City Council approves annexation of 64.75 acres
By R.L. Thompson
The Okemah City Council met on Monday evening, November 13 at 6:00 in their regular meeting. Mayor Ron Gott, Vice Mayor Ronnie Lucas, and Councilman Wayne Bacon were present. Councilmen Brandon Anderson and Mike Ishmael were absent.
Following the approval of the minutes and purchase orders, Mayor Gott moved to public appearances. Okemah resident Shirley Kirschemann addressed the council concerning a charge on her water bill for sewer. Ms. Kirschemann objected to the additional $10.35 on her water bill for sewer stating that she does not use city sewer, she is on a septic system. She voiced her concern that she was being charged by the city for a service that she did not use. She stated that her attorney said it was illegal to charge someone for services they did not receive. She stated that when she talked to the mayor, he said the only way to avoid the charge was to move out of city limits. Ms. Kirschemann said she was not moving and again noted, “I don’t think this is right.”
City Manager Kristi Lesley commented that the additional charge on her water bill should not have been labeled “sewer”, it should have been labeled “FEB (Flow Equalization Basin)”. Lesley referred to an audit that identified 30 Okemah residents who were not paying the $10.35 per month for the Flow Equalization Basin and that every citizen was to pay. The Flow Equalization Basin processes the rainwater and runoff for the city and all water customers are required to pay the $10.35 per month.
Ms. Kirschemann stated that her late husband was opposed to their property being annexed into the city limits. There was no resolution to the Ms. Kirschemann’s complaint. The council cannot take any action on public comments. For action to have been taken by the council, the item would need to appear on the agenda.
The next item on the agenda called for a public hearing on the proposed land to be annexed into Okemah city limits. The land is located just south of East Coplin Street and east of State Highway 27 (Woody Guthrie Street). The legal description includes approximately 64.75 acres. The council voted to annex the property and to declare an emergency.
The council has designated this property as a potential TIF district for future economic development.
In other business, the council approved the expenditure of $29,250 for the Okemah Police Department to purchase two vehicles. Chief Patrick Williams and City Manager Kristy Lesley explained the funds were proceeds from the insurance collected on two police vehicles. One vehicle was damaged by hail and the other vehicle was involved in a crash with a suspect.
Chief Williams expressed his thoughts on using the money to purchase two vehicles that are outfitted with police lights. He said when a vehicle is already outfitted, it saves the city around $4,000. Mayor Gott inquired about mileage on the used vehicles and Chief Williams noted the vehicles he is considering already have around 100,000 miles on them.
Chief Williams said the newest vehicle the police force has is the new 2020 charger. Since acquiring the vehicle, the city has already put about 10,000 miles on it. He noted that the current 2009 police unit is unsafe to drive due to needing front end work. He informed the council of spending around $4,000 in repairs on two vehicles so far this year.
The Council approved the expenditure of the insurance funds for two additional vehicles to the Okemah Police Department.
City Manager Kristi Lesley said there will be a new sidewalk from the Media Center across the city park to the city library and then on to the school. Lesley also said the TSET grant funds will be used to adding lighting in the park along the new sidewalk.
Vice Mayor Lucas inquired about the WPA rocks that were removed from the ditch being repaired along Ash Street. City Manager Lesley said the rocks were removed and taken to the cemetery.