Tar Creek: Buyout is applauded by Henry
BY JIM MYERS and OMER GILLHAM World Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
WASHINGTON Amid growing protests from residents, Gov. Brad Henry believes the buyout at the Tar
Creek Superfund site is ''proceeding very well and very
''We all knew that it was going to be very challenging,
very difficult and painful to ask residents to leave,'' Henry said. ''There are always going to be some people who
are just unhappy with the situation no matter what you
do. We have tried to be sensitive to everyone's concern.''
In Washington to attend the annual winter meeting of
the National Governors Association, Henry said the ongoing buyout, which is federally funded, is using the
same process put in place for a smaller buyout for families with small children.
That buyout was funded by
Henry said 95 percent of the
residents who have received
offers from the Lead-Impacted
Communities Relocation Assistance Trust have accepted
''That is a pretty good acceptance rate,'' Henry said.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who has been
spearheading the current buyout, revealed a plan that is expected to provide an automatic
source of funding to complete
the voluntary buyout.
The Environmental Protection Agency hopes to complete the buyout in three years
and expects it to cost about
$42 million. This amount is in
addition to the $19 million on
hand and being used by the relocation trust to buy out Tar
Creek residents, said J.D.
Strong, chief of staff for the
Oklahoma Secretary of the
Henry said: ''I think this is
very positive news and should
mean the buyout will continue
through the conclusion in a
more timely fashion without
having to see whether we are
going to get federal dollars
Henry said he has seen
nothing indicating the process
needs to be changed dramatically.
''Again, there are people
who have lived in the Tar
Creek area all their life, and it
is painful and I understand
that,'' he said.
''You are always going to
have dissenters, but I believe
it is the right thing to do and I
think it is being handled as efficiently and effectively as it
possibly can be under such a
Henry appointed members
of the relocation trust.
A Tulsa World investigation
found the buyout is plagued
with errors and inconsistencies that are lowering the value of some homes by thousands of dollars. Problems
include buyout application errors, overlooked property and
uneven buyout offers.
Of 260 buyout offers made,
55 have been revised because
of outdated land records and
errors by appraisers.
Strong said the trust has
been responsive to resident
complaints and questions, often adjusting buyout offers upward when errors or oversights are found.
Ed Keheley, a former relocation trust member, said that
75 to 100 people attended an
organizational meeting Saturday in Picher to express concerns over the buyout process.
''If the governor feels that
the buyout process is a good
one or the best one possible
for the circumstances, then he
should send someone down to
verify that process,'' said Keheley, who has become an advocate for buyout recipients.
''If he did send someone
down here to evaluate it, he
would not be saying that the
process does not need fixing.
This is just political talk by
As a result of Saturday's
meeting, a group is preparing
a list of questions for the relocation trust to answer, Keheley said.
The relocation trust has
scheduled a public session on
the appraisal process at 6 p.m.
Thursday at the Picher City
Omer Gillham 581-8301