Blog Page
Saturday October 19, 2019

okw news logo

OKW News | South East Oklahoma Latest News

David Deaton

David Deaton

Digital Editor at Oklahoma Welcome

Google +

Press release

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Collin Walke (D-OKC) released the following statement questioning Oklahoma Regent for State Higher Education Andrew Lester's involvement in the current opioid litigation on behalf of Johnson & Johnson:

“I am absolutely astounded that a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is working on behalf of the very people who are responsible for Oklahoma’s opioid nuisance and who is hoping to reduce or completely nullify the historic judgment that will help bring restitution and recovery to our citizens.”

Andrew Lester is a regent and is also a partner at Spencer Fane. Mr. Lester recently entered his appearance on behalf of Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the defendants and appellants in the recent opioid trial in Oklahoma.

“The universities of this state will be integral in helping to abate the nuisance that Mr. Lester’s clients caused, just look at the opioid settlement money being utilized in conjunction with Oklahoma State University’s National Center for Wellness & Recovery.”

"Unless Mr. Lester is representing Johnson & Johnson pro bono, which I doubt, I fail to see how there isn’t a potential conflict of interest. This is especially surprising given the fact that in an Attorney General’s opinion from 1980, it was explained that ‘when addressing questions with respect to a possible conflict of interest, it appears that a standard which may be derived from authorities is that public policy is contravened when a public official places himself in a position which is inconsistent with his public function or which interferes with his unbiased performance of his duties or has a tendency to induce him to violate such duty regardless of whether it can be shown that the public actually suffered any detriment.’”

“If Mr. Lester wins the case for his clients, Oklahomans lose. So, I want to know who holds Mr. Lester’s loyalty? The universities, its students, and the public at large, or Johnson & Johnson? If it is the latter, then Mr. Lester should decide to avoid the appearance of impropriety and step away from the regents.”

Press release

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-OKC) plans to file legislation in the 2020 legislative session that seeks to connect Oklahoma students with needed and available mental health services.

Dollens’ legislation would require Oklahoma’s middle schools and high schools to print the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line on the back of each student’s ID cards.

“This legislation isn’t a cure-all to deal with the mental health issues our students face,” Dollens said. “It is, however, a pragmatic, cost-effective approach that not only makes it easier for young people to connect with trained mental health professionals, but it also reminds them that they are not alone.

“By making this number more prevalent and available to our school-age population, we can spread awareness on mental health issues, break down stigmas and encourage positive communications about mental health.”

Suicide is quickly becoming one of the deadliest killers of our young population. Legislation to promote mental health is needed and welcomed by the mental health services provider community.

“Suicide in young people in Oklahoma is a terrible tragedy,” said Verna Foust, president of the Oklahoma Behavioral Health Association. “In Oklahoma, we lose an average of two young people each week to suicide. Suicide is a complex behavior with many causes including lack of mental health and substance abuse treatment, bullying, abuse, and feelings of hopelessness and despair. A bill being introduced this session to require public schools to print the National Suicide Prevention Hotline on student ID cards is a great step to help mitigate our teen suicide rates and prevent loss of our young people in Oklahoma.”

The measure is also supported by the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma.

"Mental Health Association Oklahoma is committed to reducing and, ultimately eliminating, death by suicide in our schools,” said Mental Health Association Oklahoma Chief Administrative Officer Wendi Fralick. “Any and all options that support this commitment deserve the attention of our legislators."

And the National Alliance on Mental Illness Oklahoma.

“With suicide the second leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24, it is vital to provide readily accessible help to young people in crisis,” said National Alliance on Mental Illness Executive Director James Bost. “The National Alliance on Mental Illness Oklahoma supports the Student ID bill sponsored by State Representative Dollens to print suicide prevention contact numbers on school student ID cards.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800)273-8255. The number for the Crisis Text Line is 741741.

For more information, please contact Rep. Mickey Dollens at (405)557-7371 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Press release

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Tammy Townley (R-Ardmore) announced that her interim study on medical marijuana advertising, originally scheduled for Oct. 29, has been delayed due to a lack of time available to adequately examine the subject.

Townley requested Interim Study 19-111 to examine the effects of marijuana advertising that implies it is intended to be used for a reason other than medical after a number of her constituents reached out to her.

