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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History

1987

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1987 — Jerald Stone, Post-Newsweek Cable Television General Manager, announced in January that Ponca City’s cable television system would be rebuilt at a cost of $4.5 million. Construction would start in June.

Commissioners approved a $1.4 million project to eliminate flooding in west Ponca City neighborhoods. Phase one of the drainage system renovation started immediately.

WBBZ Radio celebrated its 60th anniversary on the air by giving away $10,000 cash, which included a grand prize of $6,000. They also converted the transmitter to the “All New Sound” of AM Stereo.

Whiting Furniture, in business since 1945, closed their store at 115 N. 4th and held a liquidation auction.

To help promote tourism, the city proposed a 3% guest tax, which would be collected by motels and hotels. Voters approved the tax.

Mazzio’s Pizza opened at Fifth and Prospect.

All-State Band winners included 12 Po-Hi students. Over 600 musicians had tried out for the 90 positions.

Former Mayor Lee Brown was honored as the “Outstanding Citizen” for 1986 at the annual Chamber banquet.

A new Head Country Barbecue Restaurant opened at 1405 E. Princeton.

Officers confiscated 34 poker machines from the VFW and the American Legion. Three Ponca City men were arrested for allegedly operating gambling establishments. The raids were initiated by the District Attorney’s office.

The United Way campaign, headed by Dr. Gene Harlacher, exceeded its goal of $536,070 by over $50,000. There were 15 local agencies that benefited.

The Red Cross trained and certified 610 people in First Aid and CPR. St. Joseph Regional Medical Center instituted the Lifeline program.

Six candidates competed for three positions on the Ponca City School Board. Incumbent members Sue Clark and David Baskin were re-elected, and Richard Brown was elected for the other available seat.

A new building at the corner of 11th Street and South Avenue was the home of Elite Laundry and Dry Cleaners, owned by Scott Wilson. The 5,500 square foot pre-fab structure also has a coin-operated laundry and a convenience store.

Interior modifications and renovation at the airport terminal were approved. Mayor Balcer felt that the appearance of the facility was important to cast a positive first impression for visitors.

In February, Ponca City and Kay County lawmen rounded up about two dozen suspects in a drug bust.

County Commissioner Tony Vap was found guilty for lying to a 1985 federal grand jury regarding an investigation of kickback schemes in county government. Vap was automatically suspended as commissioner.

Kirk Warren McBrain was convicted of the 1984 kidnapping, rape and murder of a Ponca City teenager and for breaking out of the Kay County Jail on New Year’s Eve. He was sentenced to life plus 140 years.

Municipal Court Judge Max Berry threatened to jail local parking violators who failed to pay parking fines. His tactic proved successful when several local citizens took the hint and settled up with the traffic court clerk.

Residents living next to North Union successfully petitioned against property assessments levied for construction of a half-mile section of the street just south of Prospect. An estimated tax of $710,000 would have been assessed against area property owners. The protest forced city officials to consider other ways of paying for city street improvements.

The City and the Fraternal Order of Police reached a contract agreement after over nine months of negotiations. The agreement contained 14 changes in the old contract, but did not include a pay raise.

The Po-Hi wrestling squad took second place at the state 5-A wrestling tournament in Stillwater.

In March, not long after city officials settled a contract with the police, the city firefighters’ union reached a contract agreement after 11 months of negotiations. Terms of the 1986-1987 agreement did not include pay raises.

On March 13, city commissioners unanimously approved a $4.1 million “shopping list” of city improvements and capital equipment purchases. The money would come from the Ponca City Utility Authority reserve fund. Projects included west Ponca City flood control, intersection improvements at 14th Street and Prospect, and the establishment of the E-911 emergency telephone system.

Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole was named the 1987 recipient of the Pioneer Woman Award. She accepted the award in a ceremony at the Marland Mansion Renaissance Ball.

Po-Hi Lady Wildcats basketball team won the state 5-A championship by beating the girls of Tulsa Union 52-30 at the state finals in Tulsa. Christi Soper and Charlene Alden were named to the girls all-state basketball team.

Robby Tatum and Jason Jouret were awarded all-state wrestling honors.

Ponca City Library staff reassessed the building expansion and renovation project costs, and returned to the City Commission for approval of the project. The board approved allocation of $1.2 million, with an additional $500,000 to come from private donations.

