Throughout its history, the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce's Armed Forces Day parade has closely mirrored developments on local and national levels.
The composition of today's parade would have been unimaginable at the start of the War on Terror, just as the parade route of yesteryear would be unthinkable today. At the war's outset, parade entries staged on University Drive and traveled east on Gore Boulevard. That would be a nightmare now, given the road construction on Gore.
Fortunately, the parade route changed to showcase what the City of Lawton did to Elmer Thomas Park.
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), the war itself and the budget stalemate in Congress have wrought further changes. Thanks to BRAC, U.S. air defenders and German airmen were marching in the 2013 parade who would have been nowhere near Lawton-Fort Sill in 2002.
Approximately 200 air defenders with the 30th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigade, the ADA schoolhouse brigade, were in Saturday's parade. The lieutenants, captains and NCOs were a mixture of students and cadre assigned to three battalions 1st Battalion, 56th ADA; 2nd Battalion, 6th ADA, and 3rd Battalion, 6th ADA, according to Lt. Col. Ronald Hildner, commander of 1-56 ADA.
This was the second year for German ADA forces to be in the parade. Two of the 16 students marching will be in Class 4-13 of Captains Career Course that starts in June, and the rest are NCOs studying to become 24 Tangos (Patriot missile system maintainers), according to Lt. Col. Stephan Haack, commander of the German Training Detachment at Fort Sill.
In Germany the thinking is "everything that's guided in three-dimensional space belongs to the Air Force and everything that rolls on the ground belongs to the Army," Haack said in explanation of why air defense resides with the German Air Force.
This year marked the first time there has been a Gold Star Family Members booth next to the reviewing stand, a sobering reminder of the toll the war has taken. The idea to have the booth came from Chief Warrant Officer 2 Karen Beattie, a Gold Star spouse assigned to 31st ADA Brigade.
A Gold Star Family Member is an individual who has lost a service member while on active duty. There are more than 230 Gold Star Family Members in Comanche County alone.
"We just want to make sure people know what Gold Star Families are, that in Oklahoma there are 1,100 Gold Star family members. As these soldiers are marching and we're honoring them, we want to make sure we honor the fallen and their families and make sure they're not forgotten," she said.
She said she was devastated when her husband of three years, Sgt. 1st Class Clifford Beattie, died in Iraq almost two years ago. No casualty notification officer came to her door to break the news because she herself was in Iraq when it happened and knew about his death right away.
"We met while we were drill sergeants together at Fort Leonard Wood," (Mo.), said Karen Beattie, a Patriot missile system technician. She is originally from Cook, Minn., and has served in the Army for 14 years.
A number of Army soldiers and wives, primarily from her own brigade, volunteered to help make her booth's presence felt during the parade. People visiting the booth signed gold stars to be given to Gold Star family members at their May 24 reunion on Fort Sill.
A support group meets monthly on the first floor of the One-Stop Center, Building 4700 on Mow-Way Road. Meeting times change, so Gold Star family members who are interested in attending should call Survivor Outreach Services support coordinator Jodi Jordan at (580) 442-4282.
Connie McDonald dropped by the booth to show her support. And yes, her husband, Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, did make the parade. Fort Sill's commanding general and Lawton Mayor Fred Fitch rode together as parade marshals.
Group will try to raise funds for new site in Elmer Thomas Park
It's a recreation plan aimed at youth, so City of Lawton officials said it's only natural to let a youth group assume a leadership role in its development.
The Youth Advisory Council of Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority (LETA-YA) has agreed to become the "face" of a plan to finance and build a skateboard park in Elmer Thomas Park. While the proposal still is in its preliminary stages, LETA-YA members left an organization meeting last week filled with plans to solicit support and bring the community including the skateboarders who would use the new park to a June 12 meeting to launch the process.
The problem isn't determining whether the park is needed, supporters say. The problem will be finding the money at a time when local governments are facing historically tight finances.
Group focuses on park Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk, who also chairs LETA, and Parks and Recreation Director Kim Shahan said that's where LETA-YA comes into the picture. The group, whose teen-age members represent the city's secondary schools, was created several years ago to be the youth component of city enhancement efforts. The group had been working on a citywide tree planting project, but that effort has stalled because the drought makes it impossible to maintain the trees, Burk said, noting he wanted to give the group another project on which to focus and the skateboard park seemed like the perfect fit.
