**For Immediate Release**
Collaboration Creates Quality Environment
- released by OPSU Campus Communications 07-17-07
by Laura Hays
Goodwell, Okla. — The City of Goodwell and Oklahoma Panhandle State University have long enjoyed a partnership that benefits citizens, students, faculty and staff. For over 30 years, the two entities have enjoyed an unusual, mutually beneficial relationship, avoiding the “town and gown” hostility many communities face across political lines. Instead, OPSU and the City of Goodwell have worked cooperatively to address common problems. Including university students, the population of approximately 1,200 located in the rural area profit from the combined resources of the city and the university.
Mayor Sam Nelson exemplifies the distinctive nature of the rapport. Nelson served as an Associate Professor of History and Social Studies and also served as the head of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at OPSU while also serving the City of Goodwell as Mayor. While he retired from OPSU three years ago, he remains Mayor and is dedicated to continuing the good relationship between the two. Nelson credits the OPSU President by saying, “Dave Bryant is very easy to deal with and very sensible. He realizes the benefit of the two organizations working together.”
The entities cooperate on the sewer and waste treatment system for the town and university. According to Dee Hendrix, Town Clerk, and Russell Edenborough, City Treasurer, the cooperation dates back to the early 1960s. The city owns the lines leading into the waste treatment lagoons and is responsible for maintaining those while the university owns and manages the lagoons. The city applied for and received an Oklahoma Economic Development Authority grant (OEDA) through the Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) to tunnel under Highway 54 from the lagoons to the OPSU Farm in order to pipe the treated waste water to irrigate crops. The funding, available only to municipalities, is unusual because the city received money to improve something they do not technically own. With the addition of new student housing on campus two years ago and the science and agriculture building currently under construction, the city has applied for more two more grants to assist with the increased load on the system. The city also provides animal control and mosquito control as well as trash pickup.
The Goodwell Fire Department also receives payment each month from OPSU for fire protection services. The City keeps about 20 trained volunteer firefighters on hand that not only respond to local emergencies, but also serve other communities if called upon. In fact, Fire Chief Levi Bickford commented, “After all the wildfires last year, the City now participates in a state-wide mutual aid agreement so that we can provide help to other fire departments and they can help us. The OPSU funds help the department update air packs and other safety equipment as well as assists in purchasing new heavy equipment and replacing hoses, axes, shovels, and nozzles. The unit also responds to every car accident scene along with the ambulance service and recently used grant funds to purchase a Jaws of Life rescue tool. The Ambulance Service, under the direction of Billie Rhode, maintains a staff of 13 volunteers, and they respond to campus medical emergencies and also stand by on Carl Wooten Field at every home football game.
The two also have a more informal agreement when it comes to water use. While OPSU operates and maintains its own water well, the City of Goodwell allows OPSU to tap into their water system when the University performs maintenance or must shut down its own system, and the two entities trade equipment back and forth on an emergency basis. As the city name implies, the three wells it operates supply plenty of water to residents.
One of the most visible services the two cooperate on remains police protection. Through a formal agreement, OPSU pays one-half of the City’s law enforcement salaries and one-half of the equipment cost. In turn, the City offers full time, 24-hour-per-day professional protective and investigatory services to OPSU. The full-time law enforcement staff includes Chief of Police Andy Ramirez and Officers Derik Hamilton and Kirk Romesburg. The staff will soon include another officer, a German Shepherd canine professional that is currently undergoing training along with his handler and caretaker, Officer Hamilton.
In light of recent events on college campuses, Chief Ramirez and his team have been attending training geared towards campus security. Ramirez attended the 2007 National Campus Security Summit at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond recently and said, “The instruction gave me tools to identify and approach at-risk students. I learned how to address those issues and also gained insight into building relationships with students.” He went on to say that OPSU and city officials have plans in place for any campus emergency including weather-related, medical, or violent events. Ramirez is proud of his officers, stating, “They are passionate about law enforcement and eager to attend training, and all of us will exceed the mandated training required by the State of Oklahoma by the end of the year.”
While it is possible the two organizations could exist without the other, the fact remains that through cooperation and communication the two thrive because they have the same goal – providing citizens and students the best quality of life available in the Oklahoma Panhandle.