Funds Released For Centennial Projects

Tuesday, July 17th 2007, 6:30 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Centennial Commission released $15 million for centennial projects across the state and as far away as Hawaii on Tuesday after getting the legal go-ahead from Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

Blake Wade, the executive director of the commission, said he was concerned about a legal challenge that threatened to tie up a $140 million funding bill that included the money for the centennial projects.

He said he was informed by telephone on Tuesday by Edmondson and state Treasurer Scott Meacham that the commission, which was meeting in Seminole, could go ahead with allocations to projects because the Supreme Court had declined to issue an order blocking the funding.

``They are still going to hear the merits of the case, but the injunction to stop the funding has been denied,'' said Charlie Price, a spokesman for Edmondson.

Wade said he was happy to hear that the funds could be released for such things as finishing the USS Oklahoma Memorial being built in Oklahoma, which will be shipped to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in time for dedication on Dec. 7.

``This memorial should have been done years ago and now we have a chance to complete it in time for dedication on Pearl Harbor Day,'' Wade said.

Private funds totaling about $650,000 have been raised for the $1 million project. The rest will come from centennial funds.

Other projects or groups getting a part of the $15 million for the state's 100th birthday bash, according to Blake, include the Jim Thorpe Sports Hall of Fame, the American Indian Cultural Center, the Botanical Garden project in Tulsa, the Oklahoma Centennial Parade in Oklahoma City on Oct. 14, the Korean War Veterans' Memorial at the Capitol and the Statehood Day celebration at the Capitol on Nov. 16.

Oklahoma City attorney Jerry R. Fent filed a lawsuit in late June to block expenditure of the $140 million in the bill, saying the measure violated a provision of the Oklahoma Constitution requiring that funding measures embrace a single subject, except when it is a general appropriations bill.

Other funding in the measure attacked by Fent included $6 million for the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center, $5 million for private prisons and halfway houses and money for higher education, public schools, conservation projects, fire equipment and replacement of Highway Patrol vehicles.