PICHER - Landowners identified in a state audit as illegally obtaining property from the now dissolved Ottawa Reclamation Authority will soon receive demand letters for the return of that land.
Lead Impacted Community Relocation Act Trust members voted Monday to send letters demanding that any land identified in a state audit as transferred illegally be returned.
Just after the Legislature disbanded the ORA last summer, the authority sold a parcel of land containing a chat pile to Lester and Vicky Foster for $1,000, county land deeds indicate.
Any assets that previously belonged to the ORA automatically became the property of the relocation trust, according to the legislative action.
State auditors previously identified land the ORA gave to board member Alfonso “Soupy” Suman (now deceased) as an illegal transaction.
Additionally, it was decided that the Fosters would have to return any money generated from the land to the trust authority. ORA records indicate that chat sold from the land at times generated in excess of $5,000 per month, an amount split between the Fosters and the ORA.
In a related item, the trust tabled action on a contract that Ben Loring, assistant district attorney, wanted the trust to approve regarding the Foster's land and a repository.
Last April, the Ottawa County Commission, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, devised a set of criteria as well as a plan to designate what is known as the Gordon property in Picher as a repository for lead-contaminated debris.
The commission signed off on it, as did the Fosters and the Fullerton family. However, the ORA never signed the document and Loring suggested that LICRAT signing off on it would allow the repository to be utilized as well as provide a clear title for the property to be sold to the Fosters and Fullertons when the subsidence area is filled.
Loring described the document as a “win-win” situation for everyone.
However, Ed Keheley expressed several concerns - reminding fellow trust members that dumping had been taking place at the site for several months absent of all landowners signing off on the project.
“It would behoove us to make sure ODEQ and the other agencies involved are living up to their agreements before we incur some sort of liability,” Keheley said.
Keheley indicated he was also uncomfortable with the language in the contract Loring had prepared which allowed Foster to sell or improve land that the state auditors had determine should be returned to the trust.
Dr. Mark Osborn indicated that he, too, is uncomfortable with the “Foster situation” and suggested the trust audit committee look into the matter.
The trust agreed to table the matter at Osborn's suggestion.
In other business, Robert “Bob” Parmele Jr., vice president of Cinnabar, indicated that about 100 appraisals should be completed prior to Feb. 14. The ice storm delayed the process approximately two weeks.
J.D. Strong, a constant advisor to the trust, advised residents that, after Cinnabar completed the initial appraisal work, a review appraisal must be performed within the oversight process.
An agenda item to name the firm that had been awarded the review appraisal work was tabled.
Strong said the committee working on that item could possibly have its work completed and a review appraiser chosen within a week.