Friday, March 11, 2011

Announcement raises questions

You have to hand it to Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation director Deby Snodgrass.

And several people did at a meeting Friday at the Community Center at the Runestone State Park, but not necessarily in a kind and gentle way.

Snodgrass and other members of her staff braved the meeting regarding the closing of the Runestone State Park.

She announced on March 4 that the Runestone State Park along with six other state parks would be closed.

Snodgrass, who was appointed to the position because she was buddies with Gov. Mary Fallin, walked into a hornet’s nest.

Perhaps she hoped the announcement that Carl Albert State College would take over management of the Runestone and keep it open would sooth the overflow crowd.

It did. For approximately three minutes. That is, until Rep. James Lockhart, who is a Heavener resident and has fought hard to save the park, told the crowd he was not invited to the meeting which was held at CASC Friday afternoon and only found out about it from a friend.

Soon, there were more questions than answers. So, a private group, called the Friends of the Runestone would be formed, mainly so no state funds would be used on the park. Instead, the park will be funded by private donations to the newly formed 501c3 group.

Nope, don’t want any of our tax dollars spent on something that brings an estimated 100,000 visitors to our area! Oh yeah, it is expected to cost around $80,000 to run the park.

I was informed before the meeting about CASC taking over management, and also told that the state pressured the school into accepting the decision. During the meeting, it was announced that Dr. Webb consulted the agreement with regents and it was approved.

One regent I talked with after the meeting said he had no communication with the college and only found out about the agreement shortly before the community meeting.

Maybe I am wrong, but it is my opinion that CASC was a junior college that is supposed to educate our students, not run state parks. I am glad and grateful CASC has stepped up to the plate and will keep the park open, but as was pointed out, CASC already as the Kerr Conference Center and Museum and the museum is supposedly seldom open and there are problems at the Conference Center.

There is also a couple of sticky situations that need to be resolved. First off, there is the deed from Herbert Ward which says that if the park is not kept as a state park, the land reverts back to him. Hmm. Also, neither the CASC regents or the tourism committee have ratified the agreement.

Former state senator Kenneth Corn also said there is money available and the decision to close the park should have not been rushed.

As could be expected, Snodgrass did draw some heated questions. Early on, she said a person in the OTPD decided which parks had to be closed.

One Heavener resident asked what her salary was. Snodgrass looked at her staff then replied it was $86,000. After confirming she was told by the staff person which parks needed to be closed, she was asked why the state could not save $86,000 by eliminating her position and using the person who decided.

She was also raked over the coals on the cost estimates. Snodgrass said it costs $108,000 to run the park, with $84,000 of that coming in personnel costs.

The personnel will be transferred to “vacant” positions with other state parks. So the potential savings is the expected upkeep costs of $24,000 and the revenue of $20,000, so there will be a savings of roughly $4,000 by closing the park, not counting lost tax revenue.

When questioned about the state budget, she said part of the budget went to the state movie operations. Asked if they had made any movies, she talked about one that was made about a former state official (duh!) and then asked how the movie did. Uh, not too good, Snodgrass did not say, but did not have to, either.

But there is still hope, as Corn said. The legislatures are still in session and hopefully something can be done. Even though Snodgrass apparently thinks she has flushed away the problem.

Plus, I smell a lawsuit coming down the highway, one that will probably raise even more questions than answers.


  1. I think I liked your last sentence best of all, throw a lawsuit at them and drag the whole mess out in the open. That will get their attention better than anything.

  2. Thanks for saying exactly what I was thinking during the whole fiasco tonight. I can't remember when I have been so disgusted.

  3. Very well put, Craig. Good for you! Snodgrass is the perfect example of how our government works. Politicians appointing their buddies to high-paying jobs they know nothing about. I'm happy to say I didn't vote for Fallin and won't next time. The crack she made about her opponent in the election (insinuating she couldn't be as good a governor because she had no kids--unlike Fallin's several including step-kids)was enough to show me what a jerk she is. And this appointment just confirms it.

  4. It is obvious The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department doesn't want the responsibility of preserving the Runestone. Has the U.S. Department of Interior ever been approached on this recent matter?