She said she originally requested an hour to hear from speakers, but due to immense public interest, now believes an hour would not be enough to adequately cover the topic.

“Nearly every Oklahoman has seen advertisements for marijuana that implies it can and should be used for purposes other than simply medical,” Townley said. “This topic has gained a lot of attention across the state, and I want to give this topic the time it deserves for both sides to be heard equally and fairly.”

Townley said she is in the process of rescheduling it as an independent informational meeting, but it has not be scheduled at this time. If unable to schedule as an informational meeting, she plans to meet with stakeholders individually to continue researching the topic ahead of the 2020 legislative session, which begins in February.

Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788 to legalize medical marijuana on June 26, 2018. Legislators passed House Bill 2612 in March to outline the regulatory framework for implementation of medical marijuana.

Press release

Joint task force continues successful campaign aimed at curbing illicit sex industry

TULSA – Law enforcement officials involved in a joint task force have arrested several individuals who orchestrate an organized crime ring that operates front businesses for the illicit sex industry.

Attorney General Hunter said the joint task force is laser-focused on curbing the problem in Oklahoma.

“These arrests have delivered a decisive blow to the illicit sex industry in our state,” Attorney General Hunter said. “We must do everything we can to eliminate this threat to our society. Human trafficking, drug smuggling, robbery and sexual assault are only a handful of the horrific crimes bred out of these criminal networks. Thanks to the efforts from our law enforcement partners serving on this task force, we are winning the war against these evil individuals.”

The ongoing investigation has spanned over a year and a half and combined the resources of the Attorney General’s Office, Tulsa Police Department, Broken Arrow Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents partner everyday with local and state law enforcement agencies in our joint efforts to combat those that are engaged in public safety threats,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin. “Those that are involved in human trafficking and any other exploitation of human beings should take notice that HSI will never relent in our efforts to rescue victims and bring their exploiters to justice.”

The task force has shut down numerous massage parlors, has made dozens of arrests and enjoined hundreds of women from working as prostitutes.

In addition, the task force continues coordination with multiple non-governmental organizations to provide services to the women, including therapy, treatment and other resources.

Submitted by KTC 


Poteau, Okla. – October is Careers in Construction month. Kiamichi Technology Center is partnering with local business, Lowder Brothers Heating & Air LLC, to spotlight how careers in construction play an important role in Oklahoma’s economy and provide career opportunities for the residents of LeFlore County. Oklahoma’s construction industry predicts a growth of 12 percent in the construction industry by 2022.


In 2006, Justin Lowder completed the Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning Technology program at Kiamichi Technology Center’s Poteau Campus. Under the instruction of Barney Green, Justin was able to secure a job at Blaylock Heating & Air in Fort Smith as an HVAC installer. It did not take long for owner, Mike Blaylock, to appreciate Justin’s skill level and promote him to a service technician after only one week on the job. Justin’s brother, Heath, also worked at Blaylock Heating & Air as a service technician hand. Mike offered to pay for Heath’s training in KTC’s night HVAC program. After completing the program, Heath was promoted to service technician as well.


In June 2008, the Lowder brothers decided to venture into the world of small business owners by opening Lowder Brothers Heating & Air LLC. They operated out of a small shop behind Justin’s house in Arkoma. After a couple of years, Justin and his wife, Magen, built a home in Pocola and moved the business to a shop there. In 2017, Lowder Brothers Heating & Air LLC opened a brand new facility at 230 East Pryor Avenue in Pocola.


They currently employ 18 employees with five of these employees being graduates of KTC’s HVAC program. Along with Justin and Heath, Evan Bean, Jeremy Riggs, and Jacob Branscum are products of KTC’s HVAC program. Lowder Brothers has also expanded their operation to include electrical work and they are looking for qualified electricians and apprentices.


The culture of the workplace is important to Justin and Heath. Every Monday morning they provide breakfast and have an optional devotional time where they pray over their employees and their business. Participation is always optional but has been well attended. “Life is stressful enough; we want to provide a stess-free work environment. When we keep God the center of our business stress stays low. Everyone gets along and truly enjoys their jobs. It says a lot when your employees return to the shop every evening smiling even in 100+ degree temperatures.” Justin stated. The brothers also find joy in celebrating their employees’ successes and accomplishments. Heath commented, “Jacob recently bought a new truck. It’s rewarding to watch our employees excel and accomplish their goals.”


