The Lead Impacted Relocation Assistance Trust emerged from executive session Thursday and announced that approval of final offers is being witheld on 18 properties proposed for aquisition -11 are churches.
Dr. Mark Osborn, vice chairman of the trust, said the operations manager will contact church leaders and ask for more information regarding the facilities before the trust again considers acquisition.
In addition to the 11 church facilities, the trust also delayed a decision on the Bob Garner Body Shop, the Picher Mining Field Museum, Picher Odd Fellows Lodge and Oklahoma Flintrock Products LLP.
Properties owned by Doyle Howell, Kimberly Dixon, Phillip Potter and David and Beverly Wilson were also sent back for review.
In all, of the 37 properties proposed for acquisition Thursday, 17 were approved.
Osborn said that the trust wants to be sure that the churches and businesses pulled were legitimately operating during the period of time which defines eligibility for buyout.
Residents voiced their concerns to trust members as guidelines for buyout procedures allow for unoccupied church buildings and meeting halls to be purchased before all residents have an opportunity to recieve a buyout offer.
Trust officials announced that they are committed to proceding with the buyout as layed out in their guidelines which is built around state law that defines the purpose of the trust.
Additionally, the trust cautioned that the panel's process may slowed in coming months as a pause in funding is possible.
All properties approved for buyout thus far are funded, according to Osborn, and the trust will only approve future acquisitions within the funding that remains.
“We will go as far as we can go with what we have,” Osborn said. “We can't say how long that will take.”
Currently, the trust has an estimated $11 million available for use.
Additional funding has been built into the Water Resources Development Act which is awaiting U.S. Senate approval and the endorsement of President George Bush.
The presidnet, however, is threatening to veto the bill.
The bill holds $30 million in funding for Tar Creek and also contains language that would force the federal Environmental Protection Agency to include “buyout” in its next round of remediation at the Tar Creek Superfund site, according to J.D. Strong of the state secretary of environment's office.
The bill also would allow the trust to use $3.5 million of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers money for buyout purposes. That funding is currently available only for use in paying for demolition.
In other matters, the trust was advised by appraisal contractors that 307 property appraisals have been completed, 174 review appraisals are complete, 128 offers have been made, 101 offers have been accepted, three offers have been rejected and there have been 45 completed acquisitions