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YEAR IN REVIEW – Looking Back at 2019

Editor’s Note: 2019 is now history, and a lot happened in the past year. Over the next three editions, the Yukon Review will take a look back at what the year brought. Today, we look at January through mid-April.
JAN. 5
Not much changed at the county government level as several officials were sworn into office. Among those who took the oath of office were District Judge Paul Hesse, county commissioners Marc Hader and Jack Stewart, along with special judge Khristen Strubhar. District Judge Jack McCurdy, County Assessor Matt Wehmuler and county Treasurer Carolyn Leck were sworn in later.

JAN. 9
For the first time, the city of Yukon’s reserve accounts topped $6 million.
That came three years after the city was forced to drastically cut expenses, including jobs, after finding itself with less than $3,000 in its account. Officials say the account has grown impressively since City Manager Jim Crosby returned to the office in April 2016. A large portion of the reserve total, about $2.5 million, came as the result of a the city selling land it had purchased earlier for a new city hall.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed against two of the city’s accounting firms that the city said were responsible for the financial downfall continues. The case was still pending at the end of the year. A trial date is set for May 4.
Efforts to create a one-stop location to help Canadian County victims of domestic violence took a major step forward after District Attorney Mike Fields began pushing the effort. The county agreed to help support the facility and will locate it, initially, at the Children’s Justice Center.

JAN. 16
An evaluation was ordered for a Yukon man after he was part of a 90-minute standoff with police. The standoff occurred outside of the Yukon Police Department.

JAN. 19
A Yukon woman took it upon herself to help reduce a problem that is growing — school lunch debt. Heather Clark started a gofundme account that raised almost $400 to help pay off debts of some Yukon Middle School students.

JAN. 23
Manna Pantry, a local food bank, held a fundraising effort as it prepared for an increase in recipients after federal employees were furloughed.
The organization also extended its hours to meet the need.

JAN. 26
Three Canadian County residents were hospitalized with the flu. Across the state, more than 450 people were hospitalized with the illness.

JAN. 30
Sherry Poage, a longtime Yukon supporter, was named the Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s H.B. Frank Citizen of the Year winner. Poage grew up in Bethany but has lived in Yukon most of her adult life. She also was instrumental in re-esta-
blishing Yukon’s Main Street program.

FEB. 2
A Skyview Elementary program that unites athletes with special-needs students won a national honor. Skyview Buddies was named a National Unified Champion School, and is one of only a few in the state to receive the honor.

Sheriff Chris West questioned the leadership of the county’s Republican Party organization. West said the organization was not serving the best interest of the county’s residents after its leadership sent a letter that urged the state to stop funding education.
Members of the leadership were later removed during the county convention.
FEB. 6
The Yukon School District settled a lawsuit with the family of a student who was sexually assaulted by one of his teachers. The district and the family settled the case for $52,000. The teacher, Hunter Day, later pleaded guilty to rape charges and was sentenced to prison.

FEB. 9
Six candidates were vying for spots on the Yukon City Council, including longtime member Earline Smaistrla. Among the candidates were former council member Ken Smith and newcomer Jeff Wootton, who eventually won the election. Wootton is a teacher at Yukon Middle School.

FEB. 13
A Yukon substitute teacher was arrested after authorities in El Reno said he tried to solicit sex from a minor through a social media site. Jeffrey Smith later pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to seven years in prison along with 12 additional years suspended.

FEB. 16
An attorney for a Yukon businessman questioned whether the city’s law dictating where medical marijuana dispensaries could locate was discriminatory. Attorney Rachel Bussett represented Jason Wesley Hodge and Charles Edward Bradley III. District Judge Paul Hesse later ruled the law was not discriminatory.

FEB. 20
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell gave a boost to a fundraising effort at Southwest Covenant Schools. The Big Vision effort by the school was being used to raise money for a capital project that includes a new high school and sports complex. The school is to break ground on the facilities in January.

FEB. 23
Canadian County District Attorney Mike Fields announced that he would not seek criminal charges against former Yukon City Manager Grayson Bottom. The investigation into Bottom’s role in the city’s financial problems began in early 2016. Fields said the investigation found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on Bottom’s part.

FEB. 27
Kathy Fowler, an area Realtor, was selected as the new president of the Canadian County Republican Party. Fowler defeated Andrew Lopez at the county convention after Sheriff Chris West urged a change in leadership.

Several Yukon schools scored well, according to the state’s academic report card. Lakeview Elementary School scored an A, while Independence Elementary schored a B. The middle school and high school both scored Cs. Very few schools across the state scored above a C, officials said.

