November 2007 Editorial Winner

Adult supervision needed

By John M. Wylie II, Oologah Lake Leader

County Commissioner Mike Helm requires adult supervision. Fortunately Helms' responsible colleagues in Districts 1 and 3-Dan DeLozier and Kirt Thacker-have started providing intensive babysitting.
That's vital now that an election has been set for Feb.5 to renew the county's penny sales tax for five more years-something crucial to the county's continued growth and prosperity.
Helm's recent dump truck fiasco is just the latest in along line of waste, malfeasance, stupidity and arrogance.
In simplest terms, Helm has been buying and selling trucks and construction equipment for two years in ways that defy common sense.
Most recently, he decided he needed two new dump trucks with snow and ice removal equipment, but didn't issue bids until Sept. 28 with an Oct. 15 opening, way too late to have trucks by the time the first winter storm could hit.
Despite this incompetence, he made delivery date a key concern without telling bidders what an acceptable date would be.
Three bids came in and he took the high bid-$20,000 extra-because he claimed he could get faster delivery.
He didn't point out to the other commissioners that the low bidder could have provided parts in Big Cabin, while the high bidder's only Oklahoma location is in Oklahoma City. Of course Helm loves big city restaurants such
as Charleston's for "dinners for two."
He also didn't point out that the gap would have grown to $30,000 had the trucks been financed over 60 months.
The other two bidders used Welch State Bank-Oklahoma's expert at financing government equipment purchases-with an interest rate of 4.89 percent.
The high bidder quoted in-house financing at 5.9 percent, which would have jacked up the cost by another $10,000 had Helm decided to finance the purchases.
Hard working Rogers County residents know that $20,000 to $30,000 is real money-their money, not Helm's.
Helm also flat-out lied to his fellow commissioners when he said the bid specifications called for a six-week delivery date. There was no such requirement.
Thacker was upset about what he and DeLozier considered an exorbitantly large engine in the trucks.
Had he known about the finance charges and the lies concerning delivery, Thacker might not have voted for the purchase-which he did reluctantly anyway. DeLozier voted no.
We also wonder if the other commissioners knew that Mack Trucks are now a part of Volvo, a Swedish company, while Sterling Trucks is based in Michigan and is owned by Freightliner, also based in the USA.
Helm ignored a $10,000 lower bid from the Tulsa Freightliner/Sterling dealer that would have kept the money in America, and that offered lease-purchase at the 4.89 percent rate.
When the other two commissioners questioned Helm's purchase plans, he rebuked them by saying that it was strictly his decision.
In fact, state law requires a vote of the full commission.
Helm still doesn't realize that his title is District County Commissioner, not king.
The key to renewing the one-cent tax lies with Thacker and DeLozier. Both have been in office just 10 months, but they already know that all of county government relies on this tax.
After voters first approved the tax in 1988, country roads became a model for the state. Money in the general fund was freed up for other offices.
That, in turn, provided real patrol cars for the sheriff's office, rather than private vehicles with 200,000+ miles and a penchant for breaking down on the way to critical calls.
Those needing land records now use a computerized index that takes seconds, rather than paper records that take hours.
The planning commission has become a far more effective and professional agency to help developers and citizens manage growth and prosperity together.
We can keep and build on all of that, if we encourage Commissioner DeLozier and Thacker to put a leash with a choke collar on Helm and hold it tight.
Only by doing so can they restore public confidence in their good stewardship of tax-payers funds and gain enough yes votes on Feb. 5 to continue the tax for another five years.
We have no doubt that voters will end Helm's reign of infamy in a year. He must be corralled until then. We must not punish all of our good county officers and the future of our county because of one incorrigible baby.