Alva Review-Courier -

Marijuana, swimming pool comments at Alva City Council

 

August 23, 2019

Marione Martin

An overflow crowd filled the Alva City Council Chambers during Monday's regular meeting.

An overflow crowd attended the Alva City Council meeting Monday, Aug. 19. A couple of firefighters brought in extra folding chairs to accommodate the visitors. This was the first meeting where the citizen remarks and inquiries section was moved to the front of the agenda. Previously, those wishing to make comments had to wait through the entire council meeting until the end.

Mayor Kelly Parker set out the guidelines. Those wishing to speak were told to stand at the podium, state their name and limit their comments to two minutes. He assigned Councilman Brandon Sherman to time the remarks. Parker also explained that council members were not allowed to answer questions or make statements during this time. They could only listen.

An audience member asked if visitors would be allowed to comment or ask questions as topics came up during the following meeting, and Parker said no. Comments were limited to this time only.

It is only in recent years that the citizen comments section was added to Alva City Council agendas. There is no law requiring that citizens be allowed to speak during regular meetings.

Thirteen people made statements. Several of them did not finish but had to stop at the two minute warning. Topics included the medical marijuana ordinance, the swimming pool, city streets, the ONG franchise tax and the roof leaks at the city-owned Professional Building. Some speakers covered two or three topics in their two minutes. Overall, the comments took about 30 minutes of the meeting which lasted from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The entire meeting may be viewed online at AlvaReviewCourier.com.

Professional Building, Audits and City Business Manager

Meagan Caldwell opened the comments telling the council the duties of the city's business manager. "His duty is to see that various departments are operated economically and efficiently in the best interests of the city," she said.

She then spoke about city audits, stating that since 2015 the Alva Hospital Authority has operated at a loss with a negative amount of working capital. She said last year's audit resulted in $5.818 million in debt just for the hospital. (The city owns the hospital, but it is operated under the auspices of the Alva Hospital Authority and is audited separately from the city.)

Caldwell also stated, "There have been 24 deficiencies listed in the audit since 2014. This is due to the irresponsible handling of our city manager."

As she has in previous council meeting, Caldwell detailed the history of roof leaks and mold reports to the city. She said she asked for a reduction in rent but was told, "If we felt he (Business Manager Joe Don Dunham) was negligent we should file a tort claim."

Caldwell said, "I believe that he shouldn't be neglecting his duties in every area telling people that if they don't like it, they can sue the city. It's already happening in several instances."

The evening's council agenda included an executive session which was to include a six month performance review of Dunham. Caldwell concluded, "I'm here to respectfully request the city council consider terminating Joe Don as the city business manager."

Later during the meeting, the city council approved the only bid received for replacing the roof of the Professional Building. They have said in past meetings that mold remediation will take place after the roof leaks are stopped.

Medical Marijuana Ordinance

Jeffery Madden made a brief statement, "Alva Ordinance 2018-004 is a blatant overreach of power. It's open knowledge that board members voted on this ordinance without being properly prepared. Based on that fact, revisions must be made. The citizens have not been represented properly. We need to find a common ground, we need change and we need it now."

Lenny Reed spoke next. He commented on what he saw as the declining business community in Alva and said the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary would fill a business space and bring in more sales tax. He did not finish his statement in the two minute limit. However, he sent his statement to this newspaper as a letter to the editor. You can read it in that section of the paper.

Michelle DuPree told the council, "I am here to put before you my and several like-minded individuals' intention to peacefully protest the ordinance that is in place regarding medical marijuana (MMJ). I myself am not an MMJ licensed patient; however, that doesn't prevent me from being an advocate, and I seek your acknowledgment in this matter.

"This protest includes an ordinance that effectively prevents an MMJ establishment from opening within the city limits, particularly in light of the fact that one such establishment met all the requirements handed down from the OMMA (Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority), passed the fire marshal's inspection and was not allowed to open. This protest will be on Sept. 4, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the courthouse lawn here in Alva.

