Local & Regional

KWGS News

 

The commissioner of Oklahoma's Department of Public Safety is warning of "crippling" effects if lawmakers move ahead with plans to slash funding, including the closure of two dozen driver's license stations and four weeks of furloughs for employees.

Commissioner Michael Thompson released a list Wednesday of some of the cuts his agency would be forced to make if his budget shrank by 15 percent. It includes the elimination of the Highway Patrol's motorcycle division.

Michael Willmus-Oklahoma Watch

 

 The director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is canceling contracts to house state inmates at county jails in a cost-saving move.

Director Joe Allbaugh said Wednesday the agency is looking for ways to close a projected $3 million budget hole through June 30, the end of the fiscal year. It's part of a revenue shortfall of $34.6 million due to lagging state revenues.

The county jails charged $32 per day to house the inmates. The move should save about $775,000 through the end of the year.

In the local news:

  • A Mumps outbreak is confirmed in Tulsa County.
  • Wild fires continue to burn in western Oklahoma.
  • Debate gets heated on "Blue Lives Matter' legislation at the State Capitol.

Mumps Outbreak in Tulsa County Reported

Mar 9, 2017
File photo

The Tulsa Health Department is currently investigating an outbreak of mumps in Tulsa County.  There have been 8 cases identified, 5 of which have been laboratory confirmed. One of the confirmed cases is a student at the 7th Grade Center at Owasso Public Schools.

Tulsa Sports Commission

The Tulsa Sports Commission announces eight beneficiaries for this year’s Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run.

River Parks Foundation is the primary beneficiary for the 40th running of the 15K. It will receive $25,000, which will go toward its privately funded park patrol program.

Oklahoma House members passed a measure Wednesday to ensure strict penalties when a police officer is killed.

House Bill 1306, titled the Blue Lives Matter in Oklahoma Act of 2017, says people convicted of or pleading no contest to first-degree murder of an officer shall get the death penalty or life without parole unless there’s an "overwhelming amount of mitigating evidence."

Rep. Casey Murdock told his colleagues while the bill was being heard the intent is for the death penalty to be preferred in such cases. A previous version mandated only the death penalty.

Wildfires Rage in Western Oklahoma

Mar 8, 2017
State Forestry Service

The fire fight continues across western Oklahoma. Three major fires continue to burn. Oklahoma State Forestry Service spokesman Luke Kanclerz is on the fire line. He says progress is slow. 

Governor Fallin has declared a state of emergency for northwest Oklahoma. Additional crews and supplies are being brought in from Arkansas to give firefighters a break.

Kanclerz says it will be days before they can total up the homes and barns that have been damaged or destroyed. 

Stillwater Police

 

  Police say two suspects have been arrested in a shooting near Stillwater that killed one man and wounded two women.

Lt. Dale Higgins says both men were arrested Tuesday, one in Stillwater and one in Raton, New Mexico, on first-degree murder warrants.

Online court records do not show that either man has been formally charged.

Police say the two are suspected in the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Christian Thomas Peck, who died Sunday afternoon following the shooting in Payne County, south of Stillwater. Two women were wounded in the shooting.

KWGS News Photo

Opponents line up at the state capitol against two measures they claim are designed to ‘scare’ those who peacefully protest against oil and gas pipelines. The Director of Oklahoma Bold, Mekasi Camp-Horinek, says a new climate in Washington emboldens those who propose what he calls these type of unconstitutional laws.

The bills, if passed, would greatly increase trespass fines and jail time for protesting on what is termed ‘critical infrastructure’ land. Opponents say they are really aimed at discouraging free speech and civil resistance.

File photo

 

  A Tulsa attorney specializing in drunken-driving cases is criticizing legislation that would criminalize refusing to take a breath test to determine if someone is intoxicated.

The Tulsa World reports attorney Bruce Edge announced his opposition Tuesday and discussed filing a lawsuit to challenge a new set of administrative rules dealing with DUI arrests.

Enrollment Meeting Halted; Gets Heated

Mar 8, 2017
TPS

An enrollment lottery for coveted spots at the Zarrow International School in Tulsa is halted as tempers flare at a Tuesday night meeting at the Education Service Center.

There are more students wanting into the program than it can accommodate. At issue are the high number of siblings wanting into the same school as a big brother or sister.

State Impact-Oklahoma

 

Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller says he's cautiously optimistic after overall collections to the state treasury last month were slightly higher than those from the same month last year.

Miller released figures Tuesday showing it's the second straight month of revenue growth following 20 months of contraction.

Gross receipts to the state treasury in February totaled $759.5 million, which is about $1 million more than February of 2016. Miller also noted that February saw the first increase in sales tax collections since March 2016.

In the local news:

  • Two are dead as wildfires continue to burn in Oklahoma.
  • An enrollment meeting for the Zarrow International School is halted as tempers flare.
  • A murder suspect is arrested in Rogers County

Shawnee Tribe

 

Gov. Mary Fallin is giving her approval to a federal agency's decision that paves the way for the Shawnee Tribe to build a $25 million casino near Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Fallin announced Tuesday that she agrees with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs' decision to place a tract of land 4 miles southwest of Guymon into trust for the Oklahoma-based tribe, which has no jurisdictional land of its own.

Greasy Tornado was an EF-1

Mar 8, 2017
KWGS News Photo

The National Weather Service in Tulsa releases its preliminary rating on Monday night's tornado in the Greasy community in Adair County.

The tornado hit just before 9:30 Monday night and was rated as a E-F 1. That means it has sustained winds of 90-to-100 MPH.

No one was hurt, but trees and buildings were damaged by the tornado.

