By Debbie Robinson
PICHER, Okla. — Water service in Picher apparently will continue as long as there are residents in the shrinking former mining town.
The Picher City Council voted Monday night to accept a tentative proposal from the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma to assume ownership and operation of one of the town’s water wells for continued service.
The plan also calls for installing a waterline to Quapaw for use as a backup water source for that town.
The agreement is contingent on approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency, which holds a lien of more than $400,000 just for the well, excluding waterlines.
The city of Quapaw also has been lobbying for ownership of the well.
About 20 people attended the meeting to learn the fate of their water and sewer service.
City Attorney Erik Johnson said the agreement hinges on the tribe’s willingness to provide continuous water for residents in the Picher area who decline to participate in the federal buyout, and to extend the waterline to Quapaw.
The vast majority of the residents of the town have been bought out in the federal plan to give residents the opportunity to move away from the area, which is plagued by environmental contamination left by lead and zinc mining, and the risk of cave-ins posed by underground mines.
Quapaw proposed extension of the waterline from Picher to Quapaw at a cost of $387,000 that would be financed with grants.
The city of Quapaw also was proposing that the Picher well serve as a backup to a well in Cardin already owned by the Quapaw Tribe.
Under the posed agreement, the Quapaw Tribe would pay $100,000 toward the cost of a waterline extension to Quapaw from Picher.
Details are sketchy, and the deal apparently still hinges on grant approval and the Quapaw Tribe’s participation in the cost of extending a line to Quapaw.
Under the tentative plan, the tribe also would provide septic systems for homes once the city’s sewage lagoon is shut down.
“If a resident chooses to stay here, they shouldn’t have to throw their excrement in the backyard,” Johnson said.
Tim Kent, environmental director for the Quapaw Tribe, said the tribe would provide septic systems for the remaining residents and charge them about what they currently are paying for sewer service until the costs are repaid.
Kent said the tribe’s proposal to continue water service would apply only to existing residents.
“As of right now, we’re still going to have the lagoon system,” said Mayor Tim Reeves.
Johnson said the city has received a commitment from Empire District Electric Co. to continue electric service to Picher residents.
“You’re one of about 150 people who contacted City Hall today that think the water is going to be shut off and they can’t take a shower,” Reeves said in response to a resident’s question. “That’s just not the case.”
As for streets, Reeves said a decision on transferring ownership of the roadways would be made later this year.
Much, but not all, of the land in the Picher area is in federal trust to the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma. Once the federal buyout is complete, tribal land will revert to the tribe.
By Debbie Robinson
- Local News
Mother draws prison term in toddler’s drug death
A Granby mother whose 22-month-old son died after ingesting a methadone pill that she dropped in church was sentenced Monday to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
Suspect in Joplin assault captured
A fugitive sought in connection with an Oct. 30 assault that left a Joplin woman critically injured has been arrested. Mark A. Thomas, 28, of Diamond, was arrested Friday in the 700 block of South Picher Avenue after police received an anonymous tip as to his whereabouts.
Mike Pound: The other side of a snow day is a good place to be
I swear it wasn’t my fault. Like most veteran husbands, whenever my wife gets mad at me, I almost always say, “It wasn’t my fault.” It’s like how in prison nobody is ever guilty.
Winter weather impacts local blood supply
The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks (CBCO), in a statement released this morning, urges eligible donors to give blood this week after last week’s winter storm.
Joplin City Council moving forward with baseball deal
Drafting an agreement that would bring professional baseball to Joplin won City Council authorization at a special meeting Monday night. The council voted to have the city staff write a formal agreement defining the terms of a deal toward relocating the El Paso (Texas) Diablos to Joplin. That agreement may be presented as soon as next Monday if the city’s legal staff can finish it that soon, according to the discussion.
Medical community tradition: Two Haitian women receive surgical gifts
Beatrice Massier and Esther Julnide lined up their walkers Monday afternoon for a footrace of sorts. For these Haitian women, it would be one of the first times they would walk without a limp and without pain. Last week, they both received new right hips in surgeries performed at Premier Surgical Institute in Galena.
Second plea deal reached in starved child case
A woman who lived with a Joplin woman convicted of starving her 3-year-old daughter pleaded guilty Monday to her role in the abuse of the girl.
Mailbox installed at City Hall for posts to Santa
A special delivery that arrived Monday at Joplin’s City Hall should make it much easier to post those important messages to a certain jolly old soul. City officials hope a “Letters to Santa” mailbox gets the stamp of approval from area children.
MSSU, Joplin Schools added to Tuesday cancellations
Winter weather, including a round of snowfall this evening, has led to closures and cancellations at two area colleges.
MSSU music group to buy steel drums for new ensemble
Percussion students at Missouri Southern State University plan to organize a community-based steel drum ensemble that will perform concerts in Joplin. The ensemble is expected to launch in March, when Missouri Southern will put on its first World Music Festival.
- More Local News Headlines
- Mother draws prison term in toddler’s drug death