Interim police chief appointed; Standing Bear Street project approved; Husen memorial project approved

February 12, 2024 | Featured|Headlines

PONCA CITY — Ponca City Board of City Commissioners approved projects and employment changes at Monday’s city commission meeting while mayor Homer Nicholson and city manager Craig Stephenson are continuing their quest to bring passenger rail back to Ponca City.

Commissioners approved a resolution appointing Richard Evans interim police chief and now former police chief Don Bohon, deputy city manager.

Nicholson congratulated the pair before telling commissioners that he attended a Passenger Rail Caucus last week at the Kansas State Senate 

“There were representives there from the Federal Rail Administration and the Kansas Department of Transportation and senators,” he said.

“It was a very very important meeting,” said Nicholson. “We visited with about 14 different senators and representatives and had appointments throughout the Capitol. The next day they passed funding in the amount of $5 million a year for 10 years  to be used for passenger rail, or basically the Heartland Flyer, which is the passenger rail gap between Newton, Kan. and Oklahoma City. Along that same line, tomorrow Craig and I will be in Kansas City. We are doing everything we can to get passenger rail restored.”

Stephenson addressed the commission and said that Burlington Northern Santa Fe has changed their plans on rail road repairs that were set to begin. “Right now they are going to close Grand Ave., Cleveland and Broadway either tonight or tomorrow,” he said. “They are their own unique animal and we are trying to work with a couple different groups.”

Stephenson said that a new electrical gear box is set to be installed at the RecPlex on Feb. 20 and that the facility will be closed that day.

Ponca Politics is scheduled for Feb. 23 at the commission chambers at noon. Rep. John Pfeiffer, Rep. Ken Luttrell and Sen. Coleman are scheduled to speak. Stephenson also reminds the public that AARP is offering free tax service at the Ponca City Library. Residents are asked to contact the reference desk to make an appt.

Under New business Jim Fairbanks, city engineer, discussed a street improvement project of Standing Bear Parkway, U.S. 60 to Circle Drive. Fairbanks said the project will repair deteriorating asphalt.

“Of particular concern is the southbound lane being damaged by some heavy truck traffic,” he said.  He said the project includes a full depth repair. Bidding on the project opened in January.  Highpoint Construction, Stuever Dirtworks, Ellsworth Construction and Hembree and Hodgson were among the bidders, with Hembree and Hodgson coming in the lowest with $730,732.71 bid. The engineer’s estimate is $948,857.50. Fairbanks said he contacted Hembree and Hodgson and asked if they were comfortable with their low bid and that they said they are. Commissioners voted to award the project to Hembree and Hodgson. The project is funded out of the Street Sales Tax Capital Fund and is scheduled to take 60 calendar days.

Parks and Recreation Director Eric Newell addressed commissioners about an agreement with Ponca City Noon Ambucs for the construction of a Pavilion at Lake Ponca. Newell said he has been in the works for 18 months and that he has been working with the family of Dr. Stephanie Husen for 15 months of that time.

Dr. Stephanie J. Husen

Husen, a 1992 graduate of Ponca City High School, was killed in a mass shooting that took place on June 1, 2002 at St. Francis Health System in Tulsa. (see story)

Newell said Husen’s parents and friends met with parks and recreation staff at the lake to discuss ways to memorialize her.

“After a lot of meetings and get together they decided they wanted to do a pavilion at Lake Ponca,” said Newell. Newell said the Lake Ponca Peace Pavilion is proposed to be built on the sail boat side.“It is quiet and tranquil and the way the building will be positioned, it will be facing her home that she grew up in.” Newell said the family will donate the funds to the Ambuc’s and the Ambuc’s will build the pavilion.

“At the end of the project it will be gifted to the city and then it will be put into service,” said Newell. Newell displayed artist renditions of what it will look like and said that it will be treated with graffiti proof material.

“This has been a labor of love for me,” he said. “There has been a lot of tears shed with the Huson family over this. They are hoping to begin construction near April 1.

Nicholson said it is very admirable of the Huson family to make the investment in Ponca City.

Commissioners approved the project.

The floor was opened for citizen’s comments. A Ponca City resident addressed commissioners and suggested that Standing Bear Park be relocated to Lake Ponca because it stinks. To watch the meeting visit the City’s Facebook page or their website.

Minutes of the meeting


The Ponca City Board of Commissioners met in regular session on February 12, 2024. Mayor Homer Nicholson called the meeting to order, which was followed by the pledge of allegiance. Commissioners Robert Bodick, Garrett Bowers, Kelsey Wagner and Paul Taylor were in attendance. 