The idea isn't new. When Lawton opened its 10,000-square-foot skateboard park on the south end of McMahon Park in September 2002, recreation officials at the time said they saw it as the first of such parks that might be added for Lawton youths. When city officials crafted proposals for what became the 2012 Capital Improvements Program, the recreational funding proposal (which voters rejected) included money for a skateboard park.
It's that plan Shahan explained last week when he asked LETA-YA for its support. Shahan didn't come empty-handed. He said a woman in the community met with city officials and offered to provide $50,000, if the City of Lawton would create the skateboard park project.
"It needs to be community-driven, driven by youth," Shahan said, noting that LETA-YA fits the bill of a youth face on a youth project.
It's not that the existing skateboard park isn't used. In the past three years, yearly attendance has ranged between 4,200 and 4,650, while attendance has been 1,145 skaters in the first four months of 2013. But, simple mathematics indicate that even if every skateboarder in the city had access to the park, it wouldn't be large enough.
Shahan said the National Sporting Goods Association and American Sports Data estimate 2-5 percent of the American population are skateboarders. Based on Lawton's population, that means Lawton has almost 2,000 skateboarders and 25 percent (again, based on national statistics) are regular riders. The same formulas allowed Shahan to calculate that Lawton should have about 32,000 square feet of skateboard space for these riders, when it has about one-third that amount available.
Central site, bigger park His proposal: Find a centrally located site for a second park and make it between 16,000 and 26,000 square feet to provide more space for more riders. That would address another problem sometimes cited by skateboarders: The McMahon Park location may be out of reach for teens who aren't old enough to drive, don't have friends who are old enough to drive and don't have enough pocket money to buy LATS passes to ride to and from McMahon Park on Southwest 38th Street.
That leaves some skateboarders to find their own sites and Burk acknowledged those riders draw criticism from residents, business owners and city officials when they create makeshift places that allow them to pursue their sport, often to the detriment of whatever they are using as ramps.
"They're just trying to skate," Burk said, noting that things like guard rails and steps are damaged because those teens don't have a place to ride.
Written by Ty Albin|
Sunday, 19 May 2013 01:20 | Published inLocal
While people may pay more attention to sports, Lawton High School students also have a strong tradition of being handy with words.
LHS sophomore Tiara Amantine recently took first place in the nation in the 10th-grade division of the Daughters of the American Revolution's Junior American Citizen Poetry Contest. Junior Ashley Donovan won second place in the nation in the 11th-grade division of the same poetry writing competition.
Junior Brianna McKiernan earned first place in the state at the Lions Club Speech Contest.
All three are students in English classes taught by Terrance "Doc" Freeman, who has his students sharpen their writing skills by entering various contests throughout the school year. As a result, many of them end up winning.
Armantine said Freeman isn't satisfied with one draft of an assignment. He makes students do multiple rewrites and inspires by example.
"You just want to write like him and be like him," she said.
McKiernan said before she was in Freeman's class, she hated public speaking, which is a strong component of how he teaches composition. She said Freeman inspires her to do her best.
Donovan described Freeman as a teacher you have in high school and can't stand his class but later realize how much of a positive difference he made in your life.
Armantine wrote the poem "One Simple Thread," for the DAR contest, which had the theme "Investing in America's Future."
Her poem was about Betsy Ross and how she sewed the American Flag, which is so important to us today. Armantine connected Ross' actions to her own grandmother, who knits, and her grandmother's dream that Armantine will someday have a hand in knitting America's future.
Donovan wrote a poem entitled "The First Coin of Independence." She researched the first coin authorized by the fledgling Continental Congress in 1776 the Continental Dollar.
"I looked it up and I was like 'this is a really cool coin.' On the back of it, it has 'We Are One' and I just really liked that saying," Donovan said.
Written by Ty Albin|
Sunday, 19 May 2013 01:19 | Published inLocal
Middle School students have until Friday to sign up for several mini-camps at the Great Plains Technology Center that will teach them practical skills in a fun environment.
GPTC will offer morning and afternoon sessions June 3-7 of the following mini-camps 3-D Animation, Health Care Academy, Babysitting Boot Camp, Baking Bonanza and Construction.
Students must be entering the seventh through ninth grades. The cost is one session for $65, or two sessions for $125.
Krystal Brue, camp director, said the camps will focus on practical, age-appropriate skills.
The 3-D Animation camp is new this year, she said.
It will focus on teaching kids how to use computer software to animate characters set to music. Each student will create a YouTube video using the skills learned in the camp.
