NSU renovation can begin after judge's decision

Wednesday, May 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ Officials can begin renovations to Northeastern State University's football field and stadium after a judge ruled that a sales tax election last year was valid.

Two Tahlequah residents sued the city, claiming that officials failed to publish a legal notice about the election 10 days before the Oct. 9 vote.

In his ruling, Judge John Maley said that while the city failed to publish the notice, ``there is nowhere in the law or case decisions that declare that the failure to publish or post will invalidate the election.''

Maley, a district judge from Okmulgee County, was assigned the case when Cherokee County judges recused themselves.

Proceeds from the sales tax, which passed 982 to 971, will be used to complete $2 million worth of renovations at NSU's Gable Field.

Nearly $300,000 in tax revenues have been collected since Jan. 1, but officials couldn't use it until the lawsuit was settled.

Tahlequah Mayor Jerry Cook admitted the city didn't publish the announcement, but said he believed numerous articles in area newspapers provided enough information for voters.

``More than 2,000 people, including Mr. (Kirk) Erickson and Mr. (Orel) Dugger, voted in the election,'' Cook said. ``In a well-publicized city election, we max out at 2,400 votes, so I don't know how it could have been a sneaker election.''

Monte Strout, the attorney for Erickson and Dugger, the plaintiffs, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Now that the judge has ruled, a committee that is handling the renovations will meet Thursday at the college to discuss when the work will begin, Cook said.

City officials hope to have artificial turf installed at Gable Field by the start of the football season. Contractors said it would take about 90 days to install the turf.

Other parts of the renovation include rebuilt locker rooms and restrooms and an all-weather track. Those projects would wait until after the 2002 football season.