Proposed High School Safe Room

Proposed Middle School Safe Room

Proposed Eastside Safe Room

Proposed Liberty Safe Room

The Sallisaw Board of Education met Wednesday during a special meeting to hear updates on the grant process for FEMA safe rooms for Sallisaw public schools.

Alice Smith with Jordan Resource Management, a grant-writing consulting firm, gave an update on the FEMA grant process to the board members.

Smith said a letter of intent to apply for safe-room funding for the four campuses in Sallisaw – Eastside and Liberty elementaries, the middle school and high school – was submitted in 2011, after the funding became available in 2000.

With the grant, FEMA would provide 75 percent of the funding, while the local school district is responsible for 25 percent, including in-kind donations of labor. The square footage of the safe rooms is determined based on the student population at each campus, according to Smith, with FEMA allowing five square feet per student and 10 square feet for each wheelchair-bound student.

While securing FEMA funds normally takes some time, Smith explained that the Sallisaw grant application got lost in paperwork after a death. The application was eventually submitted last November, according to Smith, and has been further delayed due to the month-long government shutdown.

“They seem very confident it will be approved,” said Smith, retired Poteau schools superintendent, who has facilitated many school safe room grants.

While waiting on final word on the grant, the board will peruse artist renderings of the four safe rooms, presented by Michael Johnson of Architecture Plus, Inc. in Fort Smith.

Johnson then went over the design plans for each of the four campuses with board members and the dozen others in attendance. Each design includes restrooms, a storage room and mechanical room. The structures include only those features which FEMA considers to be life-saving, such as the steel and concrete walls.

The Liberty Elementary design could also function as an athletic or physical education facility because of its taller ceiling. The 6,100-square foot facility would allow for basketball goals, which would be paid for by the district, and temporary seating along the sidelines.

Eastside Elementary’s proposed safe room of 4,200 square feet would also be used as additional dining area adjacent to the current cafeteria.

“The doors can be opened up for additional dining,” Johnson explained. “Overhead doors, which can go up and down as needed, have been approved by FEMA now.”

The safe room planned for the middle school campus would be 3,200 square feet, smaller due to only three grades there and a smaller enrollment. Johnson said it was intended as a safe room only.

At the high school campus, the 4,800-square-foot safe room could be used as a physical education facility, but is not tall enough to accommodate basketball.

Johnson explained that all of the safe rooms would have covered, connecting hallways to allow students and faculty to enter the safe room out of the elements in the event of a tornado. After school hours, the public would have access to the safe rooms as well.

Costs to build the safe rooms according to FEMA specifications are estimated to be at least $225 to $250 per square foot, Johnson said. 

Smith said when grants are approved, the district will have three years to build, and they do not have to build all four at once. Johnson suggested they build the two closer in proximity at the same time, to allow for sharing of contractor equipment.

The contractor would be selected through a bid process once the grants are approved. Operational plans would also be finalized to determine how the facilities would be unlocked and who would be responsible.

“This is a bonus to the community,” Smith said.


Pam Cloud, Managing News Director

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