The City of Altus and the Altus City Council made regular headlines during 2011, starting in January with issues revolving around the salaries of City officials. A comment made by, then City Administrator Mike Nettles, during the Jan. 18 Altus City Council meeting also started a flurry of questions, meetings and actions over the City's financial situation. During the meeting, Nettles had asked that the purchase of a wheel loader for the Street Department be tabled due to a "cash-flow problem" for the City. Council member Jack Smiley asked for a special meeting to discuss this financial challenge. One action taken by the City to combat their financial shortfall was to go to a four-day work week. Over the past year, the City has taken several cost-saving measures to get back in the black. Nettles employment with the City ended in May when a special meeting was held, and his resignation was accepted. In June, Bob Stephenson was appoinited as Interim City Administrator. The new City Administrator, Elizabeth Gray, is set to take office on Jan. 3, 2012.
Candidates also started announcing their intensions to run for local offices in January. Winning seats in April were David Webb for Mayor, Tim Murphy for Chief of Police, and Debbie Davis for City Clerk/Treasurer. Rick Steen took Ward 1, B.F. “Junior” Rowland took the Ward 2 seat, Chad Osborne took Ward 3, and former Police Chief Mike Patterson took Ward 4. Street Commissioner Holmes Willis ran unopposed. Newly-elected Mayor David Webb and the City Council members held their first meeting together in April.
The annual Miss Altus Pageant was held in February with Rachel Gover taking over the title from Martha Bullington. Morgan Gover was crowned Miss Altus Outstanding Teen in August. Also in February, the Altus Board of Education held a special meeting to approve the employment of a Math/Science teacher, with an extra duty assignment of Head High School Football Coach for the 2011-2012 school year. Chad Stone, who was the Asst. Head Football Coach at Edmond North High School was hired. Stone replaced former Head Coach Lynn Hepner who had resigned from the position in January.
The lead headliner in 2010, Quartz Mountain Aerospace, was back in the news in February when some Altus residents sought repayment of lost investiments.
Good news that blew out of the area as quickly as it came in, was the announcement of a wind farm in Altus. Wind Works held landowners' meetings after months of studies, deciding that Altus would be a perfect location to build. However, after further studies, and less than enthusiastic reactions from local land owners, the project fell through. One factor was finding out that the build site was located in a flood plain area.
A new commander took charge of the 97th Air Mobility Wing in June. The Altus community, along with Altus Air Force Base, welcomed Col. Anthony B. Krawietz as the new 97th AMW commander, and bid farewell to Col. Jon T. Thomas, who has served as the 97th AMW commander since July 14, 2009. Colonel Krawietz arrived to Altus from the 436th Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Del., where he served as the vice wing commander since May 2010.
A burn ban was set in place in June, which lasted throughout a very hot and dry summer for Altus. Record highs, and record days without rain were topped. The terrible drought finally gave way to considerable autumn rainfall. The Altus Mesonet Station has recorded 5.2 inches of precipitation since October 1 (compared to the “normal 5.4 inches).
July started off by announcing that the County Commissioners had appointed Renee Howard, the newly elected Treasurer. She replaced Janet S. Wright who retired at the end of the fiscal year, June 30. July ended with the announcement that the Altus Mesonet station has now recorded 63 days of at least 100 degrees during 2011 for Altus.
It was announced in August that Ralph Van Oostrum had received three Main Street Facade Grants for his building on the downtown square. These Main Street facade grants were established to offset a portion of improvements within the Main Street business district. The grants are reimbursement grants that match 50 percent of each dollar spent on exterior improvements and range up to $2,500 for each grant. Three businesses have moved into the buildings, Abby Lane Vintage & Curious Finds, Rustic Rose and Tease Me Salon. The businesses have added to the downtown area shopping experience with other similar stores such as Dora Lou's, and Main Street Merchantile.
Patrick Deshawn Robinson, 29, was the last of five defendants to stand before District Court judges for the 2009 robbery-gone-bad murder of Altus resident Hai Phan. Robinson pled not guilty in Jackson County District Court for Felony Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon. Robinson requested a jury trial to determine his fate. District Judge Richard Darby presided over the trial. On June 24, the jury found Robinson guilty of felony murder and recommended life imprisonment. They also found him guilty of a second count, distributing crack cocaine. At the sentencing in August, Robinson's attorney, Mr. Lyman asked for leniency from the court in that the two sentences run concurrently, not consecutively. Lyman explained that if these two sentences of life plus 15 years run consecutively, then Robinson will be serving a greater sentence than Sedrick Sanders, who confessed to shooting Phan. Assistant District Attorney Ken Darby stated that it was the clear message of the jury that the two sentences run consecutively. The sentence for the drug count, Darby said, begins with four years imprisonment. The jury recommended 15 years imprisonment. Also Darby reminded the court that Robinson had been out of prison for only about a month when the crime occurred. Darby further stated that Robinson's fingerprint was found on the victim's key tag, indicating he had indeed been extensively involved with Phan's demise. Robinson was charged with being one of three men who attacked and robbed Phan on May 31, 2009. Phan was stabbed and fatally shot during the robbery. Four other Altus residents had already pled guilty and have been sentenced. They are Michelle Calvert, Dominque Lindsey, Marquis Dorsey and Sedrick Sanders. Sanders confessed to shooting Phan, while the other three made plea bargains. Calvert, 36, pled guilty to being an Accessory After the Fact to Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and to Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon. She received 20 years with all but 10 suspended on both counts, to run concurrently. She was also fined $22,988 and is currently serving time a Mabel Bassett Correctional Facility in McLoud, Okla. Her parole date is in August 2012. Lindsey, 23, pled guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and was sentenced to 10 years, all suspended but 2 years. Dorsey, 26, pled guilty to one count of Accessory After the Fact to the Crime of Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and was sentenced to 10 years, all suspended but 2 years. He was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution at the rate of $50 per month. Sanders, 33, who fired the fatal shot at Phan, pled guilty to Felony Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and was sentenced to life and 10 years, to run concurrently. He was ordered to pay $15,334.71 in fines. He is serving time in Lex Assessment and Reception Center in Lexington, Okla. Sanders' parole date is in October 2048.