"We count on you to do what is best for the citizens of this city without letting your personal beliefs and opinions impair fair judgment. Many of your constituents believe that you have failed on this issue. I know that people have approached you spitting venom and making demands, and we are not that people. We are choosing to gather together and exercise our right to peacefully protest in the hopes that you will understand how these ordinances are affecting patients in Alva who have decided to medicate not with pharmaceuticals but with medical marijuana.

"For that reason I humbly invite you to come out and meet the patients who are waiting to have easy access to the medication they chose. I invite you to take hold of one of the many informative flyers we will have on hand and read the facts about how medical marijuana is treating diseases and chronic pain. I invite to mingle, ask questions and familiarize yourselves with the need of your constituents."

Cindy DuPree, mother-in-law of Michelle, produced a written statement and asked Michelle DuPree to read it for her. "I support everything Michelle said, and I will be protesting with her and many others. I didn't always support marijuana as a medicine. I was taught my whole life that marijuana was a bad addictive drug. I had to change my views because of my own medical issues. I have scoliosis, chronic back pain, three slipped discs in my back, fibromyalgia, arthritis, headaches attacks and anxiety. I also have Huntington's disease, which is a terminal brain disease with no cure and only one medication that is horribly expensive and has very bad side effects.

"I had to change a lifetime of bias against marijuana, and cannabis has helped me so much. I now can stand for longer than 10 or 15 minutes without crying. My anxiety attacks are at a minimum. My fibromyalgia is manageable, and it helps with the muscle pain from Huntington's. The only problem I have with using MMJ as my medicine, I can't get MMJ here in Alva. I can't drive long distances, which is why I am protesting Alva's MMJ ordinances, and I hope you understand why we need to fix this."

At this point the crowd applauded, and they continued to applaud after each following citizen statement.

Jewel LeDou told the council, "I'm here also to talk about the miracle marijuana. I have benign essential tremors, and it is not Parkinson's. And I can't even eat with a spoon or a fork. And I'm hoping that this medical marijuana will help me, and I'm willing to try it, but we don't have that facility in Alva and Cherokee has two, Waynoka has one, and I think it would help the revenue of our city if we had a facility in our town.

"Also, I would like to praise you, the city and your employees for the streets that you are asphalting. They are just wonderful. And thank you very much."

Christopher Smiley spoke on several of the issues. Regarding the marijuana ordinance, he said, "I didn't want to speak about marijuana. I didn't know that was going to be an issue at the meeting, but I'm of the opinion I don't think we need a bunch of vice cops or vice laws governing people's behavior. I think what they choose to do inside the walls of their own home as long as it's not harming anybody else is their business. I don't think the city should get involved in zoning out business because they don't like it."

Shane Corbitt waited until the end of all the comments before approaching the podium. "I'm the owner of Joint Pains LLC. I don't have a lot to say to you folks other than thank you for letting us join. These folks in here make me do what I do. This lady right here (pointing to LeDou), she's willing to change. She's willing to give something a try. This lady right here is why I opened my doors. That lady (motioning toward DuPree) is why my wife and my daughter go to work every day in Waynoka at our other facility. And these folks right here have come out to support us as a family. And you're telling them no. That's all I've got to say."

Alva Swimming Pool

One of the items on the city council agenda was to accept the outcome of the GO bond issue election on Aug. 13. That bond issue, based on ad valorem taxes on property inside the city limits, was to help pay for a new aquatic facility. It was defeated by a two-thirds margin.

Terry Shorter addressed the council, "I'm here to speak about the pool. I am a proud no vote for the pool. I was one. I voted no, not because I don't think that Alva needs a pool. I grew up with a pool in the city. I don't believe that we need the pool that was proposed. I think the votes that were no were votes for that reason. I would proudly be a part of any group working toward consensus so that we might have a pool here in Alva for the next 80 years. Thank you."