The city of Yukon filed a lawsuit against more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of pushing their medication on unsuspecting patients, creating an addiction problem.

The Yukon City Council approved a 6.8% raise for City Manager Jim Crosby. The increase brought Crosby’s annual salary to $149,000. City attorney Gary Miller also was given a raise. He is earning $79,500.

After more than a year without a full-time director, the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center selected Daniel P. Kern to head the agency. Kern was fired in November after being accused of sexual harassment.

Yukon students raised more than $38,000 during its first MILL Week. They money was donated to a Yukon student who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy. Part of the donation included a handicap-accessible van.

Two people were killed when their plane crashed while landing at Sundance Airport. The pilots, who died on impact, were identified as Doug Durning and Britton Lee, both of Oklahoma City.

A Piedmont man accused of killing two teenagers in a car accident in December 2017 asked that results of a blood-alcohol test that was administered after the accident be thrown out. The judge ruled against David Cochlin, who was later convicted of second-degree murder.

The search continued for a Mustang man who went missing in Cozumel, Mexico. Blake Mitchell was reported missing March 13. He has not been found.

Whitney Bruton, a teacher at Independence Elementary School, was named the district’s top teacher for 2019. Bruton teaches special education and was one of 11 finalists for the award.

Plans for a tax-incremental funding district for an area near Frisco Road moved forward. The TIF district is located in an area in which an on- and off-ramp to Interstate 40 will be constructed later this year.

Yukon police, along with the FBI, sought a suspect in connection with an armed robbery at RCB. A suspect was later arrested in connection with several robberies and was sentenced to prison.

A Canadian County rural water district reluctantly agreed to provide water to the location of the new county fairgrounds. The water district will re-sell water that it purchases from El Reno.

The Yukon School District approved a policy that allows students with medical marijuana licenses to use the drug while at school. It sets out regulations related to students, but also established policies for school employees.

The lack of commercial land available in Yukon could become a problem for growth, an expert said. Yukon, he said, has fewer than 2,500 acres of land available for commercial development.

After months of renovations, officials reopened the Yukon Veterans Museum. The renovations included the construction of new restrooms at the facility, 1010 W. Main. The museum is now in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Dr. Jason Simeroth, Yukon’s school superintendent, was honored by his peers as the Superintendent of the Year. Simeroth has served as Yukon’s top education official since 2014.

Canadian County’s population growth continued to lead the state, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Officials say the county’s population has grown by more than 4,000 people since 2017.

Bob Funk, who owns Express Ranch in Yukon, was inducted into the Clydesdale Hall of Fame. Funk has been involved in the Clydesdale industry for more than 20 years.

After months of anticipation, the Canadian County Commissioners finalized a deal to purchase 50 acres of land near El Reno to be the home of the county’s fairgrounds complex. The county paid $1.5 million for the property.

Fifteen Yukon High School seniors were honored as the 2019 valedictorians.

The Yukon School Board approved $2,000 per year pay raises for the district’s teachers. The new salary means that Yukon’s first-year teachers start at $40,500, which is among the highest in the state.

MAY 11
A Canadian County jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Christopher David Cochlin guilty of two counts of
second-degree murder in the deaths of two Yukon teens in 2017. The jury recommended that Cochlin be sentenced to life in prison.

Heavy rains inundated Canadian County, washing out roads and stranding dozens of people from their homes.

MAY 15
More than 22,000 pounds of food were donated to Yukon’s Manna Pantry as part of the annual letter carriers’ food drive. The annual drive is one of the main food drives for the emergency pantry.

MAY 18
A Tulsa man was convicted after a trial that lasted almost three months of two counts of first-degree murder. Derek Don Posey was sentenced to death in connection with the slayings of Amy Gibbons and her son, Bryor. Posey is appealing his conviction.

MAY 22
Hunter Day, a former Yukon teacher, entered a blind plea to charges that she had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student. Day was sentenced to three years in prison for second-degree rape and soliciting sex from a minor. She also will serve seven years of probation.

MAY 25
City Manager Jim Crosby unveiled a “flat” $53 million budget for 2019-20. Crosby said the budget did include a 3% cost of living pay increase for employees.

MAY 29
An EF-3 tornado struck El Reno in the dead of the night, decimating a large swath of the community’s east side. A mobile home park, hotel and car dealership were heavily damaged. Two people died in the storm.

Efforts to improve access to Mulvey Pond at Yukon’s City Park continued. Officials completed several projects that made the pond and fishing piers handicap accessible.

