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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History


The Ponca City Information website is not affiliated nor associated with the City of Ponca City, the website is provided by Kay County Media LLC as an information website for Ponca City, Oklahoma.

1988 — In January, Ponca City was hit by 12” of snow, with drifts 3 to 4 feet high. Thermometers plummeted to 11 below zero.

Kay County Commissioners filed a lawsuit against the contractor who built the $3.2 million jail in Newkirk, alleging a number of deficiencies. The county asked that the contractor correct the problems or pay the county $150,000 for the cost of repairs. Construction had begun in 1983 with completion to be in 1985. The suit claimed that the jail’s electric cell doors had not ever functioned properly, and that the contractor, Kan-Ark Industries of Oklahoma City, had failed to fully complete construction or make corrections.

“The Nerd” came to the Ponca Playhouse, starring Dave May in the hit comedy.

A Colorado firm was awarded the bid to construct the powerhouse for the Kaw Hydroelectric plant.

The new Prince of Peace Lutheran Church was dedicated, with Scott K. Beebe as pastor.

The EPA and the State Health Department took air samples from homes in the Circle Drive area, where hydrocarbon-laden groundwater was causing unpleasant fumes in the basements of several homes. The City offered to purchase some of the homes but owners rejected the offers.

On Feb. 9, Maynard Hinman of White Eagle closed down the Ponca tribe’s administration building for nine hours. He wanted the Bureau of Indian Affairs to investigate alleged misconduct within the Ponca Business Committee. The BIA agreed to mediate the tribal dispute.

Peachtree Landing received a $41,000 grant from the Department of Commerce’s emergency shelter funding program, putting the agency closer to completion of their building for temporary homeless people.

The Ponca City Toxic Concerned Citizens made the news again when they released their own independent lab findings, indicating high levels of hazardous chemicals in south Ponca City groundwater samples. The test showed the presence of 14 different volatile organic compounds. Soon after, a director of the National Western Division Against Toxic Hazards in Denver toured the southeast neighborhood, and then spoke at a meeting at the High School attended by 500 people. The sludge crisis reached a compromise on Feb. 28, when the City Commission gave the City Attorney permission to buy two of the affected homes, using Ponca City Utility Authority Emergency Funds. The commissioners also approved a clean-up plan offered by Conoco. In March, members of the Toxic Concerned Citizens group met with Gov. Bellmon in Oklahoma City, requesting a health study of families affected by the contaminated groundwater.

Construction got underway on the library expansion project. The basement was dug and outside walls were poured for the new west wing.

A new Cornerstone Restaurant opened at Waverly and South Ave.

On March 29, Vacu-Maid, Inc., with international headquarters in Ponca City at Darr Industrial Park, officially became known as Lindsay Manufacturing.

Conoco agreed, on March 30, to pay a $250,000 fine levied by the EPA for failing to eliminate the emission of pollutants into the air from the Ponca City refinery. The charge was unrelated to the current groundwater pollution problem.

On March 30, the local Fraternal Order of Police filed unfair labor practice allegations with the Public Employees Relations Board. The City refused to pay local police any raises.

Hughes Lumber bought out Wickes at 705 E. Prospect.

In the month of April, Daylight Savings time was moved to the first Sunday in April and the cost of a first-class stamp rose to 25 cents.

On April 14, a delegation from Ponca City carried a document containing over 8,000 signatures to the Governor’s office, showing their support for the way the City and Conoco were handling the south-side groundwater problem in Ponca City. A week later, civic leaders organized a Ponca Pride Rally downtown. Thousands attended the event, which featured the Po-Hi pep band, Conoco’s Hal Haver and Gene Thomas, State Senator Olin Branstetter, State Representatives Holt and Meese, and Mayor Balcer.

A dream finally began to become a reality on April 16, when ground was broken at the site of the Opportunity Village on North Union. Supporters had successfully reached the funding goals for the first phase of construction.

Celebrities came to town for the Land of Opportunity Tennis Classic. Dick Van Patten and his son, tennis pro Vince, Tom Gullikson, Marty Riessen and Sherwood Stewart helped local tennis buffs raise money for the Opportunity Center and Village.

The Ponca City Art Association celebrated their 22nd anniversary. They unveiled a new stone marker that paid tribute to the former Soldani Mansion where the Art Center was now housed.

A renovation project began at the American Legion Children’s Home.