Christopher Smiley had some comments about city streets, "The streets in this town are getting addressed somewhat in some places in some kind of strange manner, but I don't see the progress that other people seem to see." He said chip seal was used on his street and it was "destroyed after less than two years. I'm sick of driving on it and sick of driving on half the streets in this town. It's bad for my car's suspension; costs me more money. If you're going to pave the street I recommend you spend the money necessary to pave it properly. You can do what you want to do, but that's my two cents."

Smiley then moved on to the pool, "I voted no for the same reason as the last person spoke about. I think it's fiscally irresponsible to overburden people with taxes and then ask them to pay more. I think it's also irresponsible to ask people who own property or a home in this town to pay more rather than everybody. If I used the pool, I'd expect to pay for it whether that be an annual due or per time I come use it. And I think that your behavior, Mr. Parker, is totally irresponsible online, and I think that you need to publicly apologize to Meagan Caldwell."

Jacque Ruhl had a different perspective, "I just want to talk about the pool. I did vote yes. We're spreading the cost out among those who come into town or those who own homes. And I didn't see the increase as being that significant." She said a pool is an asset to businesses and everyone in town.

"I hope you continue to find some kind of middle ground that everybody can agree so we can get a pool going sometime, and I appreciate the work you've done for the city. I think it takes a lot on a person to hear criticism while you're having to bite the tongue doing it. It's commendable. So keep up the good work."

Tom Crenshaw was mainly interested in the franchise tax, but he added comments about the pool. "I would like to hope anyway that you would start over on the pool situation. Maybe look into fixing the pool if it is possible. At least find out what it would take. If not, maybe refinance it. Most everybody that I talked to that was a no vote wasn't against the pool. It was against how it was being financed."

Franchise Tax

Crenshaw continued, "My main issue here is this ONG franchise. You're going to get a chance, I guess, to possibly redo what you've done. This was one of the publications of that ordinance and all that was in there under the legal notices. But one thing's left out of it, the date of the election. I don't know how much notice you have to have before the election it's published or not, but my understanding it this is the legal notice.

"Plus I hope that some of you others have given more thought to it like Mr. Winters did. This is a pass-through tax. You're raising that tax from 3 to 4 percent, all you're doing is taxing your own people, yourselves and people of Alva. I think you found out last week that the people of Alva have decided they've had enough tax. I don't know what happens if this gets voted down. I'm assuming you're going to get nothing. If we're doing a franchise tax, don't tax the people. Get something from ONG. Maybe even make them maintain a pay station in Alva where you can go in and pay your bill."

Other Issues

Kelly Schrock discussed a different issue, "I'm confused on how we pick what ordinance we want to enforce. We get a medical marijuana shop that's going to go in that's going to support and put tax dollars back. We get it up or we shut down or whatever.

"We get housing additions, we get trailer houses that come in and go through the process and our city manager says let's go ahead and move this trailer house on 8th Street. It took me five minutes to see that all the paperwork that was submitted to him was wrong. And I shouldn't have to do that as a private citizen. I don't work here. I live here.

"And our city manager goes, 'it's not my fault. It must be our inspector.' And I've had a council member tell me 'it must be our inspector. He's new. He's brand new.'

"If you can't supervise people, you shouldn't be in a supervisor role. Supervising people is hard, ridiculously hard. But if you're going to make them the scapegoat because we got screw-ups in our government, we need new government. I don't know what else to say."

Patrick Dooley made a statement starting with information about himself. Then he said, "That being said, the little mishap that happened while my city government tells me that they're disappointed in the way that I as a citizen of Alva act, who goes to church and speaks as a godly man, it kept everything I could do from not commenting on it.

"I don't agree with everything this panel has to choose for me and my family. And sometimes because I'm afraid of either losing my job or the backlash my family will get, from the people that work here or the people that are going to read this piece of paper, that keeps me from saying a lot of words. But I will say that I am disappointed in actions that people that are supposed to me higher than me talk to the city of Alva because it was a vote. Two-thirds of the people of Alva voted. We're not dumb. These people aren't dumb. They're well informed. They notice the tax." At that time, he was informed his two minutes were up.

 

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