There were many big stories in the world, nation and state this year, but the big stories for Altus this year included Sikorsky Aerospace Services coming to town, the completion of renovations at Altus High School, and drought/water resource woes to name a few. Following is a month-by-month recap of some of the top stories in the Altus Times headlines from 2012:
Instead of snow and ice, the new year in Altus this past year was rung in with a dirt storm. A cold front blew into the area right at dusk on New Year’s Even filling the skies, and covering everything else, in red dirt. Temperatures dropped from 83 to 53 in a matter of only 30 minutes. Wind gusts were up to 53 mph.
New City Administrator Elizabeth Gray was welcomed to Altus at the Jan. 3 meeting of the Altus City Council.
In crime, an attempted car jacking at Wal-Mart was foiled, two were sentenced on child porn charges, a 21-year-old was arrested for raping a 14-year-old, and a Work Center inmate escaped the Altus facility and was later captured in Irving, Texas.
It was announced in January that Altus Air Force Base would be one of two sites nationwide where a Virginia scientific, engineering and technology applications company would be testing new instrument landing equipment to be installed at 95 U.S. Air Force bases worldwide.
Also in January, three City employees were fired after a larceny, and it was said that five Work Center inmates were involved.
January was also when Cindy Bailey was named the “Altus Teacher of the Year”. Other finalists were Venisa Johns, Jeanne Herring, Amanda Davis, Carol Cumbie, Leticia Sanchez, Barbie Rowland and Mitzi Dickerson.
January ended with the announcement of Dennis Vernon as the new president of the First National Bank in Altus.
The first snow of the year fell on Feb. 12 & 13. Although school was not called off on that Monday, Superintendent Bob Drury said a whopping 750 students were absent that day.
An assessment group that had been surveying our community completed their Draft Field Test in February.
February was also the month for school board elections, and locally, for office 2, incumbent Debora Phillips won over challenger Solveig Feller.
Strong winds moved through Altus in February, causing damage to with business signs being destroyed, power outages, loss of shingles off of homes and fences being blown down by the 51 mph straight winds on Feb. 20.
A new addition to the new City of Altus Complex moved onto the grounds in February - a buffalo statue that was donated using private donations.
February is also when the annual Miss Altus Pageant is held. Crowned this year was Christin Fairchild.
The Jackson County Junior Livestock Show was also held in February. This annual youth agriculture related educational program is sponsored by the Altus Chamber of Commerce. The overall purpose of the show is to highlight agriculture and provide a forum for the youth of our county to look at agriculture as a career choice. the students spend many hours raising their animals, keeping records and then showing them.
February ended with the discovery of a homicide. The victim, Melissa Bost, was found in an abandoned vehicle in an alley in the 1000 block of E. Sutherland, but it was later determined that Bost was murdered at another location in south Altus. Manuel Daniel Jr. was arrested in May for the murder.
After months of working to reduce debt within the City of Altus, it was announced at a City Council meeting in March that the annual audit review showed long-term debt to be down. “CPA Ronald C. Cottrell said that the City spending was “well withing budget.” However, the goal to save money continues. By June, the City Financial Director, James Wilson, said “We’ve got to decrease spending. We’re going broke.” By the last City Council of the year, Wilson was again praising the City for their cost saving measures.
The process for the hanging of the new traffic lights at Park Avenue and East Broadway was finally completed, and sandbagged stop signs in the middle of the road were finally replaced with working electrical lights.
It was confirmed in March that Altus Electrical Superintendent Dan Scott was placed on leave in March. An appeals hearing was held months later at which Scott was reinstated in a 7-1 vote.
Jackson County Safety and Emergency Manager Jerry Gibson Sr. retired in March; the Committee of 100 sponsored a dinner for Airmen who have returned from a deployment, or students assigned to Altus AFB for training in March; Western Oklahoma State College presented their Spring musical “9 to 5”; and the Great Plains Literacy Council hosted their annual Spelling Bee.
April saw a drive-by shooting in south Altus. Approximately 30 rounds of automatic weapon fire was heard at the S. Navajo and E. Pecan area on April 10. The area was shut down while being investigated. Another shooting was reported later in the month at the Ridgecrest Apartments where two people were injured from bullet fragments.
Red Cross Disaster Action Team Volunteer Steve Grayson and Disaster Response Specialist Rosalyn Hall, deployed to aid North Texas tornado victims in April. They worked with more than 150 other Red Cross volunteers to bring relief, support and comfort to those affected by the 14 tornadoes that touched down in Lancaster, Forney, Allington and Kennedale Texas.
April was the month the Main Street Altus’ “Walking On Chalk” event. Taking the “Best of Show” prize was Matt Wilhite.
Nine Altus students were accepted in April to attend the Arts Institute in June. They were Scott Johnson, Christin Fairchild, Diego Quirino, Madison McKenzie, Matt Wilhite, Bailey Pelletier, Andrew Hamilton, Sela Park, and Gabby Rohrer.
