The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

December 30, 2012

Woodward tornado is No. 6 top story for 2012

ENID, Okla. — Change was in the air in Enid in 2012, with venerable institutions changing hands, others being built or reopening and others being planned or slated for closure.

There were legal issues as well, a crippling drought and the bane of the Great Plains: a killer tornado.

Staff members of the News & Eagle recently took a look back at 2012 and selected the top 10 stories of the year.

Here is a look at the stories that ranked 10 through six. The top five stories of the year will be presented in Tuesday’s edition.

No. 10 — Hiland Partners and Triangle take over Continental buildings; Wymer Brownlee buys 1 Grand Center and the Non-Profit Center opens downtown.

With Continental Resources moving its headquarters to Oklahoma City, Continental Center North was looking for a new tenant. That changed in September, when it was announced Hiland Partners, a midstream energy company owned by Continental founder Harold Hamm, was moving there from Continental Tower South.

At the same time, Triangle Insurance Co. bought the south building from Hamm. The 11-story, 73,000-square-foot building has been renamed Triangle Business Center.

Also in September, Wymer Brownlee purchased the old First National Bank building from Hamm for $1.5 million and announced plans to consolidate its operations there.

August saw Community Development Support Association move into the new Non-Profit Center, located in the former Newman’s Department Store building. Other agencies followed, like Chisholm Trail System of Care, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill Job Connection Center, 4RKids Foundation and Main Street Enid.

No. 9 — Canola plant announcement; wind farm being built.

October brought the announcement that a canola processing plant would be built in Enid.

The plant, operated by Northstar Agri Industries, will process 2,200 tons of canola per day and have an annual payroll of $3.75 million. The plant is expected to create 55 permanent full-time jobs.

The plant will be located east of Enid, near Pleasant Vale Elementary School.

Between Kremlin and Hunter, wind turbines stand like giant toy pinwheels as the Chisholm View Wind Project reaps power from the feckless northwest Oklahoma wind. The 140-turbine farm in northern Garfield County and southern Grant County sells electricity to Alabama power. The project was recognized by the American Wind Energy Association for its innovation.

No. 8 — Jailers charged with rape.

Three female Garfield County jailers were charged in October with sexual battery and bringing contraband into the jail.

Staci Nicole Guffey, Kevina Guadalupe Abercrombie and Krystal Dawn Davidson were charged with felonies. All are awaiting trial.

The three were charged with bringing cellphones and tobacco into the jail, as well as having inappropriate relationships with inmates.

As a result, two male supervisors were fired, in addition to the three jailers, for failing to supervise the female jailers.

No. 7 — Legal wrangling with lawsuit against Zaloudek Grain.

Three lawsuits arising from the August 2011 injury of two teens caught in the floor auger at Zaloudek Grain moved through courtrooms in Kingfisher, Garfield and Oklahoma counties, as well as the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Cherie Gannon, Lee Zander and Rhonda Zander, parents of Bryce Gannon and Tyler Zander, sued Zaloudek Grain Co. and its officers and shareholders for more than $75,000, plus punitive damages. In separate but identical lawsuits filed by the same lawyers, the families assert five counts of negligence against the grain company.

Zaloudek Grain and its workers’ compensation insurer, CompSource Oklahoma, continued skirmishing over CompSource Oklahoma’s refusal to cover the teens’ injuries. CompSource Oklahoma had canceled Zaloudek’s policy months prior to the accident because of Zaloudek’s failure to provide information needed for audit.

In February, U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regional office in Dallas handed down $21,500 in penalties against Zaloudek Grain, in addition to those imposed by the Oklahoma City area office in late December 2011.

Meanwhile, an Oklahoma County judge sustained Zaloudek’s motion for summary judgment against CompSource. CompSource appealed that decision, and in September, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the insurer, saying the company was authorized to cancel Zaloudek Grain’s policy. The case was remanded back to Oklahoma County District Court.

November saw lawyers for the teens filing a motion seeking a restraining order, preventing Zaloudek Grain’s owners from transferring property worth more than $100,000.

The negligence suit against the company was assigned to a new judge in November. That judge, Garfield County District Judge Dennis Hladik, ruled the company couldn’t use its suit against CompSource as an excuse not to cooperate with lawyers for the injured teens.

Hladik gave William and Robert Zaloudek 15 days to answer discovery requests from the families’ lawyers, and 45 days to appear for depositions.

The judge found Mike Parrish, the manager of the grain facility, and Ethan Parrish, a witness to the events on that day, in contempt of court for not showing up to give depositions to the families’ lawyers. Hladik ordered both the Parrishes to either appear and cooperate by Feb. 8, or appear in court to be fined and held in jail.

Hladik set an April 1 deadline for all discovery to be completed in the lawsuit, and scheduled pretrial conference for April 25.

No. 6 — Woodward tornado.

Early on the morning of April 15, a massive tornado hit the west part of Woodward, causing extensive damage and loss of life.

The storm claimed six lives and injured 36 people. The storm impacted 224 homes and businesses in Woodward County. Of those, 73 were destroyed, 22 sustained major damage and 21 had minor damage.

Area emergency responders and relief organizations poured into Woodward in the wake of the disaster. Federal disaster assistance was requested, but denied.

Tuesday: The top five local stories of 2012.

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