Oklahoma Forestry Service

Numerous wildfires are burning in Oklahoma and evacuations have been ordered in the state's northwest.

There is another Red Flag Fire Warning for Wednesday. The warning includes the Tulsa area.

Woodward County Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer says up to 200 people had to leave their homes late Monday afternoon in Woodward County and Beaver County officials told residents of Gate, a town of about 90 people, to leave their homes.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain says two people have died from the fires.

A hotline is now available to specifically help Native American survivors of domestic and dating violence.

StrongHearts Native Helpline's initial service area is Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

"One of the problems in Indian Country is there's a huge lack of services, and there really hasn't been any efforts to create a database that pulls together all of the resources that are available," said StrongHearts Assistant Director Lori Jump.

Jump said violence against women is an epidemic in Indian Country.

Oklahoma Lottery

The Oklahoma House approved a bill Tuesday supporters say will mean $110 million more dollars over five years for common education.

House Bill 1837 changes the lottery’s minimum funding requirement from 35 percent of net proceeds to the first $50 million. Rep. Leslie Osborn said the state budget crunch makes that tweak a good idea.

RSU-TV

 

  

 The University of Oklahoma is considering another round of voluntary early retirement offers to faculty and staff as a cost-saving move amid further expected budget cuts.

An agenda item for Wednesday's OU Board of Regents meeting includes a recommendation from President David Boren that members approve the Special Voluntary Retirement Incentive.

If approved, university officials hope to save an estimated $9.4 million in annual budget costs of the Norman campus.

State of Oklahoma-File Photo

 

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the residency of newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick.

The state's highest court ruled Tuesday that the lawsuit was not timely filed and that two southeastern Oklahoma residents who filed it did not have legal standing to challenge Wyrick's residency.

Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Wyrick to a vacancy on the court from southeastern Oklahoma last month. The lawsuit alleged Wyrick does not live in the judicial district where he claims to reside and is not qualified to serve in the seat.

Nowata County Sheriff Resigns

Mar 7, 2017
Google Street View

Nowata County Commissioner Bud Frost says the letter he got from Sheriff Rick Miller was short and to the point.

 BUD FROST: " It said he is resigning effective yesterday."                  

Commissioner Frost says the sheriff cited stress as the reason for turning in his badge.  The under-sheriff and the jail administrator also recently resigned. 

It will be up to the commissioners to name an interim sheriff until a special election can be held.

Google Street View

Tulsa Police are sorting through the details of the most bizarre death of an infant. Tulsa Police Officer Leland Ashley says an infant was found face down in a mop bucket at the Sandy Park Apartments near 6300 West 11th Street.

The seven-month old was rushed to the St. John Medical Center, but died there this morning.  Other children in that apartment have been turned over to the child welfare unit of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

At this point, no arrests have been made

   

Proposed Oklahoma legislation heading to the Senate would exempt property owners from civil action if they destroy drones not regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Tulsa World reports the proposed bill, authored by Republican Sen. Ralph Shortey, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a unanimous vote Feb. 21.

 

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is investigating a train derailment in southwestern Oklahoma.

OHP Capt. Paul Timmons says at least three Stillwater Central Railroad cars were reported off the tracks northeast of Cement in Grady County, Monday afternoon, but no injuries are reported.

Timmons said it wasn't clear what caused the train to derail and company officials did not immediately return to phone calls and an email for comment.

The railroad is owned by Pittsburg, Kansas-based Watco Companies, LLC.

In the local news:

  • Storms cause problems and damage across the region.
  • No school in Verdigris as the community searches for a suspected killer.
  • Shots taken at Tulsa's Equality Center.

Rogers County

For a second day, school is called off at the Rogers County town of Verdigris. Law enforcers are still looking for 30-year-old Brian Benedict.

He is suspected of the Sunday night murder of his father. The murder took place in a home near the schools.

Rogers County authorities suspect Benedict is still in the area and could be heavily armed. No motive for the murder has been released. Benedict's mother found her husband's body.

Oklahoma Forestry Service

 

The National Weather Service has Tulsa under another RED FLAG FIRE WARNING today as numerous wildfires are burning in Oklahoma and evacuations have been ordered in the state's northwest.

Woodward County Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer says up to 200 people had to leave their homes late Monday afternoon in Woodward County and Beaver County officials told residents of Gate, a town of about 90 people, to leave their homes. Evacuations were also ordered near Laverne and Buffalo in Harper County.

Storms Caused Green Country Damage

Mar 7, 2017

Residents are surveying the damage in the Adair County town of Greasy. Officials believe it was a small tornado that hit the town near Stilwell last night. Several homes sustained damage. 

Other storms hit the Tulsa area, knocking out power to thousands overnight. PSO has most of that power restored this morning. A large tree was toppled onto a car near the Philbrook Museum and 60 MPH winds knocked over lawn furniture and scattered trash cans.

Power was out to the community of Turley. However, officials say that was caused by a traffic crash.

State lawmakers are considering taking away the annual payment going to Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

Rep. Scott Biggs proposes allocating TSET’s 75 percent share of the state’s nearly $80 million annual tobacco settlement payment to a new rural health care fund. Biggs said TSET’s investment earnings are plenty.

Of the myriad issues facing Oklahoma lawmakers this year, one is probably at the top of everyone’s mind: teacher raises.

"We are very interested and compelled to give teachers a pay raise that they have earned, they have deserved. And we'll see that in this upcoming session, I'm sure," Sen. Gary Stanislawski said four months ago on election night.

At a December forum with legislators, Rep. Michael Rogers said they’d been dissecting the issue to figure out how raises would be structured and how much it would cost.

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