Justin and Heath cite the training provided by KTC as a key factor to their success. They are grateful for the quality CareerTech programs offered in our area. “I was able to complete the HVAC program in two years without any student debt and obtain a great paying job. There’s nothing like having the peace of mind that you can support your family.” Justin commented.


While at KTC Justin participated in the CareerTech Student Organization, SkillsUSA. Through this organization he competed in HVAC skill competitions. Justin won the adult student division at the state level 2 years in row and represented KTC in the national competition as well. Justin now serves as a Business & Education Council member for the HVAC program at KTC.


This allows him to contribute to today’s students by keeping the program advised on industry and workforce trends. The Lowder brothers also expressed the importance of the mentors within the industry who helped them along the way. Former KTC HVAC instructor, Barney Green, is still a valued mentor and resource to Justin and Heath.


Their former employer, Mike Blaylock, encouraged their venture of opening their own business and provided them with business advice until his passing last year. For more information on Lowder Brothers Heating & Air LLC follow them on Facebook at


Kiamichi Technology Centers has played an integral role in southeastern Oklahoma communities since 1968, serving ten full and three partial counties. KTC is one of 29 districts in the Oklahoma CareerTech system with more than 30 career programs. KTC also offers a wide variety of evening and weekend short-term courses as well as certifications in many diverse career fields. KTC serves nearly 23,000 individuals each year, including many area companies who receive training through the Business and Industry Services division that works with over 400 businesses annually.



2 Heath Lowder 002

 Heath Lowder checks gauges on an HVAC unit


3 Justin Lowder 002

Justin Lowder displays his HVAC certifications and SkillsUSA awards

Press release

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has reinstated visitation this weekend at the medium-security units of Joseph Harp Correctional Center, James Crabtree Correctional Center, Lexington Correctional Center and Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Additionally, the following facilities have resumed normal operations, including visitation: Jackie Brannon, Eddie Warrior, Mabel Bassett, Kate Barnard, Jess Dunn, Bill Johnson, John Lilley, William S. Key, Howard McLeod Correctional centers, as well as the minimum units of Lexington Correctional Center, Dick Conner, Mack Alford and James Crabtree correctional centers.

Visitation had been suspended and all state facilities were locked down after gang fights that broke out in six prisons the weekend of Sept. 14. Thirty-six inmates were injured and one, Chad Burns at Dick Conner Correctional Center, died. No further violence took place after the lockdown began.

North Fork Correctional Center, along with medium-security components of Dick Conner Mack Alford correctional centers, as well as all of Jim E. Hamilton and Northeast Oklahoma correctional centers remain locked down.


Privately operated Davis, Cimarron and Lawton correctional facilities are also still locked down.

There is no timeline for when those facilities will resume normal operations, but ODOC will do so as soon as the security situation warrants.

"An extended lockdown like this is difficult for our staff and inmates," Interim ODOC Director Scott Crow said. "Their well-being is of utmost importance. That's why we will work doubly hard over the coming days to closely monitor inmates' status to ensure other incidents don't develop due to the strain of the lockdown."

Friday, 11 October 2019 11:48

James Joseph Lilly Obituary

James Joseph Lilly of Poteau, Oklahoma was born on August 6, 1949 in Springfield, Missouri to Gene and Matrie (Pittman) Lilly and passed away at the age of 70 in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Jim is survived by his sisters, Mary Graves of Poteau, Oklahoma, Jean Post and brother-in-law Roger Post of Clarkdale, Arizona, also, nieces and nephews Pat Bilyeu, Cheryl Trotter, and Charlotte Morrison of Springfield MO, Christy Walker, and Randy Graves of Poteau and their families.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Matrie and Gene, an older sister Barbara Bilyeu, and brother-in-law Bob Graves. Jim enjoyed baking cakes for the Samaritan Kitchen as a volunteer, was an avid reader, enjoyed anything pertaining to trains, and was a whiz in helping others with computer issues. Jim also had a gentle heart and had a deep love for his community at Immaculate Conception Parish as well as for his family.

Rosary will be held 6:00 PM Monday, October 14, 2019 at Immaculate Conception Church in Poteau, Oklahoma, and the funeral mass will be held 10:00 AM Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at Immaculate Conception Church with Father Jim Caldwell officiating.


Burial will follow services at Oakland Cemetery in Poteau.


