With a new year ringing in, many Rogers County residents find themselves reflecting on the year gone by, pondering the ups and the downs of 2012.
For our part, the Claremore Daily Progress pauses for one last look back at the people and events that made the news and shaped the last year.
Rogers County Commissioners.
Some might ask where does it end as story after story unfolded after the release of the Oklahoma State Auditor’s report.
Commissioners Kirt Thacker and Mike Helm took turns in the hot seat.
Thacker was the center of attention due to a criminal complaint that was filed on behalf of a citizen.
The issue dealt with Thacker’s work on private property for the Rogers County Cherokee Association.
Helm’s list of issues was much longer where any topic from vendor gifts to illegal dumping could be included.
The FEMA fund disaster left residents along Keetonville Road asking if or when they would ever get relief from the 2008 flood that destroyed the roadway.
Residents along the Owasso side of Helm’s district received the benefits of the $13 million alternate project list.
Helm used the millions to pave roads and purchase equipment, including a drill rig that none of the county employees are qualified to operate.
Helm’s right hand man, or woman Robin Anderson was not excluded from these issues as she worked to along side him.
Anderson solicited as number of different vendors on behalf of District 2 and the state association of county commissioners.
The request varied from meals to expensive door prizes.
Anderson also was associated with the auditor’s report for provided incomplete documentation of FEMA records.
Ultimately the many different topics of discussion landed the two commissioners right in the middle of an investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
The OSBI investigation continues into the beginning of 2013, leaving residents asking questions.
If the issues of the commissioner’s office were not enough to raise an eyebrow or two budget discussions left some a little uneasy.
June of 2013 will likely bring a million plus shortfall for the county government as the commissioners added a number of new departments and positions.
An E911 director, human resources director and the creation of the new departments came at a significant price to the budget.
Additionally the construction of the new E911 center has yet to see significant development other than costing the county approximately $400,000 a year in operational costs.
Altogether the trial of Rogers County will leave plenty of room for discussion in the New Year.
Election year excitement played a role in 2012 not only because of the presidential election but also due to the heated race between the candidates of the second congressional district.
Dakota Wood, Dwayne Thompson, Dustin Rowe, George Faught and Markwayne Mullin took turns making headlines throughout the race.
Although, none received more attention than Congressman Markwayne Mullin, he won the election despite intense scrutiny.
Mullin battled the Federal Election Commission and reports of problems with convicted felons that worked for his plumbing business Mullin Plumbing.
He proved that ultimately the decision is up to the voters and they spoke loudly as he won with a large majority.
Beyond the District 2 race candidates for Rogers County offices took to the streets door knocking and placing campaign signs.
That is until a woman in a van was captured on videotape removing Sheriff Scott Walton’s signs at a nearby business.
Rumors continued through the campaign regarding different sign thefts or vandalism.
President Obama may have won the presidential race, however Oklahomans maintained the title of reddest state in the nation.
City of Claremore
The city of Claremore created a buzz this year with the addition of the new city manager Jim Thomas.
Thomas came to town after an eventful budget season where the city refinanced its multi million-dollar debt preventing future default.
In the shadow of that decision city employees led a campaign for significant raises for a number of department heads.
Ultimately the city council voted for only a few modest cost of living increases, yet this did not stop some raises from approval.
Another hot issue was the weather and the impact on the city’s water supply. Only a few inches from mandatory rationing the city closely monitored lake levels.
The city’s water woes did not stop there as notices were sent out about the city’s water quality and the year ended with a broken pump at the outdated water plant.
Thomas begins 2013 with a lot on his plate as the city works to improve infrastructure and bring development to Claremore.
Garth’s Day(s) in Court
Claremore resident and Country and western singer Garth Brooks took a Yukon, Okla. hospital to court early in 2012, citing the hospital — Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital — failed to honor an agreement to name a building after Brooks’ late mother, Colleen, in exchange for Brooks donation of $500,000.
Brooks initially filed the breach of promise lawsuit in 2005, and it went to trial in Rogers County in February, with nearly a week of testimony from hospital officials, business associates of Brooks and Integris, as well as Brooks himself.
Ultimately, Judge Dynda Post ruled in favor of Brooks, ordering the return of his $500,000 (donation) plus an additional $500,000 in punitive damages.
Suspected dog dragging death
In September, Rogers County Sheriff’s deputies found the remains of a two-year old Labrador retriever along a rural road near Winganon (northwest of Chelsea), suspecting the animal had been “dragged to death” as indicated by the animal’s legs being tied together and a disquieting trail of fur, according to Sheriff (Scott) Walton.
Donations made it possible for Wild Heart Ranch in Rogers County to offer a $4,500 reward for information leading to the identity of the person or persons responsible — a sum which was later more than doubled with a $5,000 donation from former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer.
A suspect was soon identified in the form of Chelsea man Gary Gwen Hart, 52, who claimed that he had found the dog (already) dead and was removing it.
After a three month investigation, Rogers County District Attorney Janice Steidley filed a single misdemeanor criminal charge of improperly disposing a carcass against Hart.
Claremore residents prayed for rain throughout much of 2012, as Mother Nature withheld precipitation throughout much of the year, prolonging near drought-like conditions across the state.
In July, the City of Claremore reportedly was losing “about half and inch (of water) a day” at Claremore Lake due to lack of rain and evaporation, and requested residents voluntarily conserve water.
By mid-year, Claremore Lake was at a negative 36 inches (water level), and residents began experiencing water pressure problems related to the summer heat and low water levels.