There were many big headlines for Altus Times’ readers this past year. Crime, furloughs and drought definitely topped the news, but there were many other stories of interest throughout 2013. Following is a recap of some of the more attention-grabbing stories.
Larry Cofer, SW Regional supervisor with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife’s Fisheries Division, confirmed golden algae at Lake Lugert-Altus the first week of January 2013. It was later confirmed that the algae had killed out all fish in the lake.
January also the saw the promotion of Mike Bell to Assistant Chief of Police after the retirement of Mike Turner. Bell has been employed with the Altus Police since 2007. Robin Booker also took her seat as the new County Clerk in January.
Tammy Richeson, second grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School, was named the Altus School’s Teacher of the Year in January 2013.
A twin-engine plane crashed in southwest Oklahoma in January killing all three aboard. Those killed were Mangum’s Stephen Scott, and passengers John Hall and Edi Ortega, both of Altus.
An Altus man riding his bicycle on East Tamarack was killed after being hit by a vehicle in January 2013. Killed was James Charydczak. Chad Kelly offered “no contest” to misdemeanor, negligent homicide in Jackson County court in November. His hearing was set for Feb. 5, 2014.
Although January 2013 saw one soaking rain, by the end of the month, drought conditions were already in the headlines. Continued stories about drought meetings, lake levels, water conservation and other drought related items continued through 2013.
Western Oklahoma State College discontinued their 10-day intercession courses in February in response to a Regents for Higher Education Compliance Review Report. The review was conducted after an article was published in The Chronicle for Higher Education which raised concerns about the academic rigor of intersession courses.
February 2013 also saw Ashley Wheeler crowned Miss Altus at the 43rd annual Miss Altus Pageant.
Two veteran Altus Police officers were jailed in February following an ongoing investigation which started months earlier. According to reports, 17-year veteran Russell Hansel, and 11-year veteran Jose Arce were arrested on complaints of grand larceny, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and conspiracy to commit a felony, after a sting operation uncovering the selling of stolen property.
March 2013 saw the first official action related to drought in Altus and Southwest Oklahoma. The city was placed on Stage 2 restriction. Restrictions included limits to outside watering. At that time, Tom Steed Reservoir was at 40% of capacity. As of this week, it is at 32 percent.
It was announced in March that in April a special election would be held concurrently with the general municipal election to determine whether our community wants a city charter. “Freeholders” were elected to draft the prospective charter which was later signed into law. It was voted in in September 673 to 234.
In the April election, in the City Council race for Ward Three, incumbent Perry L. Shelton won, and in the race for ward four, Dwayne Martin won.
April 2013 started off with the announcement of Altus’ Mackenzie Hazel being named “Miss Jackson County International 2013”. Mackenzie was later named Miss Oklahoma International.
Plantiffs unhappy over a helicopter ordinance zoning decision sent Altus City Council members into a special meeting to discuss action taken against them. In the end, the proposed helicopter site was moved away from the original residential area in question.
April also saw the City’s water restrictions move from Stage 2 to Stage 3. In Stage 3, outside watering was restricted to just one day a week during specific time frames.
The annual Rock and Rumble Car Show and Cruise was held in May with Bucky Latimer of Elgin winning the Best of Show. This was the first year for the Battle of the Bands competition during the Car Show. Winning the event was Another Round.
Also in May, Karla Shelby received the Western Teacher of the Year award.
May 18, 2013 was also the date of Altus’ first annual Armed Services Day Parade. The parade was sponsored by the Altus Chapter 33 Disabled American Veterans.
It also announced in May that Jackson County Memorial Hospital would be seeking a new hospital CEO to replace retiring Bill Wilson.
May 2013 ended with Jackson County jailer Tonya Sue Brand being booked into the Jackson County Jail accused of having sexual contact with a prisoner. Brand was charged with felony counts of sodomy committed by a government employee and second-degree rape.
Furlough numbers were announced for Altus and Altus Air Force Base in June. Air Education and Training Command manpower officials announced furlough would be affecting 14,434 civilian employees throughout the command beginning July 8.
According to the Altus AFB Civilian Personnel Office, the furlough was to affect 1,035
civilian employees on the Altus base. Civilians were to take up to 11 days of unpaid leave before Sept. 30, down from the 22 days that were originally estimated in February. The number of furlough hours will not exceed 88 hours, or up to 11 discontinuous work days. In most cases, one day per week, or eight hours, equaled a 20 percent pay reduction for each individual Department of Defense civilian worker during the furlough period. There were 16 employees at Altus AFB who were exempt from furlough, based on the work they perform. Exemptions included a broad set of categorical exemptions and specific exemptions requested by each branch. The planned fiscal year 2013 furlough was estimated to save nearly $1.8 billion.
June 2013 also saw a new commander take charge of the 97th Air Mobility Wing. The base welcomed Col. William A. Spangenthal as the new 97th AMW commander and bid farewell to Col. Anthony B. Krawietz, who had served as the 97th AMW commander since June 23, 2011.
The Altus City Council OK’d the elimination of some City positions in June 2013. Altus City Council voted to adopt the FY 2013-2014 Budget for the City of Altus on June 19, resulting in a balanced budget, lower utility rates, and enough funding for priority infrastructure projects, by creating three new positions and eliminating three others.
With a vote of 5 to 3, City Council approved to create a Deputy City Administrator position, abolish the vacant Chief of Operations position, abolish Finance Director and Human Resources Director positions, abolish the Fleet Maintenance Director, add two Fleet Maintenance Mechanic positions, and to defund $150,000 of the General Fund for other vacant positions within the City.