Family and friends are invited to the viewing on Monday from 10 AM – 5 PM at Grace Funeral Home in Poteau in addition to the funeral and burial services.


Jim would prefer that donations in his memory be given to Samaritan Kitchen of Catholic Charities in lieu of flowers.

Thursday, 10 October 2019 13:31

Mary I. Merkling Obituary


Mary I. Merkling, 57, of Poteau, OK passed away Saturday, October 5, 2019 in Ft. Smith, AR. Mary was born November 11, 1961 in Poteau, OK to Roy E. & Mary F. (Francis) Sanders.


She had a kind, forgiving heart.


Mary loved her family and friends unconditionally.


All of her hope is in Jesus and she wants you to know that He loves you. She was preceded in death by her parents and sister, Theresa Gober.


Survivors include her son, Neil J. Merkling of Poteau, OK; daughter, Mary P.  Faria of Sallisaw; brothers, John W. Sanders of Wister OK, Roy Sanders Jr. of Austin, AR, Ray Sanders of Canada, Kyle Sanders of Monroe, OK, Kegan Blake of Shady Point, OK; sisters, Beverly Courtade of Comstock Park, MI, Alyssa Miller of Bokoshe, OK; niece, Tina Shepard of Shady Point; grandchildren, Mary Jane Faria of Athens, GA, Noah James Johnson of Searcy, AR, Evelynn Jolene Johnson & Eleanor Florence Thompson of Sallisaw, OK; other relatives, loved ones and friends.

Private services will be held at a later date.


You may leave an online message at


The family has chosen to entrust the care of the services to Evans & Miller Funeral Home, POTEAU, OK

By State Rep. Lundy Kiger


After seven Notices of Violations (NOVs) and 27 Oklahoma Administrative Code (OAC) deficiency findings from an Aug. 28 Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) inspection, DEQ found multiple causes for unsafe and dirty water being produced in Heavener by clearly stating each of the findings in their final report. These findings by DEQ included violations that showed operations and maintenance of the water plant lacking, water personnel unable to describe the system's alarm sounds and not knowing the set points and many of the perimeters required for proper chemical use in producing potable water for the public.


The HUA held a special meeting last Thursday night to address the DEQ reports, but the city manager and the council didn’t talk about steps moving forward. Instead, some city leaders stated that the DEQ misunderstood much of the data and responses provided by Veolia personnel during the recent inspection and the city is now working with DEQ to clear up the mistakes and the correct report will show the city of Heavener’s water plant is now more in compliance than DEQ stated in their letter issued to the city and HUA on September 23rd.


This was the tone of the city manager and most of the councilmembers who spoke, even after I read out loud the 7 NOVs and quotes from DEQs findings that also included possible threat to environment and to public health. They couldn’t tell me how they could make comments like that to the public when lives could be at risk. The public grew angry with the lack of caring expressed by the council in the meeting and in the last half of the meeting one councilwoman stormed out with her phone and cigarettes and slammed the door behind her.


After a couple days of thinking about what I had just witnessed, from a full house of residents speaking up at the HUA meeting and with the public and Heavener Ledger calling for Veolia to be removed, I decided to look back and think about what I’ve seen and heard over the past 5 months working on this problem with the City of Heavener.


There's no doubt that many on the city council are the problem. Even with the seven NOVs Veolia helped create, the city continues to buy into everything Veolia tells them. The council is made up of people who - except for two – have served at least 10 years. Over those 10 years, the city has lost their Chamber of Commerce; current businesses have experienced higher operating costs due to dirty water; the largest industry in town recently lost their biggest customer due to dirty water; people are unable to bathe or wash their clothes and are forced to go to friends or relatives out of town in order to accomplish this simple task; no one drinks the water and everyday more people are forced to buy bottled water to use to cook; real estate sales are down, and Realtors say it's almost impossible to sell a house in Heavener; more recently, we are hearing of people who are experiencing stomach problems or who have had them over the years


. All of this doesn’t begin to mention the untold amount of cost and damages placed upon the people, the businesses and the industries of Heavener from damaged personal property due to water condition of Heavener.


On top of all of this, most city leaders continue to be in denial about the deterioration of their city both physically and economically. The damage isn’t just affecting Heavener, but everyone living and working in LeFlore County. Heavener is a large part of the county’s economic engine, and if city leaders don’t get a handle on this situation now, each and everyone in the county could be affected by a continued loss of business, revenues and property taxes that are important to county government and all people.