Ponca City became the first city in Oklahoma to install the new Enhanced 911 System. Callers could simply dial 911 and immediately reach a dispatcher who would then send the necessary emergency units.

O.E. “Greg” Gregson and Pat Mulligan were elected to the City Commission, and sworn into office on May 2nd.

The commission approved the naming of a new city park commemorating the former Ponca Military Academy, located on the southwest corner of East Hartford and Academy Road.

A section of U.S. Hwy. 60, extending from the Arkansas River Bridge to the Grant County line, was designated the E.W. Marland Memorial Highway.

On May 9, Jay Johnson was appointed new City Manager, replacing Gene Thorpe.

The south-side “sludge” issue was back in the news. Three Ponca City residents disrupted the Governor’s morning news conference in Oklahoma City with their concerns, and another group of 40 protestors pitched tents on the Capitol grounds, vowing to remain there until southside Ponca City was evacuated. Governor Bellmon came to the campsite and visited with the group.

In May, Sun ‘N Fun, Ponca City’s local water park, opened for the summer. Bill and Betty Rutz, owners, had added a new miniature golf course at the park.

On May 22, Post Newsweek Cable announced that the current cable television system would expand to 50 TV channels and 21 FM stations. Completion was expected by the end of the year.

On Memorial Day weekend, the National Original Regional Horseshoe Tournament was held, with pitchers hailing from 13 states participating in the event. Also, the Cultural Center hosted an Open House in celebration of their 20th Anniversary. And, 85,000 people registered at Kaw Lake during the 3-day holiday.

Fire trucks and emergency vehicles rushed to the Conoco station at 14th & Highland, where pure gasoline was discovered in the drainage culvert. The station had been experiencing the loss of thousands of gallons of fuel each month since January.

Five Po-Hi students attended the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain State Park. Participants were Kathy Blanton, Jennifer Caldron, Sonja Cassity, Amy Jennings, and Marshall Keener.

“Get Fresh with a Farmer” became a motto in June when the Saturday Farmers Market became a weekly event on Third Street between Grand and Cleveland.

In late June, commissioners turned down proposed contract changes offered by the local firefighters union. The union had previously filed two unfair labor practice complaints against the city related to negotiations.

The 4th Annual Ponca City Senior High Summer Orchestra Concert concluded with “A Salute to America.” Ninety musicians had participated in the summer orchestra program.

July 4th weekend activities included the 22nd annual Ponca City Grand Prix races at Lake Ponca, the “Christmas in July” Celebration at Kaw Lake, the Horseless Carriage Club’s antique vehicle show at Pioneer Woman Park, and Jaycees annual fireworks display at Lake Ponca Park.

Dedicated volunteers worked over the long holiday weekend to plant iris and other bedding plants on the Marland Estate grounds, part of a local effort to make Ponca City an “Iris City.”

City Commissioners voted to approve a utility rate increase. Electricity increased 2.64%, water by 7.37%, trash pickup by 8.89%, and sewer service by 5.09%.

The filing period for county, state and federal offices for the 1988 elections opened on July 11. Candidates began to file for offices of county court clerk, county sheriff, county superintendent of schools, and the unexpired term of county treasurer, who had retired.

Construction was well under way on the new Arkansas River 4-lane bridge on U.S. 60 south of Ponca City.

On July 18, local firefighters held an informational picket to call public attention to their continued contract negotiations.

The new Auto Zone parts store opened at 2104 N. 14th St.

According to Larry Fleck, county extension director, the summer of 1988 was the driest summer for the county since 1980.

On August 16, Janna Epperson was crowned Miss NMA at the Grand National Motocross Championship Races.

Governor Henry Bellmon was among the dignitaries speaking at the August 20 dedication of the Smith International plant expansion.

Ponca City named a new city treasurer, Lee Clark, former Budget and Purchasing Officer in Mustang.

Special guest at the 1988 Ponca Indian Powwow was actor Randolph Mantooth.

On August 24, Dupont announced the development of a $5 million pilot plan at Conoco’s Research and Development facility in Ponca City.

Ponca City voters approved a proposition that allowed the city to spend $125,000 more annually in additional economic development funds to attract business to Ponca City.

Frontier Federal Savings and Loan, headquartered in Ponca City, was included in an announcement that 14 insolvent thrifts in Oklahoma had been consolidated. Frontier Federal officially became Heartland Federal Savings and Loan on September 1.

