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Council approves city agreement with DHS, sets dates for Pioneer Days

Council approves city agreement with DHS, sets dates for Pioneer Days
By Spencer Hicks
The Okemah City Council on Monday night unanimously approved a space sharing assistance and use agreement between the Okemah Police Department and the Oklahoma State Department of Human Services, which is closing its Okemah office.
The state agency, citing an economic downturn related to COVID-19, is closing or will close offices in 30 counties across Oklahoma, including Okfuskee County, officials said. 
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church has agreed to provide meeting space for DHS representatives and their clients, according to an agency spokeswoman. Under the agreement approved by the council, keys to agency vehicles will be kept at the police department’s dispatch center for after-hours use, a city official said.
The vehicles will be stored at the county’s impound lot through an agreement previously approved by commissioners.
“DHS offices are closing all over the state, but their services are 24-7,” City Manager Jayne Hughes told the council. “This has created havoc for them and their services. They are holding their meetings at the Methodist Church and will be keeping their car at the county impound lot. They are just needing a place to hold the keys for when they are needed after hours.”
After some discussion about the language in the agreement, council members voted 5-0 to approve.
In other action, the council voted 5-0 to designate April 21-24 as Pioneer Days. The motion to approve was seconded by Ward 1 council member Ronnie Lucas, who said, “God willing we can still have it.”
Council members discussed how to safely move forward with the annual celebration, which was cancelled last year because of COVID-19 concerns. 
“Is there a possibility of having one, but eliminating some of the activities?” Lucas asked.
Mayor Mike Fuller answered by saying “it is a possibility.”
“I think we have a few options we can entertain,” he said. 
Ward 4 council member Ron Gott said “it’s going to be real difficult to say if we are going to have it or not, because we can’t foresee the future.”
“We don’t know if this COVID is going to start to get better or if it’s going to get worse,” he said. “We just don’t know.”
Gott spoke about booking a carnival with a contingency plan if “we need to back out.”
“If we could do that without cost to us, that might be the appropriate thing to do,” he said. “But I can’t say in April we can have a big shindig with everything that’s going on today.”
Said Councilwoman Kelly West: “I think we should go ahead with setting the dates, at least.”

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