  5. Wow! I cannot believe the amount of partisan overtones in this editorial and the comments following. I don't know what the governor's personal life has to do with the Runestone, but may I say, it is clear that the tone of this whole thing is less than tasteful. Every article I have seen about this matter prior to tonight's meeting and now have been attacking of the Governor and Ms. Snodgrass. It sounds as if everyone was ready to attack her before the meeting even began. Our state is in a financial crisis and unfortunately tough decisions have to be made. I certainly wouldn't want to have to make those decisions and I can safely say that most who are complaining wouldn't want to either. As long as someone is willing to take care of the matter, I don't know what the problem is. It is either cut here or somewhere else. Possibly something far more important to our citizens. The amount of money Ms. Snodgrass makes and the fact that she was appointed makes no difference. You want to talk about people who aren't qualified to have their jobs, there are plenty right here in Leflore County who get "appointed" to do things that haven't a clue what they are doing. There are teachers and administration in our public schools who are making a lot of money off of taxpayer dollars who are to say the least lacking in their skills as educators. You want to find incompetence, you need to look no farther than the county line.

  6. The bashing of our educators has nothing to do with what took place Friday night at the meeting. Craig's blog is spot on as to what happened. I have never witnessed such under handed politics in my life. The manner in which Senator Allen and Tourism Director Snodgrass took it upon themselves to go behind the backs of the people to keep the Runestone open was dirty politics, to say the least. If you were there, you heard and saw the announcement that the Runestone continue to be open. Senator Allen basked in a standing ovation when he made that announcement. Minutes later when the people heard Rep. Lockhart's account of what had actually transpired, the citizens were very displeased and made no bones about it. Want to talk about partisan politics? You need to look no further than YOUR response to Craig's blog.

  7. Responding to the comments about partisanship, there is nothing to that. I do not follow a party line and vote for the person I feel will do the best job. I even voted for Gov. Fallin. I do not attack a particular political party, just dumb moves like trying to close the Runestone in a hurried fashion.

  8. Thank you Craig, you do a great job. Some have tried to make this political it is a shame because it takes the focus off of the real problem....the park staying open is all that should really matter. I also appreciate you having the guts to say who you voted for. Many of us vote for the person, many of us work for what is best for all of us, once someone is elected they become your elected official no matter what party they are I expect them to all work together for all of us. Thank you again for your website Craig we all know you truly care about the runestone! I will have to say that I was embarrassed by some of the terrible comments made at the meeting. Do people not know that we still can have dignity and not yell and scream, and please listen next time so the same questions are not asked over and over again. I take my hat off to Mike Kenneson he is a very nice man and he did an excellent job controlling this mob atmoshere. All will be ok when everyone settles down. Thank you again Craig

  9. The meeting was partisan politics and mob mentality.

  10. I agree with the last statement about politics and mob mentality. I know our people in the Heavener area can act a whole lot better than what happened Friday Night. I did not hear Rep. Lockhart come up with any solution, other than the one that is NOT an option of leaving it in the state park system. All he did is whine about not being notified(he should not have left his office early,AND did his staff also leave early so they could not contact him?) and critcize Sen Allen for TRYING to find a solution to keep the park open. What part of BROKE do Leflore county residents not understand. Thanks to Sen Allen for responding to the peoples request to keep the park open and thanks for pointing out that the reason we are in the $500 million dollar deficit is due to the shortsightedness of the the previous legislature and governor, including Mr Corn who was involved in many of those spending decisions. Thank goodness there will be no lost jobs for our park attendants. I'm sure a job at Wister is far better than no job.

  11. I was appalled by the personal attacks made during the meeting. Yes, Ms. Snodgras makes $86,000 per year and was appointed by Gov. Fallin. However, this was not a newly created position, so the person who held this position under Gov. Henry also made $86,000 a year, was appointed by Gov Henry, and apparently Mr. Corn and the other members of the democratic administration did not have any problem with the position or salary. REMEMBER, THESE DECISIONS TO CLOSE THE RUNESTON WERE MADE TWO YEARS AGO WHEN MR. CORN AND THE DEMOCRATS HAD CONTROL. THEY JUST DIDN'T HAVE THE BACKBONE TO IMPLEMENT THEM. It would be good for the current legislators to evaluate all appointed positions and eliminate or combine duplication of services. I think everyone in Leflore County would agree that it is better to transfer the two employees to Wister and keep their jobs, than to leave them in their current positions, than possibly have to increase the number of unpaid furlough days for the employees at Jim Hamilton Correctional Center. Like it or not, there HAS to be some cuts in spending somewhere. I understand that it is very upsetting when it hits so close to home, but we CANNOT continue the "status quo".
    I'm afraid this is just the beginning of "hard times" for us. Have you noticed the increase in gas prices and food? We better learn how to "tighten" our belts. We are a generation that has never had to do without or discipline ourselves financially or in any other way. Someone has always provided for us, usually our parents or the taxpayers(the government). We may have to work more than one job, or take jobs that do not pay as much as we are used to, or we may have to sweat a little, or work more than one job. OR we can go ahead and become A Socialist country and depend completely on the government. Do we really want to go there?