Ceremonies and Proclamations

Under Ceremonies and Proclamations, the February character trait of Honesty was introduced and defined as being truthful in what I say and do.  

Consent Agenda

Under the Consent Agenda, the City Commission approved the minutes of the Ponca City Board of Commissioners regular session held January 22, 2024; a resolution appropriating money for the payment of claims against the City of Ponca City, Oklahoma; a resolution confirming nomination of the Mayor of Ponca City, Oklahoma for the appointment of Officer and Department Head for the City of Ponca City, Oklahoma and setting the term of office; and a resolution amending the operating budget of various funds for Fiscal Year 2023-24.


Under Reports, City Manager Craig Stephenson reported that BNSF has closed the railroad crossings at Grand Avenue, Cleveland Avenue, and Broadway Avenue as a part of the on-going railroad tie replacement project; Mayor Nicholson and Stephenson will be attending a Federal Rail Administration meeting, in Kansas City, on Tuesday, February 13; the City Commission election will be held Tuesday, February 13, 2024; the RecPlex will be closed on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 for the installation of new electrical switch gearbox and metering hardware; Ponca Politics’ Oklahoma Legislators Forum, featuring Representative Pfeiffer, Representative Luttrell and Senator Coleman, will be held Friday, February 23, 2024, in the Commission Chamber of City Hall, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.; AARP free tax appointments at the Ponca City Library can be made at the Reference Desk or by calling 580-767-0345; and Red Cross Lifeguard Certification classes will be held February 17 & 18, 2024 (register thru February 16); March 2 & 3, 2024 (register thru March 1); and March 23 & 24, 2024 (register thru March 22).  

New Business

Standing Bear Parkway Repair Project

Under New Business, the City Commission approved a contract and execution of the contract documents to Hembree and Hodgson Construction, LLC for Street Improvement Project, Standing Bear Parkway – US Highway 60 to Circle Drive, in the amount of $730,732.71. This project is for the repair of deteriorated asphalt pavement on Standing Bear Parkway, between US Highway 60 and Circle Drive. Of particular concern is the southbound lane, which is currently carrying several heavy-loaded semi-trailer trucks every day. The Street Division has continued to patch the southbound lane at several locations to keep the southbound lane intact, but it has deteriorated to the point that a permanent final repair solution is necessary.  

The pavement design solution for the southbound lane includes full depth removal of the existing pavement section, over-excavation of the sub-base, placement of geotextile reinforcement under an 8-inch lift of aggregate base, and placement of a 7-inch dowel-jointed concrete base. The existing asphalt surface on the northbound lane will be removed and then the entire width of the roadway will be overlaid with two lifts of hot mix asphalt totaling approximately four inches thick. Other work will include the removal and replacement of damaged concrete curb and gutter, as well as removal and replacement of damaged concrete sidewalks. 

Advertisement for this project began in early January of 2024. A pre-bid meeting was held on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 with six contractors attending. The bid opening was held on Thursday, February 1, 2024 and four bids were opened and read.  Staff recommended awarding the lowest most responsible bid from Hembree and Hodgson Construction, LLC in the amount of $730,732.71.  The project is funded by the City Street Sales Tax Capital Fund. Total estimated construction time to complete this project is 60 calendar days.  

Lake Ponca Pavilion Agreement

The City Commission also approved an agreement with the Ponca City Noon AMBUCS and the City of Ponca City for the construction of a pavilion at Lake Ponca.  On June 1, 2022, tragedy struck the Oklahoma community when four individuals were shot and killed at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa. One of the victims, Dr. Stephanie Husen, was raised in Ponca City and graduated from Ponca City High School. 

A few months after the tragedy, Dr. Husen’s parents met with City staff and community members at Lake Ponca to find a way to memorialize Stephanie.  Many ideas were discussed and finally the idea of a pavilion on East Lake Ponca was proposed. The agreement proposed will be between the City of Ponca City and the Ponca City Noon AMBUCS for the construction of the Peace Pavilion. The Husen’s intend to make the financial donation to the AMBUCS, and then have the AMBUCS build the shelter in an agreed location. Upon completion of the project, the pavilion will be donated to the City for the community to enjoy. The pavilion will also be available for rent along with the other pavilions around town.  


PCUA Consent Agenda

Under the PCUA Consent Agenda, the PCUA Trustees approved the minutes of the PCUA regular session held January 22, 2024; a resolution appropriating money for the payment of claims against the PCUA of Ponca City, Oklahoma; and a resolution by the PCUA of Ponca City, Oklahoma setting non-utility rates, fees and charges for Ponca City Broadband.