The Great Plains Stampede Rodeo Committee was held in August, and one of the nights the rodeo performance was dedicated to the memory of two young rodeo competitors - Ed Benton Drury, the son of Tim and Lisa Drury of Olustee, and Aaron Custer, the son of Cody and Stacey Custer of Elk City. Both young men were killed in a tragic vehicle accident on Aug. 16. The local 4-H group also postponed their banquet due to the tragic accident, and later recognized Drury both at the banquet, and with a memorial bench to his family.
2011 marked the 10th anniversary of the 9/11, and the Altus Times published a special commemorative edition relating special stories and photos. The 97th Air Mobility Wing also joined forces with the City of Altus to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks with reveille and a remembrance run in downtown Altus.
Also in September, Bobbi Parker, 49, the wife of a former Oklahoma prison warden who disappeared with a convicted murderer only to be found living with him in Texas nearly 11 years later, was found guilty of helping him escape. Jurors visited the prison grounds where Bobbi Parker, 49, had lived with her husband, then returned to the Greer County Courthouse and determined she left willingly with Randolph Franklin Dial in 1994. Parker did not testify but after being found living with Dial in 2005 insisted he had kidnapped her and threatened to harm her two daughters if she tried to escape. District Judge Richard Darby set sentencing for October.
October started off with the annual Main Street Altus Cotton Pickin' Chili Cook-Off. Once again, Rebecca Maldonado won both 1st in the Commerical Division, and the Grand Champion prize. Taking both first place and Grand Champion in the Barbecue Division was Mike Gamble with The Great Plains Stampede Rodeo. First State Bank took the Overall Spirit Award, and Daniel Carrisalez took the top prize for salsa. Bob Beers was recognized this year with a special award for his 20 years judging chili.
Kerrstin Wenk was crowned the Altus High School Football Homecoming Queen, and Diego Quirino King during the half time of the Altus-Capitol Hill football game this past October. Wenk is the daughter of Brad Wenk and Robin Wenk, and Quirino is the son of Dora and Rene Quirino. Their homecoming court was Candace Combs, Christin Fairchild, Lance Holt and Christian Kneisel.
General Raymond E. Johns, Jr, Commander Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., was the keynote speaker for the 103rd Annual Altus Chamber of Commerce Banquet in November. The Chamber also hosted Farm City Week events in November, highlighted by the banquet which honored local farmer David Bush with the "Legends of Agriculture" award. In related news, Tammi Didlot was named "Agricultural Woman of the Year". Didlot was honored during the annual Diamond Hats Ball in Oklahoma City.
Also in November, The Altus High School’s production of “The Phantom of the Opera” was performed. The leads in the play were The Phantom (Garrett Roy) and Christine (Christin Fairchild).
December started off with the next-to-the-last big Main Street Altus event of the year, the annual Chamber of Commerce sponsored Christmas Parade. (No. 1 being the Candy Cane Cash giveaway - see info below). The Grand Marshal float awarded to ‘Off the Wall’ Dance Production in the “A Child’s Christmas” themed parade. 1st place Military went to the 97th Communications Squadron; Atwoods took 1st Place in the Civic & Commercial division; 1st Place Youth went to Scouts pack 212; and Emmanuel Baptist won 1st Place Church.
Police are still looking for a man who, armed with a gun, demanded medication from the United Drug Store, in early December. If you have information on this crime or suspect, you can call anonymously to 482-TIPS. Other crimes reported in December also included three severe domestic abuse cases, an incident in which a woman was attacked by a man who had been hiding in the back seat of her car, and a man who was caught breaking into homes in the Blair area.
An Altus teacher, Keith Cumbie, was also tragically killed in December after an accident in which he fell from a bulldozer. Altus Schools were dismissed for the funeral.
One of the biggest stories talked about this past December was when the local cable provider, CableOne, dropped three of their Oklahoma City stations. Retransmission consent agreements between CableOne and two Oklahoma broadcasters didn't happen, so as of today, Altus subscribers, along with many other Southwest Oklahoma customers, will be watching some of their news broadcasts from Texas instead of Oklahoma.
CableOne has talked and negotiated, but not agreed, about the rate hikes being imposed on them in order to keep the Oklahoma City TV stations 4 and 8. In a released issued by CableOne on Dec. 30, local general manager Barbara Burge said they will continue to carry KWTV channel 9 and KOCO channel 5 out of Oklahoma City. In addition, the cable operator recently added News 9 Now on channel 463 which provides viewers with 24 hour news, sports and weather.
Main Street Altus' annual Candy Cane Cash drawings were held Sunday, Dec. 18, in downtown Altus. Winning tickets were picked from a giant hopper full of tickets, with the big prize of $10,000 claimed by Kelly Davis.
As the Christmas holidays came to an end in 2012, it was announced that the Salvation Army, with the help for the Altus Fire Department personnel and some other volunteers, were able to distribute food, toys and coats to many people in need. Lt. Betty Price said they gave food to 170 families and toys and coats to 320 children. The coats were from the Altus Fire Department Coats for Kids project. The food came from the school canned food drive. Some of the toys were purchased for designated children through Angel Tree. Some other toys were donated by individuals or organizations, such as the Altus Masonic Lodge.