The Health Care Academy will be an introduction to health care careers, along with some basic medical knowledge.
Babysitting Boot Camp teaches kids fun skills like storytelling, leading songs, and arts-and-crafts. But it also teaches them things like basic first aid and Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
Baking Bonanza will have kids working on creating new sweets every day.
Construction will teach kids building techniques and proper tool use.
Brue said the camps are a way of introducing kids to the tech center, so they will be familiar with what it offers when they have the opportunity to enroll in GPTC's courses when they reach high school.
Written by Staff|
Sunday, 19 May 2013 01:19 | Published inLocal
City Council members will be reviewing an $8.37 million difference between expenditures in the General Fund and the projected revenues needed to finance them when a workshop opens Wednesday on the 2013-2014 budget.
City Manager Bryan Long said that shortfall is prompted by several issues: Growth in expenditures outpacing growth in revenues, a severe deficit in projected utility revenues (notably, water sales) and a change in the way that the City of Lawton's budget is being calculated. Long, who is working through his first budget as Lawton city manager, said his budget equation is simple: Revenues minus expenditures should equal zero. In this case, they don't: They equal a negative $8,378,382 for the General Fund, or the fund that most people consider the city budget when they look at city operations.
The council's task at Wednesday's 1 p.m. workshop in Lawton City Hall will be finding ways to bring revenues and expenditures into alignment. While Long won't publicly reveal his proposals until Wednesday's budget session begins, council members and other city officials have said Lawton is at the point of raising more revenue or doing without city services.
Despite influences outside the budget year, Long said the numbers in his budget summary reflect only the 2013-2014 budget year. Notably missing is something that city budgets have contained for years: An estimated beginning budget balance, or the amount of money that city administrators expect to bring forward into July 1, after the past fiscal year formally closes June 30. Part of the problem is that number is always a "best guess" estimate, set by finance officials who are estimating what will happen weeks if not months before the fiscal year actually ends. That number isn't formal until the fiscal year is audited, meaning the city doesn't have a hard number until months after a new fiscal year begins.
That number isn't in Long's proposed budget.
"The method to get there (balanced) is not as scientific as we would hope," Long said, noting that calculating municipal budgets involves a number of unknown perimeters and, this year, is in a constant state of flux.
But, he's willing to state reluctantly that Lawton has peaked, as far as revenue growth is concerned. And, the disparity between expenditures and available revenues means City of Lawton officials must "look at how we do business."
Revenue projections are not good, he noted. Previous city budgets typically have included a modest growth in sales tax revenue (about 2 percent) because, historically, Lawton has seen growth in sales tax, often more than projected. Tax revenue is leveling out and next year's budget projects $1.35 million less than expected this year and $2.16 million less than projected when this year's preliminary budget was done.
The real issue is the Enterprise Fund, which contains the revenue generated by utilities and the fund that supplements the General Fund. Long is projecting $4,215,499 less in utility revenues than city officials expected to receive this fiscal year when they prepared the budget last spring.
Written by Staff|
Sunday, 19 May 2013 01:18 | Published inLocal
When former Army chief of staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer retired from the U.S. Army in 1999, its end-strength stood at about 480,000 troops.
That was in peacetime. Since then the Army has reached a peak of 570,000 and is expected to shrink back to 490,000 by 2017.
"The Army has a history of building up for a war and then building down for a peace. And I think we're headed in that same direction right now," he said.
"The Army has really been involved in conflict operations for almost 12 years. If you'd asked me when I retired in 1999 whether the Army was strong enough to handle 12 years of war, I would have probably said I don't know. I think that's an awful long stretch, and I think that the Army is a very small army, even at 480,000 when I left. And that's asking an awful lot.
"But the fact that they have done so well is a testimony to the wonderful soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers that we have in the Army. And I think that's the real strength of the Army in terms of what they have to do now.
"Many of those people have been deployed three or four or more times. Many of them have had to leave their families that amount of times, and somehow they've been able to hold it together. It hasn't been easy. And I think they obviously deserve a great deal of credit and the gratitude of the nation for doing what they have done. They've done a remarkable job.
"The point I would stress here is that it's both an active component and a reserve component operation. The Army is made up of the three components that we have: active component, National Guard and the Army Reserve. And all three of them were used during this past 12 years in terms of operation, and I think all of them have performed magnificently," Reimer said.