Longtime Altus attorney Tal Oden was honored for 60 years of service in April at reception held in the Jackson County Courthouse.
May kicked off with Main Street Altus’ annual Rock-N-Rumble Car Show and Cruise. Excellent weather resulted in countless cars and spectators for the event. The $1,000 Best of Show award went to Hershel Kay & Greg Kay for their 1957 Chevy 2-door Wagon.
It was announced in May that Southwest Technology Center had named Dale Latham to be their next Superintendent. Latham assumed duties on July 1.
Altus Air Force Base celebrated their 70 years of air power with an open house in May. Highlights included various displays, demonstrations, a car show and golf tournament.
May was also the month that residents noticed an over abundance of moths and beetles in their gardens. OSU Extension Educator Gary Strickland explained that this happens when the adult Army Worm moths migrate through the area and lay larva. This is when the beetles come in to feed off of them. Look for this to happen again this coming spring.
It was determined in May that the Western Oklahoma State College Pioneer baseball team would be heading back to the World Series for the fifth year in a row. During the championship, Western fell to LSU-Eunice 7-3 for the national title.
Altus Firefighters Team Dr. Pepper took 2nd place int he Relay Competition at the Firefighters Combat Challenge in Farmers Branch, Texas in May. The Over 50 Tandem team also took the 1st place run.
Mark Whitlock, longtime Principal at Sunset Elementary School, retired. Among the honors and recognitions for Whitlock was the planting of trees in his honor. A reception for Whitlock was held in June.
As the month of May came to a close, citizens of Altus got their first odd taste, and smell, of tap water gone bad this past year. Robert Stephenson, Atlus Chief of Operations, said that the cause was from algae growth at the Tom Steed Lake - our water source. He said the taste and odor was a problem of aesthetics and not safety. The matter was addressed again in June at the City Council meeting. DEQ came to town and took their own samples of the brownish water and said that the problem was under control and that residents would soon see relief from the problem.
In June, Robin Booker announced her candidacy for the County Clerk. She later won the race again incumbent Christi Hair, and took over responsibilities for the position in December.
A man was arrested in June for a series of burglaries that happened at the construction site at Altus High School. The man was apprehended when he tried to pawn a stolen camera from the school in presence of a police officer that was investigating the burglaries. In other June crime reports, police say a man showed a gun to a woman and demanded her necklace. After getting the jewelry, she was beaten up. The suspect was later apprehended by police. In another June incident, a man was stabbed during a family dispute.
As part of the City’s ongoing attempt to cut costs, 21 Altus City employees took a severance incentive in June. This was part of the City’s goal to eliminate $1.8M from the City’s personnel services.
June ended with a retirement party for Fire/Rescue Chief J.R. Wheeler for his 30 years of service.
It was announced in July that Washington Elementary School was recognized as a Great Expectations Model School. This is an honor the school has received for the past three years. They were one of only 85 schools in the nation to be receive this honor.
July was also the month that the Altus City Council approved utility increases across the board.
Although rains had taken the area out of drought earlier in the year, hot and dry temperatures combined with a lack of rain put Jackson County into another drought situation by July. County Commissioners moved to put Jackson County under a burn ban with 49 other counties in the state at their July 31 meeting.
It was announced in August that Altus Schools would begin a proactive drug testing policy, and invited all parents to a series of informational meetings to explain. Altus Schools now tests all students for drugs before they can participate in activities.
Beth Braddock was crowned Miss Altus Outstanding Teen in August. 1st runner up was Bethany Cowart, 2nd runner up was Shyanne Tate, 3rd runner up was Rylee Wilson, and 4th runner up was Cheyenne Smith. Miss Congeniality and Photogenic were both awarded to Meaghan Dorn.
Summer break ended for Altus students in August, and to kick it off, there were photo days, football scrimmages, and parent meetings.
Some rain fell in August, alleviating some of the hot, dry results of the drought. However, with it came threats of West Nile virus from mosquitoes.
August was also the month for the annual Great Plains Stampede Rodeo. Although some of the events were rain-soaked, the rodeo was well attended. Crowned Queen was Ali Jo Tutten. Princess was Cylee Childs.
August also saw the finishing touches to the new Altus High School renovations completed, and the closing of the local Quiznos restaurant.
James Rodrigues Sr. was arrested by Altus Police in August on 1st degree arson charges for a structure fire on Spruce. In a separate incident, an Altus couple was arrested on a complaint of cultivating marijuana after police discovered them growing the plants in their home. The discovery was made during a truancy investigation. Charges were also made for soliciting someone under 18 to distribute a controlled dangerous substance.
The month ended with the annual Red River Rivalry football game between the Altus Bulldogs and the Vernon (Texas) Lions. The Lions won 42-3.