Gary Boyer was elected to the City Commission, winning 64% of the votes. He outpaced opponents Bill Shelton and William Sunken by winning every precinct in the city. Boyer stated that he planned to “attack the city’s fiscal problems as well as the city streets issue.” Retiring Commissioner Don Linder said he enjoyed his four years in office more than anything in his lifetime. Commissioner Hubert Watts, who ran unopposed, automatically regained his seat for another three-year term.

The Po-Hi girls tennis team won the conference title. Coach Don Lambring commented, “You’ve got to feel good when all four of your entries take first place.” The team went on to win the state Class 5-A tournament in late April. Players Stacy Stotts and Grace Riddle were named to the east all-star tennis team.

Milton Lesemann was sworn in as District Two county commissioner, replacing Tony Vap who had been suspended from office. Gov. Henry Bellmon appointed Lesemann.

After receiving a study from an appointed task force, the city commission approved an ordinance that grants industrial electric rate discounts to large local employers. The commission took the action to enhance Ponca City’s economic development bargaining power. The discounts helped the Chamber of Commerce and municipal officials to lure Smith-Gruner International to Ponca City, relocating 100 new jobs here.

Flooding caused an estimated $2.5 million in damage to Kay County roads and bridges in what was called the “wettest year in Oklahoma’s history.”

The 9th annual Free-Wheel bicycle tour stopped in Ponca City for a night. The 2,000 bicyclists camped out on the Ponca City High School grounds.

New Conoco President and CEO Constantine S. Nicandros, while making his first visit to Ponca City, predicted that the price of oil would hold steady at $20 during 1987 and increase slightly in 1988.

After a six-year absence, the Ponca City Grand Prix races at Lake Ponca returned.

City voters passed a one-half cent sales tax for city streets during a special election held July 14. Two other one-eighth cent proposals for economic development and capital equipment were defeated.

Bert & Ben’s service station on the southwest corner of 7th Street and Central was torn down to make room for a parking lot for First United Methodist Church. The station first opened on October 8, 1934.

E.W. Marland’s widow, Lydie, died in late July. She was 87. After returning to Ponca City in 1975, she had lived in a cottage on the mansion grounds. Her memorial service was at the Marland Mansion. Her brother, Ernest Marland Roberts and Conoco Vice President Gene Thomas were among those in attendance.

A petition to recall Mayor Balcer was initiated in late August by the Concerned Citizens Group. The petition charged that Balcer wasn’t functioning in harmony with the city’s best interest, was narrow in his views and administered his office in a partisan manner. It also alleged that he refused to nominate long-time city officers for another year of service.

Don Putnam retired as General Manager of WBBZ Radio in August. Kathy Adams was hired to take his place. She came to Ponca City from Wichita.

In September, the Mayor confirmed charges from the petition. He said he chose to dismiss the city manager because Thorpe failed to keep him informed of important city business. Thorpe had been city manager for eight years. Balcer did not cite reasons for terminating Stewart, who had served as Airport manager for 15 years. Commissioner Marilyn Andrews said the dismissals were attributable to a flaw in the city charter that ties the hands of the commissioners when the mayor makes annual reappointment decisions. Commissioner Hubert Watts called the terminations an injustice and said the public should be made aware of it. City Engineer Al Cates resigned his position because the city failed to grant his staff pay raises.

On September 22, the historic 101 Ranch general store building burned to the ground. The 70-year-old building was the last major structure still remaining from the days of the 101 Ranch Empire, valued at $100,000.

Jennifer Clark was crowned Po-Hi 1987 homecoming queen.

On October 13, ground-breaking ceremonies were held for the Ponca City Library expansion project. Mayor Balcer commented that he wished his mother could have seen the event, as she had been a librarian at the Carnegie Library, the city’s first library. LeMonnier Construction had submitted a low bid of $1.54 million. The library’s new wing and interior renovations were due for completion in the fall of 1988.

Petitions for the recall of the mayor, which contained names of 2,300 citizens, were submitted to the City Clerk in mid-October. They were later ruled insufficient after nearly 400 signatures were thrown out for various reasons.

The Ponca City Main Street Authority took responsibility for lighting a downtown city Christmas Tree, the first one in ten years.

On December 2, voters approved the proposed E-911 emergency telephone system by a 92% margin. The installation and operation of the system would be paid for by a surcharge added to monthly telephone bills.

In early December, former City Manager Gene Thorpe and former Airport Manager Fred Stewart accepted jobs in Texas and Illinois. Commissioners hired Merle Helt to replace Stewart. A new city manager had not been named, so Assistant City Manager Tom Short was serving in an interim capacity.