"I might also add that I think we have some tremendous challenges ahead in terms of taking care of those people who have fought for our freedom in the last 12 years and now have serious injuries the wounded warriors who have lost limbs, who have traumatic brain injuries and those, I think we really need to focus as a nation on how we take care of them, because they have sacrificed a great deal for a lot of us, and I think to some extent the nation will be judged on how well we take care of them because they took care of us.
"The (Department of) Veterans Affairs is critical. I know how much they care about that, because I know Gen. (Eric) Shinseki, the head of Veterans Affairs, and I know he's very committed to taking care of those wounded warriors. But it's got to be bigger than just Veterans Affairs. It's got to be the nation that comes together and helps with taking care of them.
"What they really need is to get medically fixed up. And we need to make sure that we take care of them medically.
"But we've also got to be able to train them in job skills. We've got to be able to find jobs for them, or find places where they might find jobs for themselves. And let's get them back into society as productive members of society. That's got to be our goal," Reimer said.
A native Oklahoman, Reimer grew up in Medford, the Grant County seat. He was commissioned in 1962 after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., and served two tours in Vietnam as an adviser, battalion operations officer and executive officer. He was assigned to Fort Sill in October 1983 as deputy assistant commander of the Field Artillery School. After promotion to brigadier general, he commanded III Corps Artillery from January 1984 to May 1986.
A former Fort Sill soldiers convicted of a home invasion who protested his sentence because he was given more jail time than other defendants in the case changed his mind about starting over with sentencing.
Richard Daly, 25, who pleaded guilty April 25 to 10 felony counts one count of conspiracy, three counts of armed robbery and six counts of kidnapping told the court last week he wanted to withdraw his plea.
"My co-defendant got 10 years, and I got 25 years in," Daly wrote in a document filed in Comanche County District Court. "I don't not think it's fa(i)r for someone with the same charges (to) get a much (more) lenient of a sentence."
However, when he appeared Thursday morning, Daly informed the court he wanted to withdraw his motion to withdraw his plea, and was remanded back into custody.
Daly, Claude Byrd and Kevon McLaren broke into a Lawton apartment the night of Sept. 20, 2011, tied up the six occupants and demanded money and property at gunpoint before McLaren shot three women and one man.
The three men were accused of conspiring with a female neighbor to steal property from the target apartment, merchandise that had been stolen from them during two previous burglaries.
Written by Ty Albin|
Sunday, 19 May 2013 01:18 | Published inLocal
The owners of a Lawton apartment complex have filed a third lawsuit involving the Comanche County Assessor's valuation of their property.
Cornerstone LLC, owners of Legend Park Apartments, filed suit Thursday in Comanche County District Court against county assessor Richard Strickland and the county Board of Equalization seeking to overturn the decision made by the equalization board Wednesday morning to uphold the assessor's valuation of Phase II of Legend Park Apartments.
After a dispute over the value of the property in 2012, Strickland had the property reassessed earlier this year. Cornerstone appealed the valuation Wednesday.
There are two ongoing lawsuits between the county assessor and Cornerstone concerning the valuations of Phase I of the same apartment complex.
During Wednesday's equalization board meeting a representative of Cornerstone appealed the valuation of Phase II of Legend Park Apartments. Steve Coleman, an attorney for Cornerstone LLC, said the 2013 value for Phase II should be about $16.4 million, based on a formula that uses the potential income of a rental property to calculate the property value.
Throughout its history, the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce's Armed Forces Day parade has closely mirrored developments on local and national levels.The composition of today's parade would have been unimaginable at the start ...
Group will try to raise funds for new site in Elmer Thomas ParkIt's a recreation plan aimed at youth, so City of Lawton officials said it's only natural to let a youth group assume a leadership role in its development.The Youth Ad...
While people may pay more attention to sports, Lawton High School students also have a strong tradition of being handy with words.LHS sophomore Tiara Amantine recently took first place in the nation in the 10th-grade division of t...
Middle School students have until Friday to sign up for several mini-camps at the Great Plains Technology Center that will teach them practical skills in a fun environment.GPTC will offer morning and afternoon sessions June 3-7 of...
City Council members will be reviewing an $8.37 million difference between expenditures in the General Fund and the projected revenues needed to finance them when a workshop opens Wednesday on the 2013-2014 budget.City Manager Bry...
When former Army chief of staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer retired from the U.S. Army in 1999, its end-strength stood at about 480,000 troops.That was in peacetime. Since then the Army has reached a peak of 570,000 and is expected to s...