Economic development, bonds, safe rooms on Tuesday's ballot

Sunday, September 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

School bond proposals could do more than just help some eastern Oklahoma classrooms.

The Okmulgee County districts of Morris and Wilson and Hominy in Osage County are proposing using funds from bond issues to add tornado safe houses for the students and the communities.

The three school districts join 18 others with various bond proposals on Tuesday's ballot. A supermajority, or 60 percent plus one, of those voting is required to pass school bonds.

Voters in Tulsa will consider Vision 2025, an $885 million package of economic development proposals, during a special election.

In Morris, Superintendent James Lyons believes a safe house could handle up to 2,200 people.

Morris is proposing a $940,000 bond issue, $235,000 of which will be used as the school's 25 percent match toward a Homeland Security grant, Lyons said.

Nearly 20 years ago, a nighttime tornado swept through Morris, killing nine and injuring dozens. More than 70 percent of the business district was damaged or destroyed, along with about 300 homes.

``The memory is still here,'' Lyons said of the April 1984 tornado.

In May, a tornado was spotted heading toward Morris but didn't hit, he said. The schools' hallways, now the safe spots, could not have handled the 1,050 students in all grades, Lyons said.

Wilson, north of Henryetta, proposes a $105,000 bond issue to match a Homeland Security grant to build a tornado safe room for the school's 350 students and the community, said Superintendent Rick Hatfield.

If the district doesn't get the grant, the bond would build additional classrooms to replace portable classrooms on the school campus, he said. A separate $130,000 bond issue would upgrade school vehicles.

Hominy would use new dressing rooms in a proposed multipurpose high school facility as tornado safe rooms if its $2.7 million bond issue is approved.

Superintendent Malvina Prather said the safe rooms would be open to the public during storms.

The largest of the bond issues will be in the Muskogee school district, where officials are seeking $8.765 million to continue the district's long-range upgrade program, said Superintendent Elvon Gleichman.

The money would be used improve schools' technology equipment, improve locker rooms at Indian Bowl stadium to handle girls' and boys' sports teams, enlarge the magnet school's dining room, improve handicap accessibility and upgrade electrical and security systems, said Gleichman.

A second proposal calls for a $700,000 bond issue to upgrade school buses, he said.

In south-central Oklahoma, Stephens County voters will consider a two-year, 1-cent sales tax that would go toward the county's eight school districts.

The tax would generate as much as $1.5 million annually, benefiting the Bray-Doyle, Central High, Comanche, Duncan, Empire, Grandview, Marlow and Velma-Alma districts.

In Cushing, a $1.67 million school bond issue would be used to refinance a past lease-purchase of gymnasium equipment, replace the school's track, replace the middle school gym roof and make other improvements.

Patrons of the Keys school south of Tahlequah will consider a $1.15 million bond issue to add new high school classrooms and finish a gymnasium and vocational agriculture building, said Superintendent Jerry Hood.

In Commerce, voters will be going to the polls to vote for a successor to Mayor Bill Rogers, who died in May.

Eighteen-year-old Ernie Roher and Jimmie Mullen, 67 _ both graduates of Commerce High School _ are vying for the post.

Roher graduated last spring and plans to enroll at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College as a political science major.

Mullen graduate in 1954 and now runs the Mullen Service Station started by his father.