  12. Just an FYI, the previous tourism director was appointed by the tourism committee, not the governor.

  13. I find it interesting how some of you have made this about politics. It should be about the future of the park and its effect on the community. If I remember right, every time the legislature was told Tourism was going to close parks, they gave them more money. There has never been an official announcement to close parks that I can remember. Corn and Brannon both always seem to find away to keep things going. Just so all the Republicans who keep making this a poltical party issue, the last two years both chambers were controled by the Republicans. It is also important to point out that when they took over the House six years ago, Oklahoma budget was fine and a rainy day fund was full. They just gave away 61 million dollars in additional tax cuts this year that the majority went to the very wealthy. So why don't you quit throwing rocks and help find a way to save the park

  14. All I know is that when Democrats were in office the park remained open. The Republicans have been in charge the last two years in the House and Senate and now of everything. Why don't you stopping trying to blame the Democrats and take responsibility for the fact you now manage the budget not the Democrats. Republicans could save the park if they wanted the fact is they just don't want to find the 100,000 out of a 6 billion dollar budget. Its all about priorities.

  15. Mrs. Snodgras and Mr. Allen went about the whole situation wrong. They rushed down to CASC and had a closed door meeting without notifying any of our city officials or citizens of Heavener. What would have been wrong with coming to the meeting and saying. Well folks here the deal. We have a shortfall of money. Here is a suggestion we have. We dont want to make any definate decisions until we have weighed all our options. Do yall (as in the people who actually live in Heavener and use the park on a daily basis have any solutions or opinions on the matter.) Instead they didnt notify anyone of what they were doing. They already had the paper signed when they showed up. O and by the way Senator Allen was rude as to some of the comments that he made. One for instance was "I had a job when I took this one and I will have one when this job is over." Well thats good to know Senator because your chances of being a one-term wonder are pretty high. It is obvious that he or Snodgras could care less if the park is closed or not because it wont affect there daily lifes. We the people need to step up to the plate and come up with a rational solution to the problem. Carl Albert taking over is not one.

  16. Sadly, the meeting turned to partisan politics. Rep. Lockhart set the tone when he followed Sen. Allens opening remarks. From there it was mostly downhill. The attacks on Ms. Snodgrass were unacceptable because her position/salary are set by the legislature. If that is a problem, then address the Senator and the Representative. The gentleman who spoke about the issue of rural vs. urban was spot on. Folks, we have to come together politically. The legislators from Oklahoma, Tulsa, Cleveland, and a few other Counties can control the vote...and rural Oklahoma is left out. The Dems had control forever and now the Repubs do and John Q. Public, as always, is getting sold a bill of BS. The worst part is that the Tea Party of Wisconsin has invaded the Democrat Party of Leflore County.

  17. What was partisan was that a Republican Senator and a Republican appointee met without including the Democrat State Representative and cut a deal that is not a long-term solution. They did not discuss the issue with the local leadership but instead went to some other people who have political ambitions to come up with a plan that could end up costing the community the park. They were in such a rush to take credit and come up with something that they did not think it through. What I saw was a community reacting very negatively to what they saw revealed to them. Representative Lockhart is elected to represent the people and telling the truth is not partisan. May be the other individuals involved might have known that the people in Heavener would want input. As to the bill of BS, the fact remains that this is not the best solution, that Lockhart was cut out, that the money is available if our lawmakers will try to get it, and if outside individuals who are trying to get credit would allow other ideas come forward then a positive outcome would ocurr.