I have said it from day one, the City of Heavener is located in one of the most beautiful parts of SE Oklahoma and could have a great economic future. The city has great people but poor city leadership. Since city leaders deny many of the findings of DEQ's recent inspection, I've requested a meeting with the director of the state Health Department to review the DEQ inspection and to help make the determination if there is a real threat to the environment and to the public's health. If DEQ's findings are correct on the turbidity numbers being reported incorrectly by Veolia, or if the city isn't able to confirm the correct turbidity numbers reported to DEQ, which can hide bacteria that is harmful to the public, then I'm going to call on the state attorney general to review the DEQ report to confirm if all required data was reported correctly, or if they were possibly reported incorrectly and submitted to the state as falsified numbers.


Clean water is what the people of Heavener want and deserve. Veolia has lied repeatedly to city leaders, and it is time for city leaders to wake up and get things right or just get out of the way and let the state do its job for the people of Heavener.


I've dealt with the professionals at DEQ for many years, and I'll put my money on their expertise and knowledge of being right more often than wrong anytime. As I told the city council at their last public meeting, I don't have confidence in what they tell me or the public any longer related to what DEQ has said to them or not as their meetings on resolution continue. So I reach out directly to DEQ to learn what was really happening through public information to know exactly what's correct and accurate.


People in Heavener talk about the time 26 years ago and prior when they could drink Heavener water from a tap, and the water was clear. So what happened 25 years ago to make the difference? In my opinion, Veolia. The company was hired by the city of Heavener 25 years ago, and it is the source and causes of these problems. This is a company that doesn't care enough to maintain or operate the city's water plant correctly and Veolia has done terrible damage to the pipes and water distribution system of Heavener, not to mention the damage done to private property and costs to the people of Heavener.


I've told the people and businesses of Heavener that I'll do everything possible to help the city in producing clean water. But if the city doesn't get serious and start showing more concern now about clean water, putting the public's health at risk or under a threat of possible risk due to unusable water, I will work outside of city leaders and will turn directly to state leaders to make sure the people of Heavener once again begin receiving clean water! But one way or the other, the city of Heavener will one day soon start receiving cleaner water for their needs.

Thursday, 10 October 2019 18:17


Press release

40/29 Get Ready Weather Prepares Pilots for Flights


FORT SMITH, AR (October 10, 2019) – Channel 40 celebrates local community by proudly partnering with the Poteau Balloon Fest. 40/29 Get Ready Weather will serve as the “Official Weather Forecaster” for the event at the Le Flore County Fair Grounds on Oct. 18-19.

“Hot air balloons are highly dependent on weather conditions,” 40/29 Chief Meteorologist Darby Bybee said. “And our experienced team of meteorologists is very excited to get pilots ready for the family fun.”


According to festival organizers, balloon flights are wind and weather permitting. Guests may also enjoy carnival rides, ATV/UTV races, and the Pumpkin Mud Run and Belly Flop.


Admission at the gate is $5 per person. A special Pre-Purchase Family Package which includes 5 armbands is now available for $20. For more information, visit



KHBS/KHOG-TV, an ABC affiliate owned and operated by Hearst Television Inc., has been operating in the Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, and Rogers DMA for over 40 years. KHBS/KHOG-TV’s local and ABC network programming continues to be seen on the station’s primary over-the-air channels, 40.1 and 29.1, as well as Cox Cable channel 7 and HD channel 2007 and ATT U-verse channel 29/40 and HD channel 1029/1040. On DISH Network KHBS is available on channel 40 and KHOG is available on 29. DirecTV viewers can find the station on channel 40. The ABC station is also cleared on Diamond Net on various channel positions. The station’s web address is


Hearst Television owns and operates local television and radio stations serving 26 media markets across 39 states reaching over 21 million U.S. television households. Through its partnership with nearly all of the major networks, Hearst Television distributes national content over nearly 70 video channels including programming from ABC, NBC, CBS, CW, MY Net, MeTV, This TV, Estrella and more. Hearst Television is recognized as one of the industry's premier companies, and has been honored with numerous awards for distinguished journalism, industry innovation, and community service. Hearst Television is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hearst.



Latest Events

No events