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Board is named for Tar Creek

Board is named for Tar Creek

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Democratic state Rep. Larry Roberts of Miami will head the relocation trust for families in the area.

PICHER -- An Ottawa County lawmaker will lead a trust overseeing a $5 million relocation plan for families living in the Tar Creek Superfund site.

State Rep. Larry Roberts, D-Miami, has been named chairman of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust. The nine-member trust will oversee the state-sponsored voluntary buyout plan.

Gov. Brad Henry appointed the members of the trust Tuesday, one day before legislation creating the plan -- Senate Bil 1490 -- takes effect.

The bill authorizes a buyout for families with children 6 years old and younger who are living in the most hazardous part of the abandoned mining area in northeastern Oklahoma.

"The appointment of the trust authority brings us one step closer to accepting applications and moving eligible families and their children out of the area," Henry said.

"The sooner we can get them out of harm's way the better."

The buyout plan will give eligible families a fair market value for their homes, while renters will be given rent money to move out of the lead-polluted area. Landlords also will receive compensation for the loss of renters.

Wednesday would have been the first day that Tar Creek families could apply for the buyout. However, the relocation trust's first meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8.

The committee will then begin accepting applications from families living in Picher and Cardin, two small towns at the center of the Superfund site, the Governor's Office said.

Henry said the composition of the panel creates greater control of the relocation trust by Tar Creek residents.

"They know their communities best, and I want them involved at every stage of the implementation process," he said.

An estimated 100 families living in Picher and Cardin could qualify for the voluntary relocation.

Committee member John Sparkman said he wants to get buyout applications distributed to qualifying Tar Creek families quickly.

He said the trust must first settle some basic questions about the boundaries of the buyout area and about handling land and houses that are acquired by the trust.

"We have several questions to answer, and one of them involves the boundaries for the families in smaller areas just outside Picher and Cardin," Sparkman said. "Where do you draw the line?"

SB 1490 states that families with small children living in the "most affected areas" of the Superfund site qualify for buyout assistance.

The bill says the relocation trust will determine the best appropriate use for the public for property that is acquired by the trust in the process of buying out affected properties.

Research indicates that children age 6 and younger are at risk for the kind of lead exposure that has commonly occurred at the Tar Creek mining sites.

Lead exposure in children is believed to cause health problems, including learning disabilities.

Trust members

Members of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust:

Rep. Larry Roberts, chairman

Eddie Wyant, Ottawa County district attorney

Sam Freeman, mayor, Picher

Mike McCoy, trustee, Cardin

John Sparkman, executive director, Picher Housing Authority

Dr. Mark Osborn, Miami, Okla.

Bob Walker, superintendent, Picher-Cardin Schools

Anne Woody, executive director, Oklahoma Real Estate Commission

Tamara Summerfield, member, Quapaw Tribal Business Council.

Omer Gillham 581-8301


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