The Durant City Council held their regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening at City Hall.
Durant Mayor Jerry Tomlinson presented city service awards to employees. The Mayor also declared October Domestic Violence Awareness month in the City of Durant.
In regular business, the Council approved a special event permit for Halloween activities at Remington Hills sponsored by the Remington Hills Homeowners. A special event permit was also approved for the Be a Hero 5K sponsored by the Bryan County United Way.
A grant was accepted from the Office of Attorney General in the amount of $53,884.14
A 2018 Emergency Management Performance Grant was accepted by the council. This grant provides $10,000 per quarter. Bryan County received $40,000 for the year. Bryan County Emergency Management Director James Dalton said “We have received this grant several years. It helps offset the cost of maintaining the local Emergency Management office. The State has been good to us about this. We have received this grant for multiple years. We receive other grants too, from time to time. We may get other grants like this also.”
The Durant Trails and Open Space match fund request was tabled until a future meeting.
Durant Market Square will see improvements with a block grant the City of Durant accepted. The $91,114 grant totaled half of the approximately $180,000 improvements planned for Market Square.
Grants Coordinator Becca Collins said, “The improvements will include ADA compliant restrooms, canopies, additional electrical and lighting. It will also include crosswalks and signage.”
The parking canopies will be aligned north and south.
Collins said, “They will be aligned to the back of Roadhouse, north and south. When there is not an event taking place, cars will be able to park under the canopies. When there is an event, or the tables need to be set up for the farmer’s market, they would use those canopies for those events. They will be multi-use canopies.”
The Council voted to deny a tort claim on the advice of OMAG.
Community Development Manager Marty Cook explained to the council about the Larkspur Lane Extension road construction project. The City of Durant currently owns the property and $560,000 will be spent on the project.
Cook said, “It will extend Larkspur Lane 2100 feet. This will be to construct the road.”
Brandon Wall explained the city pool situation to the council. He said, “When the liner was removed, the pool looked fantastic. We did not find any cracks.”
According to officials, $305,000 will be spent in this first phase of the pool rehabilitation. The Health Department would not pass or approve the liner that had been in place for years. The pool was in danger of being closed.
City leaders were able to get approval from the Health Department on this project.
City Manager Tim Rundel said they gave their OK for it to be done in phases. Phase 2 will come after the next summer season in 2018-2019.
Rundel said, “Myself and the city engineer were on a conference call with the Oklahoma Department of Health. We had to make improvements and there was no way we could have the liner one more year. We had to make improvements to the liner, gunite, drains and valves and the issues that needed to be taken care of.”
The project being done in two phases helped the city with this project and keeps the pool open for each summer season.
Wall Engineering was given approval for professional services to engineer, design, bid and construction administration for Phase I of the Carl Albert Pool Rehab project.
A request for rezoning from A-1 Agriculture to R-1 Single Family Residential for property located south of US70 Bypass and west side of Cemetery road was heard. The former daycare, located at 3509 W. Arkansas, was approved for a rezoning request from General Residential to Highway Commercial. Texoma Engraving will occupy that location for future business.
City Councilwoman Oden Grube was recognized for her contribution to a new City of Durant Utility Department water billing modification that will be outlined further in a future issue of the Durant Daily Democrat.
The Durant Airport Authority gave approval to designate the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission to act as an agent of the City of Durant for a project of rehabilitation and extension of Runway 17/35 at the Durant Regional Airport-Eaker Field.
In a surprising move, Former Fraternal Order of Police President, Durant Police Officer Shane Walker addressed the city manager and the Durant City Council in the citizen comment portion of the meeting.
Walker said “I’ve been a police officer for 12 years and over the last couple years I have slowly watched the morale of the police department dwindle down, to where there is no morale currently. When the morale was up, officers showed up to events in their off time like the Christmas parties and the Bryan county police officers association picnic. Very few do now and it’s a shame. The city manager was made aware of the issues at the police department when he arrived and continues to do nothing. I served in the army on active duty and I’m a veteran of operation Iraqi freedom. My morale six months into my deployment to Iraq was higher than what it is now. Now only is there no morale, a vote of confidence was taken, where over 60% of the department had no confidence in the administration. The city manager was also made aware of this, and only said it was ‘concerning.’ Something is terribly wrong when your officers have no morale and lost the trust and confidence in the administration. The city manager knowing all this and not doing anything about it does not help the morale.