Yukon’s assistant superintendent, Dr. Sheli McAdoo, resigned after accepting a position as superintendent in Purcell. McAdoo had been with the Yukon School District for seven years.

Heavy rains washed away a large chunk of State Highway 4 north of Yukon, prompting the heavily traveled road to be closed for several days.

A former teacher at a private Catholic school in Yukon was accused of sexting with one of her students. Samantha Brasses was charged with unlawful communications with a minor. The case is pending.

Two Yukon residents were named to state panels. Kari Stomprud and Dr. Carisa Wilsie were named to the board of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

The Canadian County Educational Facilities Authority said it will continue to provide funds for the county’s libraries. However, at a much-reduced rate. The county provided about $30,000 to a library consortium, which was about half of what has been provided the past few years. Officials said the fund from which the money is derived has been reduced.

Plans to build an on- and off-ramp at the Frisco Road and Interstate 40 intersection hit a snag when Oklahoma City decided against purchasing about five acres of right-of-way that is needed for the project. Yukon has since sought to obtain the property by condemnation to ensure the project moves forward.

A native of Yukon was among the victims when a skydiving plane crashed in Hawaii. Casey Williamson was 29.

Gov. Kevin Stitt paid a visit to Canadian County, where he pledged to bring the state into the Top 10. Stitt was the guest speaker at a joint meeting of chambers of commerce from Yukon, Mustang, El Reno and Piedmont.
The unions representing the police and fire unions, along with the city, agreed to contracts that over the next three years will provide 7½ percent pay raises. The contract is retroactive to July 1.
Thousands of people turned out over July 3-4 to help celebrate the Fourth of July with Yukon’s annual Freedom Fest. The event featured food, activities, music and two nights of fireworks.

The City of Yukon filed a condemnation lawsuit against two property owners and an outdoor advertising company to obtain land needed for right-of-way access. The land is part of a project that will create on- and off-ramps at Interstate 40 and Frisco Road.

Don Rowe, who was elected to a full-term on the Yukon School Board in February, resigned after he moved from his zone.

The Yukon School Board named Heather Mitchell as the new principal at Parkland Elementary School. She replaced Lance Haggard who was promoted to be the executive director of elementary education.

The city of Yukon announced that country musician Pat Green would headline the third annual Rock the Route concert in August.
Rob Davis, a former Yukon teacher of the year, was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in May at his home. At the time of his arrest, Davis was an assistant principal at Norman High School.

A Tulsa man who was convicted in the murders of a Calumet woman and her five-year-old son was sentenced to death. Derek Don Posey had been convicted earlier after a three-month trial.

A list of victims from Tate Publishing was finalized by the state’s attorney general’s office. The owners of the Mustang company pleaded guilty to criminal charges earlier in the year. More than 500 peple were confirmed victims of the scheme.

Lingo Construction Co., an Oklahoma City-based company, was selected to be the general contractor for the new Canadian County Fairgrounds Complex. The company will charge a 5% fee based on the cost of the project.

AUG. 3
More than 100 new teachers were hired for the new school year by the Yukon District. The number is down considerably from the previous year when 150 new teachers were hired.

AUG. 7
Chris Cunningham, a Yukon police captain, was selected as the replacement for Don Rowe, who earlier resigned after moving from his zone. Cunningham was one of two candidates for the position. The other candidate was Terri Niles.

AUG. 10
A wet spring caused delays in the long-awaited replacement of three bridges on State Highway 4. The project, one of three projects on the highway, will replace three bridges with a single bridge. It also will move the road about 15 feet west of its current location.

AUG. 14
Eight area churches combined their efforts to provide school supplies for children into a single event, held at the Good Fight Church. Hundreds of area families participated in the event.

AUG. 17
More than 8,700 students headed back to class in mid-August. By later in the year, the final enrollment numbers were above 9,000.

AUG. 21
New exhibits, more rides and carnival food awaited area residents at the 2019 Canadian County Free Fair in El Reno. Officials said this year’s fair was the best-attended event in several years.

AUG. 24
A new program that celebrates children’s birthdays debuted at two Yukon schools. Independence and Lakeview Elementary schools are participating in the Beautiful Day Foundation program. There are plans to expand to other schools in the future.

AUG. 27
Strong storms struck Canadian County bringing torrential rain and strong winds. More than 68,000 people in the region were left without power.

AUG. 31
More than 10,000 people poured into downtown Yukon for the third annual Rock the Route. The event featured a performance by country musician Pat Green.

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