COMMERCE— Commerce City Engineer Jack Dalrymple and City Administrator Tommy Long updated the City of Commerce on the sinkhole that opened up in late January due to subsidence issues.

The subsidence hole was discussed during the city’s monthly council meeting on Tuesday. The sinkhole resulted in the closure of Commerce Main Street and Newman/East 60 Road, from East 60 to State Highway 69.

Dalrymple had observed cracking in the roadway, resulting in the road closure for safety measures.

“We spoke to (Commissioner, District 1) Clarke and he asked me if I could get our guys to start doing measurements and check elevations to see if there’s any kind of movement going on, up or down,” Long said.

According to Long, a lot of time has been spent checking the sinkhole elevation and making sure nothing substantial has changed. When money allows, his crews will place cameras down the sinkhole to check what’s there. The subsidence hole appeared in an area that was once undermined.

“To get it (the road) back open, there has to be some exploratory stuff, some drilling to check the depths of the road, the dirt and make sure it’s going to be stable for cars to go across it,” Long said. “That’s where that is right now and it’s up in the air."

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have already been notified.

“All of the barricades that have been put up were through the county and we’ve been working with them doing the measurements on it,” Long said. “We’re basically at the mercy of the federal agencies to come in and help us.”

During the meeting, a citizen asked if the sinkhole doesn’t move for a while, would the road still be closed.

“That’s our town right there, that’s Route 66,” a citizen said.

“Our tourist season is coming on, and the whole town is going to lose the income,” another citizen said.

“We can take the barricades down and risk somebody getting hurt and having that liability on the city for taking them down, or we can leave them up until the EPA or somebody tells us it’s safe to drive that road,” Dalrymple said.

In the meantime, Long mentioned a suggestion to help combat the roadblock issues.

“We need to establish a Route 66 detour area through that point,” Long said. “The best way to do that is to point everybody past the Mickey Mantle house, onto River Street to Doug Furnas Blvd. and past the high school and back to the highway. We have to get our (road) patches done and get those straightened out once it gets warm enough to do them.”

In engineering reports, Dalrymple brought up Empire District Electric Company and how it is still trying to continue with its rate increase. The City of Commerce has experienced multiple issues with Empire in the past including power outages and problems with light poles.

“The last time I talked to (Oklahoma State Representative/ Miami City Attorney) Ben Loring, which was three days ago, he said that it’s still what they’re asking, 37 percent,” Dalrymple said. “Here’s what I’m looking at. We have an electric supplier who is not supplying electricity in the form that it should be. They plan on increasing the rates. Even if it’s 15 percent, that’s too much. Ultimately, they will get a rate increase and we’ll end up with the same poor quality of supplier that we’ve had and we get to pay more for it.

“I still say we need to address it directly and find some way to get out of the contract and have another supplier,” he added.

Dalrymple said he has talked with different electric suppliers and the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) said they were happy to supply electricity to the city.

“It’s not that easy to get it done,” Dalrymple added. “We have to get out of this contract with Empire first.”

In city administrator reports, Long stated that the water pressure, water tower and the water pump issues have been resolved.

“We were having an issue with well four, again,” Long said. “It turned out to be a hole in one of the lines that was creating a vacuum and was causing some pressure issues over there. I don’t think anybody even noticed. One of the motors that went out was our sewer lagoon aerator motor, and what it does, it sprays the sewer water when it comes into the first cell and puts oxygen into the water to start the process of breaking down the bacteria. We’ve had it down for a couple of weeks and had it rebuilt.”

In police reports, police chief Ray Horn said it has been a quiet year, so far. The department had a search warrant last week and a fire on Monday night. He also made mention of the missing teens, Ashley Myers and her boyfriend Damian Balboa, who were found unharmed in Red Oak, Texas. The Guns N’ Hoses basketball game against Quapaw is scheduled for Feb. 25.

In fire reports, Mayor Michael Hart said the house fire on Monday was well contained, nobody was hurt and no other structures were destroyed. The department will also be accepting scholarship applications where high school students write an essay on what Commerce means to them.

In other news, the council approved the contract with Grand Gateway for a $50,000 Development Block Grant/Rural Economic Action Plan (CDBG/REAP) Grant. The grant will cover the cost of materials for repairing the ditches between B and C along Quincy St. Long said his crew will be providing the labor, which will match the grant value.

In addition, the council approved the signature authorization for the REAP Grant contract with Grand Gateway to Long and Laura Duncan.

Lastly, Rick Aldridge, Chief Executive Officer of Oklahoma Emergency Response Team (OKERT), mentioned their free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) course was a great success.

OKERT, a Disabled Veteran 501(c) 3 organization, is an all-volunteer team of Oklahoma citizens and veterans that help respond to disasters within the state and assist in recovery operations.

There were a total of 17 students in the CERT course and what they believe to be the youngest CERT member certified in the state, who was 10-years-old.

Aldridge also said they will soon be offering a CERT train-to-trainer course, which will teach OKERT members to be certified instructors in order to train others. Another CERT basic course will be offered in mid-March and will again be free to the public.

On Feb. 16, a free storm spotter training course will be offered at the Miami Civic Center. May 20-21, a free, certified search and rescue class will also be offered in Commerce and can accommodate up to 35 people. For more information, contact Aldridge at raldridge60@yahoo.com or 918-541-6056.

Additional agenda items:

•took no action on the discussion, consideration and possible vote, pursuant to Title 25 Section 307 regarding the “Professional Services Agreement” with Erik Johnson & Associates.

•disapproved the current plans for the Mobilitie cell tower site. Mobilitie, certificated by the Corporations Commission of Oklahoma, is a utility, which provides competitive local exchange service. The council will revisit the location in the March meeting.

•tabled a vote to enter into an agreement with Jim Long for grant writing services until the March meeting.

The City of Commerce scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. on March 9 at City Hall for its next regular meeting.