Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

January 2, 2013

Audios 2012: SORC closing tops year in review

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — As 2012 has departed for its footnote in historical record, those living in Garvin County can certainly agree how change has certainly impacted more than a few lives over the past year.

It seems whether one is profoundly disabled, a farmer or even those looking for recreational entertainment had plenty to talk about as we review the top stories that led up until 2013:

• The Southern Oklahoma Resource Center - While starting off the year much like the past several with those living or with loved ones at SORC uncertain of the future, a decision to close both of Oklahoma’s disability based institutions was made on Nov. 1.

This was the final decision by the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services, removed after voters passed a state question to replace them with an advisory board that now answers to the new director of the Department of Human Services, Ed Lake.

SORC dodged a bullet back in the summer when former Commissioner Michael Peck suggested closing only SORC and keeping its sister site NORCE open and now both have begun transition toward community based providers.

• Hospital Sale - Pauls Valley General Hospital also saw one of the biggest changes of the year when the Hospital Authority and city council members agreed to place the hospital up for sale in September, eventually finding a suitor through their management agreement entity St. Anthony Health System in October (SSM Oklahoma). It is now in a due diligence process and the sale is expected to close sometime in early 2013.

• Pauls Valley’s pool - A project years in planning was finally set in motion when a final cost was approved in mid-June at about $3.6 million.

Sales tax money was later officially dedicated to cover about $3.2 million, with the rest being raised by the community and after ground was broken in July, it is expected to be completed and open by the 2013 swimming season.

• Wynnewood refinery explosion - A tragedy struck not just a couple of families, but touched an entire region when a boiler exploded in the facility at the end of September. The blast initially claimed one individual before another later died from his injuries.

• Fire Department Sales Tax - It was in early March when Garvin County voters passed a quarter cent sales tax, with much of the emphasis to help rural operations. Over the years 96 percent of the funding generated will be split equally among the 12 departments, while the remaining 4 percent is for county emergency management.

• Notable Retirements - Garvin County saw three major retirements this past year, starting with PV Fire Chief Joe Eddy, who stepped down after 26 years in late May.

In June, County Commissioner Kenneth Holden closed out 20 plus years of service for District 1.

In December, Cathy Brinley ended 4 1/2 years of service as the county election board secretary.

• Drought - While the dry conditions across Garvin County did not reach the same extremes that led to grass fires experienced in 2011, 2012 was bad enough to leave the area suffering.

Relief that did come was not enough to overcome the lowest levels seen at PV’s Longmire Lake since it was created as a water supply in the 1980s, causing a greater shift toward drawing a majority from the Old City Lake.

The burn bans also returned, though instead of a majority of the year like 2011, 2012 saw them from the summer into fall.

• International Superhero Day - August 4 was not only a chance where people could be their own super personality in Pauls Valley, but was a part of a world record setting event where the most original characters in one place gathered.

Hosted by the Toy and Action Figure Museum, the event drew participants from all over the state and beyond.

• Maysville Bank Robbery - It was in June when a robbery at the First America Bank in Maysville attracted unusual attention after the robber, Joshua Michael Beckstead, slipped by authorities on a bus out of town in Pauls Valley.

He was connected to a series of robberies across the northern part of the country and was finally caught in North Dakota.

• Hammer Murder - It was in August when an Elmore City man, Justin Hammer, was arrested for the gruesome murder of Brandon Mark Duran and made headlines because of the way he dismembered and disposed of the body.

He is still in custody and is awaiting the preliminary hearing that is set for February 28, 2013.

• School Board Bonds - Communities throughout Garvin County held school bond elections to fund various projects in 2012 and the results ended up favoring passage in Pauls Valley, Elmore City and Wynnewood, but not Whitebead.

In February, Whitebead voters denied a $170,000 bond for busses.

In April, Wynnewood voters approved $1.105 million for air/heating at both the high school and elementary as well as new windows and $385,000 for bleachers and the press box at their stadium.

That same month Maysville approved $1.25 million for a multi-purposed building/cafeteria.

Pauls Valley also approved $5.7 million to renovate the junior high auditorium, purchase of school buses, renovations and expansion of the football fieldhouse as well as renovations to Wacker Park gym. Some of those started work this fall.

In August, Elmore City approval for $250,000 went through for its bus fleet.