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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History

1997

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1997 — New officers for the 1997 Chamber of Commerce, under the direction of Jan Jarrett, CEO and Economic Development Director, were Chairman - Scott Dean, Pioneer Technology Center; Chairman Elect - Richard Severance, Conoco Inc.; Vice Chairman - Craig Myers, Monumental Enterprises, Inc.; Treasurer - Jim Lindsay, Pioneer Bank and Trust; Immediate Past Chairman - Larry Felix, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. Lisa Coy was named General Manager and Assistant CEO. The Economic Development Foundation had been dismantled, and the Economic Development Advisory Board was established in its place. The City was helping fund the economic development operation on a contract with the Chamber.

Ground was broken for the expansion of The Pioneer Woman Museum on January 8. Nearly 100 people gathered for the long awaited event. Madalynne Peel used a special shovel in helping to turn the dirt. It was the same shovel that had been used 40 years ago when ground was broken for the first museum.

Governor Frank Keating was the featured speaker at the Chamber Banquet. Genevieve Pollak, representing the Ponca Tribe, presented the governor with a 32-inch bronze replica of the statue of Standing Bear. The statue was to become a part of the permanent art collection at the Governor’s Mansion. Oklahoma Casting, recipient of the Small Industry Award, presented Keating with a miniature of the Pioneer Woman Statue. Danny Head was named Outstanding Citizen.

Carl Renfro presented the Inaugural Community Service award to Sue Boettcher. The award had been created in the past year to recognize an individual who made a specific and significant contribution for the betterment of Ponca City during the last 5 years. Sue was particularly recognized for her grant writing abilities.

Joann Muchmore resigned as executive director of the Poncan Theatre. She had returned to Ponca City in 1991 to assist with the restoration of the theater.

Jerry Steichen, a former Fine Arts faculty member at Northern Oklahoma College, opened on Broadway with a role in the play “Master Class.”

On January 17, Velta Reed-Johnston resigned as superintendent of Pioneer Vo-Tech. She had accepted a new job in Guthrie as program manager for vocational training.

Bald Eagle Viewing at Kaw Lake was scheduled for Saturday, January 25.

Commissioners approved a 5.8% rate reduction for PCUA customers as part of a $1.2 million reduction throughout the next fiscal year.

Classical guitarist Robert Bluestone appeared at the Poncan Theatre. He had first played at the theater in 1994.

Businessman Chris Hand announced he would run for City Commissioner, District 2, a position held by Dick Bird. Attorney Tom Leonard announced he would run for City Commissioner, District 4. Greg Gregson had announced his intent to seek re-election.

Steve Stalcup was elected to serve on the Board of Education. The three mill levies were also passed.

The Homeland grocery store was remodeled for a new Albertson’s Food and Drug store.

The City hired Randy Lauritsen as the new city engineer. He had been an engineer at Conoco for 30 years.

Special District Judge Donald Welch stepped down from the bench at the Kay County Courthouse, concluding five decades of public service, including 31 years as an assistant district attorney. Special District Judge Robert Galbraith was sworn in by District Judge D.W. Boyd to replace Welch. Galbraith was previous assistant district attorney for John Maddox.

Matt Dodgen, Stockton Graves, and Chris Forbes placed seventh in the state wrestling matches. Not since 1991 had the Cats had three state medalists. Dodgen was also named Frontier conference Wrestler of the Year, and Graves was named to the All-State Squad.

The School board approved renovations to the exterior of the Howell Building. They also approved updates in the auditorium, including house lights, stage lights, curtains, and sound systems.

Two new residential halls, Summers and Holloway, were added at the American Legion Children’s Home.

Assistant Superintendent Sally Downey was named Superintendent of the Pioneer Technology Center, replacing Dr. Velta Reed Johnston.

Construction began on the 5th Street extension from Hartford to Prospect in March, and continued throughout the year.

LaWanda French, long time manager of the Ponca City Cultural Center, Hutchins, and Cann Garden Center, retired in March.

Immigration and Naturalization agents arrived in Ponca City on March 19, apprehending 77 undocumented Mexican nationals in Ponca City and Blackwell.