September was the month that citizens first heard that “Christmas in the Park” may be eliminated in a cost-cutting move by the City of Altus. It was later decided to have the event, but to cut back on the extent of the lights. They also started the event a week later, and ended it a week earlier than in the past.
Water problems popped up in Altus again in September when the main water line into the city from Tom Steed Reservoir broke. Delivery of water was interrupted to Altus after a valve on a supply pipeline broke about three miles from the lake. Residents were asked to ration water until the problem was fixed. With continued drought conditions and supplemental use of water for residential use, the near-dry City Reservoir was refilled in September. Approximately 600 acre feet of water was added to the site.
The annual Jackson County Fair took place in September and featured such events as a pie throwing contest, wiener dog races, a beautiful baby contest, turtle races and tractor races.
The first cotton of the season was harvested in September. It was brought in by Dance Hall, north of Duke, off of the Wilson farm.
One was reported dead, and two were jailed after a burglary-gone-wrong in nearby Vinson in September. According to reports, a man awoke to find three women taking items from his home. A confrontation occurred, and the man fired a shotgun at the womoen as they fled. One was hit and killed. The other two were later apprehended.
Altus was honored in September to have Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin as their guest speaker at the annual Altus Chamber of Commerce Banquet. Fallin gave a very uplifting presentation, praising Altus’ residents and the folks of Altus Air Force Base. While in town she toured the base and had an opportunity to test a C-17 simulator.
Western Oklahoma State College was able to host a special advanced screening and community conversation of Ken
Burns’ film The Dust Bowl in October before it officially aired on PBS in November.The event was held in the Herschal H. Crow Fine Arts Center, and was free and open to public. A reception of heavy hor dourves was held before the film.
It was also announced in October that the Local Civil Air Patrol (CAP) unit in Altus has two brand new pilots to fly their base assigned aircraft. After months of training, CAP 2 Lt Michael Prater and CAP Senior Member James Hill passed their Form 5 check rides to qualify to fly the CAP Cessna 172 based at Altus-Quartz Mountain Regional Airport. This now gives Jackson County Senior Squadron a total of four pilots.
After weeks of debate about euthanasia methods at the local animal shelter, the injection method was decided upon in October.
It was a chilly day for chili in downtown Altus in October for the annual Main Street Altus Chili Cookoff event. Phil Marcha took the top Chili trophy, as well as the top Barbecue trophy.
The Altus Bulldogs lost their homecoming game to the Del City Eagles in October, but the crowds stayed throughout to
cheer on their team. During half-time, the Homecoming King and Queen were crowned. They were Cassidy McKnight and
Patrick Carnes. Their court consisted of Brenda Ortiz, Daniela Lopez, Keilan Torres, and Caleb Crawford.
Denny Koenders, longtime news and military veteran, assumed the position of publisher at the Altus Times in October.
Also in October, friends and fans of Ben Bailey attended a concert honoring Ben at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, home of one of the finest pipe organs in the state. The concert titled “Celebrating Ben Bailey” featured instrumental and choral numbers specifically chosen to illustrate all the facets of Ben’s musical career, including patriotic, religious, jazz, piano, and organ music. Although Ben was in attendance, he had to leave early. Ben passed away the next day.
Sikorsky Aerospace Services (SAS) and Aviation Training Consulting (ATC), made it all official that they were coming to Altus with a Memo of Understanding to open the Altus Sikorsky Training Academy.
Sikorsky manufactures many helicopter lines for military use: the Black Hawk, the Sea Hawk, the H-92, CH-53, the Light Turbine, Reconnaissance Fixed Wing, the H-3, and the PZL Mielec aircraft. The Black Hawk is the so-called “first choice for tactical operations worldwide”. The Black Hawk is used by 25 nations for multi-mission support. The Sea Hawk is used in anti-submarine warfare. The H-92 is used for troop transport or medical evacuations.
For commercial use, Sikorsky manufactures these helicopters: the S-76, S-92, Light Turbine, Light Piston, and the PZL Mielec aircraft. The S-76 is an all-purpose workhorse for 40 nations in the world, among varying climates. The S-92 is the most advanced Sikorsky helicopter, according to their web site, meeting strict safety certifications in the U.S. and Europe. You can see photos of these aircraft on their web site at “www.sikorsky.com”.
Your Altus Chamber of Commerce sponsored the 35th annual Farm/City Week activities in November. Ahead of the banquet were farm tours, a farmers appreciation luncheon, and a refueling flight. During the banquet, the “Legends of Agriculture” award was presented to Rodney Nichols. Col. Anthony Krawietz, Commander of the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus Air Force Base, also presented a Wing lithograph to Nichols.
Although President Barack Obama won another term in office in November, local and state voters didn’t show their support. Locally, Mitt Romney received 5,962 votes from Jackson County voters, and President Obama only received 1,953. Romney also carried every precinct in Jackson County.
