By Sheila Stogsdill
PICHER, Okla. — Residents living in the Tar Creek Superfund Site were told Monday that new appraisals were halted after values on some homes appeared to be too low.
About 200 people filled the Picher-Cardin High School Commons for a meeting of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust, after word of the numbers spread throughout the Ottawa County community over the weekend.
“We firmly believe that it is worth a couple of weeks of delay to get this right before rushing out and making offers that might be disappointing in the end,” said Sonya Harris, trust operations manager.
Homes that already have been appraised will get a second look.
The trust is overseeing a federal buyout in the wake of a 2006 report that showed hundreds of homes, businesses and churches in the Picher, Cardin and Hockerville area could potentially cave in.
Residents will not be forced to leave, but those who choose to stay will be responsible for that decision, and its potential effect on their health and finances.
Harris said the trust intended to begin making offers by the first week of April, but after reviewing the first set of reviewed appraisal reports, there were questions.
“Some property values appeared to be too low as required by statutory requirements,” she said.
None of the appraisal values have been made public.
Harris said that once the trust has reviewed a sufficient number of adjusted appraisals to make sure the problem has been corrected, the buyout will resume.
Out of 383 appraisals, 160 appraisal reports have been completed and given to the review appraiser, Harris said. Of those reports, 50 have been submitted to the trust for approval of offers, she said.
The first phase of the appraisals is done by Cinnabar Service Co., then reviewed by Van Tuyl & Associates.
One Picher resident waiting for her home to be appraised is Roberta Richards.
“We are No. 292 (on the appraisal list),” Richards said. “I know people who are farther down the list are getting their appraisals before me.”
Richards said she understands about the delay. She said she wants to get more for her home, “but let’s move things along.”
Only a few questions were asked during the meeting, and those had to do with appliances being taken out of the homes.
A total of $6.4 million currently is available. Also earmarked for the buyout are $8.6 million from the Federal Highway Administration and $3.5 million from the Corps of Engineers, said Angela Brunsman with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Those funds will be available as soon as environmental assessments of the area are completed, she said.
The Tar Creek area is composed of Picher, Cardin, Commerce, North Miami and Quapaw. For much of the first part of the 20th century, the area was a hotbed of lead and zinc mining operations, but the activity left countless environmental and health problems.
By Sheila Stogsdill
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