When John Hefner worked a brief stint as a young man in The Oklahoman newsroom, the rules were pretty clear. The reporter got to report and write the news, the person being covered … well, they got to read the stories written by the reporter in the morning paper like everyone else.
In 2011, the rules seem to be changing on a daily basis. With blogs and social media, the wall that once stood between a reporter like myself and regular readers came crumbling down. We talk. We communicate. We exchange ideas.
My latest story on First National Center details concerns by Hefner and a slightly larger tenant, Devon Energy, about the upkeep of the property and the safety of its elevators. But thanks to the advent of “new media,” this blog also provides an opportunity to a guy like John Hefner to tell his own story. And as you’ll soon discover, John is still a pretty decent writer ….
REASONS THE HEFNER COMPANY, INC IS LEAVING THE FIRST NATIONAL
BY W. JOHN HEFNER
In occupying a suite on the 25th floor of the First National Center since early 1999, the employees of The Hefner Company, Inc. have seen the building in the hands of three different ownership groups, but will not be sticking around for the next one.
“Our last hope was that with Milbank Real Estate going into bankruptcy, we would get a new owner who would be both able and willing to make vital repairs and restoration to this historic structure. However, the bankruptcy drags on to no avail, and we have made irreversible plans to move elsewhere,” said W. John Hefner, company president.
The elevators continually malfunction, stopping on floors not selected, going the opposite direction, and even not working. “On Thanksgiving Day 2010, I had to come downtown quickly to get something I had forgotten. It took a security guard to get the elevator system to even come to life. He took me to the 25th floor and held the car. I was back in a flash. The doors did not just close – they slammed shut, and we were taken up to the 30th floor where operations stopped. We clawed open the doors, held them open for each other so we could get out, and they slammed shut behind us. We walked down 30 flights of stairs,” Hefner recalled.
He added that since that time, while he has seen repairmen from two different companies work on the system from time to time, on-going-bugs plague the system. “I have asked the workmen discreetly and have learned that some of the 1956 technology (when the elevators were converted to automatic from manually-operated) remains as ‘some’ vacuum tubes are still in place. That pre-dates transistors, and I can’t believe vacuum tubes are even available. No wonder there are problems,” he said.
The Hefner Company, Inc., by pure coincidence, leased the exact suite the company had occupied in the years of 1949-1956. Some of the same furniture was returned, and the situation seemed good.
But, Hefner said, his first meeting with the Milbank management went sour when he asked Raymond Yashouafar, Vice-President of Operations and Simon Barlava, Asset Manager, if they paid their bills on time. They became angry and red-faced. “They said they were highly insulted, and they stormed out. At the time, I thought I made a grave error, but since then, I read in the newspaper from time-to-time about vendors filing suit for non-payment, and I have talked with vendors I know who told me about difficulties collecting.
“What is especially egregious is that the thick marble floor at the Robinson entry was jackhammered out, and cheaper flooring was put in. Yet, straight above that floor one can see the original art-deco paint on the ceiling is peeling badly. That goes ignored. Even new carpet for the elevators cars would have been an improvement, but it did not happen.
“I have written letters to the men in California, and I have yet to receive a response. Meanwhile, the commercial concourse has been partially torn out, but not completely finished. Here, wood paneling was removed, and white sheetrock was installed. It has been three years! The bottom line is that these landlords have hurt themselves and not helped stabilize a downtown Oklahoma City landmark,” he concluded.
With all the uncertainty about the building’s future, poor decisions being made with expenditures, and his employees being highly concerned about getting stuck in the elevators, the company is leaving for good.