A special called meeting of the Altus Board of Education was held in November to approve the employment of Roger Hill as the Deputy Superintendent for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year, and Superintendent for the 2013-14 school year. Hill, the current superintendent in Hobart, will start in January.
The Altus Chamber of Commerce held their annual Christmas Parade titled “A Picture Perfect Christmas” in December. Taking the Grand Marshall trophy was Jackson County 4-H. Other parade winners were, in the Youth Division, Cub Scout Troop 212; Military Division, 97th Command Squadron; and Civic & Commercial, Knights of Columbus.
School district and state A-F Report Cards became available for public viewing in December on the Oklahoma State
Department of Education website (https://sdeweb01.sde.ok.gov/Transparency/ReportCards). In Jackson County, Altus received a “C” average, with Rivers and Sunset Elementary receiving an “A”; Washington Elementary, Altus Junior High and Altus High School receiving a “B”; Roosevelt Elementary and Altus Intermediate School receiving a “C”; and Will Rogers Elementary receiving a “D”. Other Jackson County schools and their grades are Blair, “B”; Eldorado, “C”; Navajo, “B”; and Duke with an elementary school grade of “C” and a High School grade of “B”.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the life prison sentence of Patrick Robinson, 30, of Altus, in December who was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of another Altus man. The five-judge court unanimously affirmed the conviction and sentence of Robinson. A jury in Jackson County found Robinson guilty in the May 2009 shooting, stabbing death and robbery of Hai Phan, 34, outside southwest Altus apartment complex. Robinson acknowledged he was a drug dealer, but said he did not know his four co-defendants planned to rob Phan. One co-defendant pleaded guilty to murder and conspiracy in the case and is serving a life sentence. The others pleaded guilty to charges ranging from conspiracy to commit robbery to being an accessory. Robinson was the last of the five defendants to stand before District Court judges for the robbery-gone-bad murder.
The Main Street Altus Candy Cane Cash “Sweet”stakes giveaway is always held in December, and with it came a $10,000 prize to Lisa Carson, and another big surprise for one lucky Altus man. There is always a separate drawing for $1,000 on the Monday after the weekend drawing. This year, the person holding the winning ticket donated it to Kenneth Lemaster, who is currently battling cancer. Lemaster’s wife received an anonymous phone call to go look on the windshield of her car. Inside was the winning ticket. “Yes Virginia, there are still kind-hearted people in this world.”
Water, or the lack thereof, was the main topic of both the last regular Altus Municipal Authority meeting, and the regular Altus City Council meeting of 2012. Matt Warren, with the Bureau of Reclamation, gave a briefing on the status of water storage at Tom Steed Lake. Also on hand was Will Archer, director at Tom Steed. Warren’s briefing included information recently given at their district board meeting that charted water fluctuation and precipitation history. In short, Warren said that if current drought conditions continue, the lake could be depleted in 2016. Warren went on to say that although the reservoir was designed to the handle worst drought of recorded history, the weather can be unpredictable, so water conservation measures may be necessary. Archer said that Tom Steed Lake currently has 36% treatable water in it, and as it gets lower, the water is going to become harder, as well as harder to treat. The recommendation to try and reduce Altus’ allocated water supply by 20% was made, but said that since Altus rarely uses their allocated amounts, the more realistic recommendation would be to reduce what we actually use by 10%. Alternative water sources are also being sought.
It was also announced in December that the final Jackson County Free Health Clinic will be Thursday,
March 28, 2013. The board made its decision after careful examination of all elements affecting clinic operations and its patients.
Western Oklahoma State College’s accelerated courses came under scrutiny this year, and it was announced during the college’s regents meeting that a report regarding Western’s accelerated format courses would be submitted to the Higher
Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC). The report addresses the college’s mission, organizational profile, accreditation history, academic course rigor, marketing of courses, the courses relationship to HLC criteria and minimum expectations and detailed course data requested by the HLC. It was also said that a team of HLC peer reviewers will visit Western early in Spring 2013 semester to evaluate the items presented in the report.
An Altus man was found guilty of four crimes in December, including rape, following a trial in Jackson County District Court. The jury returned the verdicts against Dewight Dejuan Jasper. The four convictions were for conspiracy, kidnapping, first—degree rape and first—degree robbery. The jury recommended 22—1/2 years for the rape conviction, 10
years for first degree robbery, 20 years for kidnapping and 10 years for conspiracy. Formal sentencing has been scheduled for January.
Altus, the surrounding area, as well as all of Oklahoma received a white Christmas this year. Residents awoke Christmas morning to snowfall which ended up leaving 4 inches of the stuff in some areas. Another snowfall hit just a few days later, but no measurable precipitation was measured. By New Year’s Eve, most of the snow had melted away, and another front began leaving percipitation in the area.