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AM NewsBrief: Dec. 14, 2022

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022.

Western Heights severs ties with its superintendent

Embattled Oklahoma City school district Western Heights has decided to sever ties with its superintendent. The outgoing superintendent oversaw two years of operational failures that led to the district being put on probation and investigations by the state auditor and OSBI.

Mannix Barnes served as superintendent at Western Heights where he earned $220,000 a year — one of the highest superintendent wages in the state. And during his two-year tenure, the district lost hundreds of students and over a third of its employees, financial mismanagement was rampant, academics were tanking and the district spent nearly $370,000 in legal fees to fight his subsequent suspension.

Barnes’ district contract was set to expire in 2024, but he agreed to retire at the end of this calendar year, be stripped of his educator’s certificate and is barred from suing the district in the future. And for that, he’ll get a $150,000 settlement.

In a statement, the district acknowledged the settlement might not be popular, but it was necessary to avoid a lengthy trial and legal fees — especially because the district has already spent over half a million dollars in legal fees since June last year.

EF2 tornado rips through small Oklahoma town

A small Oklahoma community is picking up the pieces after a confirmed EF2 tornado tore through the area early Tuesday morning.

Uprooted trees, severe damage to multiple homes and dangling powerlines—that’s what residents in the small McClain County town of Wayne woke up to early Tuesday after the tornado tore through the tiny community.

It was part of a line of storms that spawned numerous tornado warnings in Oklahoma and Texas yesterday.

The storm also forced Wayne Public Schools to cancel class due to a lack of electricity.

No injuries in Wayne have been reported.

EMSA record cases

The Oklahoma County area set a record for ambulance calls last week. That follows a trend — with calls spiking this year.

EMSA administers ambulance services across the state. The organization issued a release saying its western division broke its one-day call record on Dec. 9. It responded to 447 calls that day, breaking its 2013 record. That was set after an EF5 tornado struck the area in May of that year.

The release says the division’s calls are up 11 percent for the first five months of this fiscal year. Statewide, numbers are surging too.

"We usually predict a 1-3% increase year over year, and right now, we’re looking at between 6 and 7. Which, you know, doesn’t seem like a lot. But for a system of our size, it is a very, very drastic increase," said EMSA spokesman Adam Paluka.

EMSA serves about 1 million Oklahomans, mostly in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas. It’s unclear why the call numbers have been rising, but the area has seen a large outbreak of both respiratory syncytial virus and the flu.

Bethany/Warr Acres sewage spill update: now with even more sewage spill

A wastewater treatment plant in northwestern Oklahoma County was found to be leaking untreated sewage into Bluff Creek more than ten days ago. Over the weekend, temporary pipes carrying the wastewater to a nearby facility for treatment also sprang a leak.

The Bluff Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant handles sewage from Bethany and Warr Acres, but the facility is located just west of Edmond. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is investigating what caused the plant to leak sewage into the creek.

Until the Bethany/Warr Acres utility can address the issue, it’s using temporary pipes to divert its waste to an Oklahoma City treatment plant less than a mile away. Shellie Chard with the DEQ says it’s unclear how long cleanup and repairs might take

"Oklahoma City has said that they will allow the emergency connection as long as needed—but of course, this can't be a years-long kind of thing," said Chard.

That solution hit a hiccup over the weekend when the temporary pipes carrying sewage to the Oklahoma City plant sprang a leak. But Chard says it didn’t pollute any waterways. It’s now under control.

Mexican consulate to open in Oklahoma City this spring

A Mexican consulate is scheduled to open in Oklahoma next year.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on Tuesday a Mexican consulate is scheduled to open in Oklahoma City in spring 2023. Stitt says the consulate will provide assistance to the state’s growing Mexican population and promote relations between Oklahoma and Mexico.

Mexican diplomat Consul Edurne Pineda has been appointed as Head Consul.

This follows tentative plans to open a Mexican consulate last year being pushed back due to leadership and location changes.

Currently, Mexican immigrants living in Oklahoma rely on the consulates in Arkansas and Missouri to get access to services like passport renewals and birth certificate attainment.


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