The Ponca City News became an Internet service provider.

Po Hi Athletic Director Rusty Benson announced that longtime Lady Wildcat head coach Larry Rehl would not be offered a coaching position next season. Rehl had been with Po-Hi for 11 years.

Voters in the April City Election defeated the question to sell the Cultural Center and approved renewing the one-half-cent sales tax for street improvements. Tom Leonard defeated incumbent Greg Gregson, and Chris Hand replaced Dick Bird as City Commissioners.

New construction throughout the year included Leach Paper, Center Line, U.S.A. Bottling, and St. Joseph Cancer Center.

The Po-Hi baseball team won 24 regular season games, more than any team in Ponca City history. They went on to win the Regional tournament, the first time in 23 years. Pitcher Rocky Hughes broke a 39-year-old school record for the most pitching wins, finished off the regular season at 12-0 with an ERA of .95, and was named Frontier Conference Pitcher of the Year. He was also Ponca City’s first baseball All-Stater since the early 70’s. Big swinging first baseman Josh Shafer finished the season with a team-best .444 average, led the team in most major hitting categories, and was named Conference Player of the Year. Coach Roydon Tilley was declared Coach of the Year.

Earl Sullins, former Po-Hi coach and athletic director, was honored in a two-hour ceremony at Robson Fieldhouse. Sullins received a large plaque engraved with the names of 200 friends and former players, and he was nominated into the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame.

Skate World built a new facility west of Lowes.

Post Newsweek Cable TV installed fiber optic transmission lines at a cost of half a million dollars.

The complexion of downtown changed somewhat with the opening of several antique malls, including Grand Ole Mercantile, Grand Galleria, and Crafters Mall. Joanne’s Hallmark became Carla’s Hallmark and moved across the street from the Post Office.

Former mayor John Raley returned to Ponca City to practice law.

Ron Arthur and Dana Pulley were hired as new basketball coaches at Po-Hi.

In order to reduce the budget, the Board of Education voted to cut 12 1/3 employee positions and certain programs including driver’s education.

Po Hi golfer Casey Orr became an All-stater after leading the Cats to their ninth straight appearance in the state tournament, where they finished a respectable tenth. It was Orr’s fourth trip to state, where he finished in the Top 15.

After winning the first regional team championship since 1987, the Po-Hi girls’ tennis team made a valiant run at the state tennis title. Romi Foreman and Melissa Collogan placed second in doubles, while Natalie Lindsay and Abbie Frick took third. In singles competition, Michelle Means had a third place finish, while Ashley Roussel finished ninth. Overall, the Lady Cats finished third in the state.

A new home was built for the Domestic Violence Shelter.

More than 700 former and present students, teachers, parents, and many friends of the old Lincoln Elementary School gathered for an open house and reunion.

Allan Goodwin was hired as the new high school band director, replacing Steve Workman, who retired in May.
City Commissioners approved the 1997-1998 budget with no reduction in city services. They also approved a water, solid waste, and wastewater fee increase.

Mid-America Door and Precision Tool and Die both expanded their facilities.

The Lady Cat Softball team piled up a 31-19 season, won the regional tournament, and made their third state appearance in four years. Pitcher Julie Schiltz finished 15-5, upping her career record to 60-29, a new record for most wins. She also was named to the All-Region II, All Conference, and All-State teams. Coach Tilley was declared East All-State Coach and Region II Coach of the Year.

Standing Bear Park saw several enhancements including a brush arbor, native grasses, tourist information stations, and a large tram to transport visitors to the monument area and the viewing plaza, and construction of a new temporary headquarters/visitor center.

DuPont announced the start-up of its global information technology alliance with Computer Sciences Corporation and Andersen Consulting. About 400 DuPont Information Systems employees were transitioned to Andersen Consulting, and 2,600 to CSC. A number of jobs were saved at the Conoco Complex due to the diligent work of Conoco executives encouraging the firms to keep the jobs in Ponca City.

Thorn Apple Valley meat processing plant started a new production line, bringing the boneless ham operation here from Council Bluffs, Iowa and adding about 70 jobs.