“The city manager came to a Fraternal Order of Police meeting and it was brought to his attention that numerous officers were looking to leave and go other places due to these issues. The city manager’s response to this, was ‘we were like trash men, we were replaceable.’ The city manager also said if his salary was doubled, he would still not do a police officer’s job.
The citizens should know that it takes up to a year to get an officer through all proper training to safely work on the streets as a solo officer. It takes an officer up to three years to where he is comfortable working solo. Having said that, there is at least four officers that could retire at anytime, and we are already short four officers. This is not only affecting the safety of officers currently working the streets, but should now be a concern of the citizens.
This entire situation bothers me. Four times I have almost given my life for this city. I have had a gun pressed into my chest with a bad guy digging his thumb nail into my finger trying to get to my trigger. Two of my partners stood face to face for 45 minutes in a stand off with a man who had murdered a family member and their pet. This is just a couple incidences of what officers go through but examples of why morale is so important. Officers throughout the department are willing to give their lives to protect the citizens of this city and any tourists who maybe passing through. That’s why this is a such shame for this to continue in the direction it is. The police department should be a safe haven for officers, where they can go and be able to de-stress, this is not the case at our department. The tension within the police department is noticeable just walking in the door. Officers don’t like going to the police department for this reason.
“I am fully aware I may be suspended or possibly terminated after speaking to the council tonight for bringing negativity on the department, which in fact I’m addressing what negativity the administration has allowed. For that reason I brought my 10 year old daughter here tonight to teach her a lesson, that no matter the outcome, you stand up for what’s right. I hope the city manager and council will do the right thing. Thank you for your time.”
City Manager Rundel gave the Durant Daily Democrat following statement Wednesday afternoon in response to Walker’s comments to the Council:
“Last night Officer Shane Walker read a prepared speech during the public comments portion of our meeting. Mr. Walker claimed I made some statements at the FOP meeting in July of this year. I would to respond by saying –
“No. 1. I do not refer to the men and women that work in our Sanitation Division as “trash men.” That is demeaning and I would never do that to them. What I have said several times is that all city employees play a vital role in our organization and I do not rank the value of one employee’s worth vs another employee. If we do not have our garbage picked up at our homes, restaurants and other business for a length of time, we would immediately create a major health risk in our community. Last night was the second or third time (since I was hired 11 months ago) that someone representing the FOP/Durant PD has made a derogatory reference at a council meeting about our employees that work in our sanitation department. I believe these employees are owed an apology from Mr. Walker and the others that keep making these demeaning remarks. Just because a police officer is paid 2 or 3 times the salary of an employee of those working hard to pick up their garbage each week from the curb, doesn’t mean that a police officer is 2 to 3 times more important to my organization.
“No. 2. I did indeed say that I would not take their jobs for twice my pay. However, I was not specifically referencing the Durant Police Department. I said working in law enforcement. Also, Mr. Walker forgot to add the next sentence I made after my remark at the FOP meeting which was, ‘If I worked in law enforcement and went on a domestic call and discovered children were being abused, it would be very difficult for me to restrain myself from taking the law into my own hands.’ I was being very transparent. I have citizens and employees that tell me on pretty much a daily basis that they wouldn’t have my job (as a city manager) for all the money in the world. That statement does not offend me because they realize the magnitude of the responsibility of a city manager – just like I realize the magnitude of the responsibility of law enforcement officers.
“I’m disappointed that the public comment section of our council meetings has now turned into ‘open mic night’ in order to take cheap shots at city employees and council members. It’s unprofessional and I certainly hope it comes to an end soon. I’ve expressed my concerns with the Mayor and I’m hopeful that we can put measures in place that will bring the focus of council meetings toward making our city a better place to live and work … instead of a platform to humiliate our co-workers.”
As of 5:51pm Wednesday, Officer Walker was not under suspension. Officer Moore, who was suspended after his remarks to the council last month, is still on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, according to City Manager Tim Rundel.
Contact Dan Pennington at (580) 634-2162 or email@example.com.