The weekend festivities in early September included Ponca Playhouse’s production of “Crimes of the Heart,” the 2nd Annual Land of Country Antiques and Crafts Festival, and Cherokee Strip Golf classic. The annual Cherokee Strip Celebration was held on Sept. 17.

The 1989 United Way fund drive got under way on Sept. 19 with David Baskin as Fund Drive Chairman. The goal was $601,157.

OCAW members staged a one-day informational picket at the refinery complex on Sept. 21, as contract negotiations between the workers and Conoco remained at an impasse.

Po-Hi Senior Lori Leming was crowned Homecoming Queen with Danny Rodriquez as her escort.

The Cherokee Strip Chili Cookoff, sponsored by Pilot International Club to benefit Hospice, was held at Lake Ponca Park on Sept. 24.

John Sutton was named new Marland Estate Director on Sept. 26. His first event was Octoberfest on Oct. 1st.

The Opportunity Center received a 200-pound chocolate melter to be used in their new Chocolate Factory, one of several business included in the Land of Opportunity Village.

John Myers, president and CEO of the Ponca City Chamber, resigned his position Oct. 12 to accept the senior position in the Austin, Texas Chamber.

The city commission approved ambulance fee increases that were expected to raise city revenue by $50,000 a year. Increases were substantially higher for out-of-town residents who do not pay taxes to support the service.

“Red Ribbon Week” included huge balloon releases at area schools and red ribbons and pins that read “Just Say No to Drugs.” This was Ponca City’s way of recognizing “Drug Free America” week, involving the students, parents, teachers and law enforcements officers.

The new “Safe House” for the Domestic Violence Program opened. The project had begun in May, 1987.

Robyn Monn was named 1989 Ponca City Junior Miss. Britny Wells was First Runner-up, Christina Wasson second runner-up, and the “Spirit of Junior Miss” was awarded to Jaime Holt.

OTASCO, Inc. announced the company had filed for bankruptcy reorganization, and closed 170 stores in 11 states, including the Ponca City store.

In a heavy voter turnout on Nov. 8, Kay County residents elected Glen Guinn, sheriff; Betty Greenwood, treasurer, and Mattie Kimbrel, county clerk. U.S. Congressman, Mickey Edwards was re-elected for his seventh term.

The first local Historic Preservation Advisory Panel was appointed Nov. 14, made up of seven local residents. They would assist both property owners and the city about historic districts and building permits.

A $4 million School Bond issue successfully passed by 87% of the voters on Nov. 15. The issue would fund federally mandated asbestos management, replacement of mechanical systems, and much needed building repairs.

United Way funds reached $643,024, close to $42,000 over goal. There were 18 local agencies that received funding.

A special showing of the docudrama, “The Trial of Standing Bear,” partly filmed at the site of the old Chilocco Indian School, was presented at Hutchins Memorial on Nov. 18. The auditorium was filled to capacity.

The week-long Scouting for Food project concluded on Nov. 19 with over 20,000 cans of food goods contributed in Ponca City.

Electrical problems resulting in fires at the Kay County jail made the news in November. County Commissioners had filed suit against the building’s contractor in December, 1987, alleging construction deficiencies. The suit had not yet come to trial. On November 29, prisoners set fire to the jail.

At the end of November, 14 Kay county residents were arrested in a major countywide drug sweep by the DA’s office and police departments. The investigation had begun in August.

Construction continued on the new indoor rodeo arena located in southeast Ponca City on U.S. Highway 60. Owned by Frank Childers, the building included an arena, animal pens, offices, concessions, and a video game area.

Final inspection was made of the new $360,000 irrigation system at Lew Wentz Golf course.

Moving day began Dec. 12 at the Library, when the children’s section was moved to the southwest area of the main floor, in the recently completed new wing.

Jo Saylors had sculpted a new statue to grace the entrance of the Library’s new addition. School children participated in a contest to name the new statue. Amanda Codding was the winner, selecting the name “Through the Eyes of a Child.”

City Manager Jay Johnson announced that the city would receive a $960,750 windfall, plus interest, due to the structure of a 1984 bond issue.

Fire Chief Jim Bates showed off a new 1989 Ford ambulance with diesel-powered engine.

Old signs were removed at the two local Safeway stores, and new signs were installed on the same buildings for the new Homeland stores.

Construction of the hydro-electric plant at Kaw Lake was reported to be on schedule, with the powerhouse site at the west end of the dam nearing completion. Target date for the project’s completion was May 1989.