The Ponca City Tourism Authority moved their Information Center from the Chamber offices to the Cultural Center on East Grand.

The Ponca City Country Club celebrated their 50th Anniversary.

A water, solid waste and wastewater fee increase went into effect July 1. For residents, there was an 8% increase in water rates, an estimated 29% increase in wastewater and solid waste was a 4.3 % increase.

School board members voted to reduce the budget by an additional $550,000 by cutting ten support positions, and reducing two teaching positions.

Steve Nida, Ponca City Mid-High Principal, and Chuck Bayha, Po-Hi Assistant Principal, resigned.

Tom Short, Assistant City manager, resigned to accept the position of city administrator in Carthage, Missouri.

There were 70 Ponca City teachers who attended a Great Expectations seminar at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Friends of Education paid $14,000 for all the teachers to attend.

The Higdon/Harpster building at Grand and 14th Street was revamped to become the home of First National Bank of Oklahoma.

Ponca City had a new area code, shifting from 405 to 580. The Corporation Commission had approved the split in June. Also, Southwestern Bell Telephone added to the existing prefixes of 762, 765, and 767 by adding 718.

Home National Bank of Arkansas City purchased First National Bank. They installed a new drive-up ATM.

Pioneer Bank and Trust became the first bank in Oklahoma to make rural economic development loans.

The $1.7 million 12-acre landfill expansion began.

Construction of the new Math/Science/Business Center at the High School was complete, as well as the new Weight Training Facility.

On the first day of school, students attended classes at their brand new Lincoln school.
School administrators hired Larry Rehl to teach Drivers Education at Po-Hi after school hours.

On September 5, the City dedicated the new $9.2 million upgraded water treatment plant.

Toni Gibson doubled the size of her store, Toni’s Westside Drug.

United Way moved ahead in a positive mode under the leadership of Director Helene Schwartz. The campaign fund drive followed the theme “Keys to a Caring Community,” with a goal of $585,000. Under the leadership of Campaign Chairman, Brad Dickey, volunteers raised a total for 1997 of $603,455. They also received a grant for a community service AmeriCorps Program. Ruslyn Hermanson was hired as the director of the new program.

In September, the fire department purchased two new state-of-the-art fire trucks, replacing the outdated 1969 and 1975 models.

Ponca City residents passed the $3.5 million bond issue to continue Phase II of the school’s Capital Improvement Plan.

City crews laid water mains and relocated gas lines in preparation for the $1.9 million four-lane widening project on Union Street from Hartford to Prospect.

The Ponca City Utility Authority named Rusty Edwards as the new manager of electric utilities for the city of Ponca City.

A new Super Sonic opened on North 14th St.
 
An added attraction at the Ponca City Post Office was new hand painted murals. Area artists who drew and painted the murals were Marian Goodwin, Gene Dougherty, Margaret Yates, Ruth Loucks, Donna Flood, Dale Coons, and Bobby Holroyd.

Kathy Adams was named Director of the Marland Estate, and was also in charge of the Cultural Center and Hutchins Memorial.

District Attorney John Maddox announced his appointment of Newkirk attorney Phil Ross as his first assistant district attorney.

A Super Conoco Station and Car Wash opened on North 14th St.

At the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism, the Marland Mansion won the award as number one tourist attraction in the state.

The seven-year battle over a new fire station ended in November with the passage of a half-cent sales tax increase. The proceeds were to be used for the renovation and remodeling of the No. 1 Fire Station on Grand and 5th Street. In the meantime, firemen were temporarily housed at Conoco.

In 1997, the President’s Club of the Chamber officiated at 31 ribbon cuttings for new businesses.

New facilities were completed for Ponca Iron and Metal south of town.

Throop Lawn and Garden Equipment moved to South Highway 177.

Timothy McVeigh was found guilty of bombing the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.

The Festival of Angels brought many tour buses to the area.

Po-Hi Varsity cheerleaders competed against 71 squads at the National Cheerleading Association National Competition in Dallas and were ranked 17th.