The first big story for July 2013 was when a 10-hour standoff ended at 3 a.m. in morning after tear gas was used to smoke out a suspect that had exchanged gunfire with law enforcement the evening before. The standoff began after officers tried to serve a felony warrant on Brent Robinson, who was wanted in connection with a shooting at the same apartment complex back in January that injured a 19-year-old woman.
After lengthy failed negotiations, tear gas was used to smoke Robinson out of the apartment. He was apprehended and jailed on charges of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, being a convicted felon carrying a firearm, malicious injury to property, obstructing an officer, and assault and battery upon a police officer.
In July 2013 about 1,000 acres of valley and mountain burned on both State and private property at nearby Quartz Mountain. The fire burned for over 16 hours.
Construction also began in July 2013 on the North Park Lane project. Oklahoma Department of Transportation workers began construction on N. Park Lane between Falcon and Tamarack roads in July. The project includes intersection modifications and street signals at Falcon and N. Park Lane. In total, the project costs $4,671,931.62 and could take up to 240 days to completion.
The Bar-S Foods Co. plant in Altus now operates solely on green power, and is reducing
their carbon footprint on the environment. As of early August 2013, Bar-S purchased “wind tags” from Altus Power on energy generated by wind towers owned by the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority to use as a renewable source of energy.
“Reducing our carbon foot print is something we’ve been trying to do for the last few
years,” Bar-S Division Vice President David Tucker said.
Altus Schools received accreditation status in September. “All of our school sites received accreditation with no deficiencies except two schools, which were designated on the school improvement list,” said Altus District Superintendent Roger Hill during the Board of Education of the Altus Public School District regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 9.
The new Charter form of government was voted in in September with a vote of 673 to 234.
After almost a year of planning, it was announced in September 2013 that the Sikorsky Aerospace Services had decided not to make Altus a site for a full service flight and maintenance training academy as previously announced. Sikorsky’s Paul Jackson stated, “Our initial effort to work with a project manager in Oklahoma has not panned out.”
Also in September, all Jackson County Excise Board members resigned without signing the FY 2013-14 proposed county budget. Newly Appointed Jackson County Equalization/Excise Board members in October approved the FY 2013-2014 County Budget during a special meeting.
It was announced in the Oct. 1, 2013 edition of the Altus that 321 Altus Air Force Base civilian employees were to be furloughed. For the first time in nearly two decades, the federal government staggered into a partial shutdown after congressional Republicans stubbornly demanded changes in the nation’s health care law as the price for essential federal funding and President Barack Obama and Democrats adamantly refused.
Due to the shutdown, 321 Altus Air Force Base civilian employees were furloughed. Several facilities and services shut down on base in connection. Furloughed civilians returned to work and facilities reopened a week later. The government reopened its doors on Oct. 17 after a battle-weary Congress approved a bipartisan measure to end a 16-day partial shutdown and avert the possibility of an economy-jarring default on U.S. obligations.
An Altus AFB man was arrested in October 2013 after bomb materials were found. State and federal law enforcement agencies converged in Altus after Timothy F. Carey, 26, an active duty man stationed at Altus Air Force Base, made statements to individuals that he had explosive devices in his home.
Search warrants were issued for two different locations, and bomb making materials were found at both locations.
Ida Fay Winters was named the KWHW Radio “Legends of Agriculture” award recipient at the 36th annual Farm City Week Banquet in November 2013.
Air Force representatives received formal comments from the Altus community in November on the Environmental Impact Study after presenting potential consequences of bringing the KC-46A Formal Training Unit (FTU) to Altus Air Force Base, during a Public Hearing held at the Southwestern Technology Center in Altus. Lt. Col. Natalie Richardson was the Hearing Officer who explained the purpose and agenda of the hearing before introducing Col. Bill Spangenthal, 97th Air Mobility Wing Commander and other Altus AFB representatives. Lt. Col. Richardson then introduced Col. Todd Cargle, Air Mobility Command, who presented information on the proposed action for the KC-46A beddown and their alternatives. Col. Cargle presented details on the preferred alternative to bring the FTU of up to eight KC-46A aircraft to AAFB. The FTU will train personnel to operate the KC-46A, and could result in 10 new facilities projects including construction, demolition, and renovations, and increase the local population by 578. The FTU would utilize four different auxiliary airfields and increase annual Aircraft Operations by 38 percent. Col. Cargle also provided the alternative of having the Main Operating Base 1 (MOB) of 36 new aircraft at AAFB.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation surveyed the Altus City Reservoir in December and determined that there were no fish left there after a Gold Algae outbreak back in late October.
In December, Paul Allen, 49, who is accused of the murder of Tracy Lynn Allen on or about May 8, 2001, was returned to Jackson County and has led authorities to a location in Kiowa County where she
was buried. Garland Allen was arrested in Wise County, Texas on a 2nd Degree Murder charge from Jackson County and he waived extradition to Oklahoma.
A home invasion next door to a church in the 800 block of N. Jackson left the homeowner and one of the suspects shot. Investigation into the break in is still under way.
On Monday afternoon, Dec. 23, Altus Police arrested Dustin Smades, 23, of Altus, in connection with a
death of a two year old Altus child. The investigation began April 6 when officers responded to 708
E Nona on a report of a child not breathing. Smades was arrested on a Jackson County Warrant for three counts of child abuse by injury at Altus Air Force Base after being discharged from the United States Air Force. This case was built by statements to investigators by Smades that contradicted evidence found at the crime scene. Each count is a felony and if convicted carries a life sentence. Assisting in the investigation was the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Smades is being held at the Jackson County Jail on a $300,000 bond.