The Pryor Times

July 16, 2013

Commissioners discuss flood plain appointment

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

— Questions arose over the possible appointment of Walter Stout to the Mayes County Flood Plain Board to fill the position left vacant by previous chairman Mike Sisemore.

The county commissioners discussed the potential appointment at the meeting Monday.

Sisemore recently submitted his letter of resignation stating:

“I have gladly served as Chairman of the Board without pay for many years. I think I have made a difference for the good. However, for anyone, there always comes a time to retire. Given all of the needless political controversy that has been generated over the simple enforcement of an ordinance, I think the time is right for me to step aside.

“I sincerely hope the new chairman will follow and be an advocate for the ordinance, so we can continue to enjoy federally-backed Flood Insurance and Disaster Assistance Funds. I would recommend that Bud Osborne be elected chairman, as he is most familiar with the ordinance and the Oklahoma Water Resources Boards guidelines,” Sisemore’s resignation continued.

In the letter, Sizemore provided rebuttal to many statements made during the most recent Flood Plain Board meeting. The commissioners did not discuss Sisemore’s comments or the meeting  which prompted them.

Commissioner Alva Martin began discussion about appointing Stout to be the new member.

“I appreciate what Mike Sisemore has done, he brought it a long way,” said Martin. “Walter Stout has agreed to fill the empty seat.”

Flood plain administrator Johnny Janzen said Stout probably knows more about flood plains than anyone in the county, himself included.

He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires the board exist and that FEMA’s approval yields nationally-backed flood plain insurance for the county and disaster funding.

“Is he the only person being considered?” said Commissioner Ryan Ball. “He’s definitely got a lot of knowledge, but he’s sure strict about it. I don’t know if he could be lenient, there’s a lot of unawareness in the county.”

Ball said he would like to create something to send out yearly to flood plain residents with their tax information. He also told the commissioners of the Flood Plain Board’s decision to consider amending the language of the ordinance to make it more clear.

Commissioners have final say in approving the ordinance once any changes are made. The ordinance was originally drafted by the Oklahoma Water Resource Board and can be adjusted by each county so long as it still gets FEMA’s approval.

“I don’t know if I could go for Walter Stout but I know it is hard to find someone. We need someone proactive, but not just dropping the hammer and chopping people’s heads off. I sure hope he can get some empathy once he gets in there,” said Ball.

Janzen reminded the board that no one person can make a decision, that’s why there is an entire board.

“Something is going to have to be changed, there are a lot of violations still. I hear about a lot of people lowing their fields and I’m sure they don’t have a permit,” said Ball. “Johnny doesn’t have time to police it and we don’t have money in the budget to hire someone to enforce it.”

“There are a lot of people that really don’t know and a lot of people that know but don’t do it (get a permit to make alterations to the property) because they don’t have to,” said Martin about the ordinance requiring a permit to do work in a flood plain. “How do we handle the ‘don’t have to’ attitude?”

“I have a little reservation about Walter and his past performance in Pryor. I’m sure there’s a reason for everything he’s done, but whatever the reason I hope he takes the people in the county into consideration. But there’s a governing board of four other guys,” said Commissioner Darrell Yoder. “I’ll second your motion, though, because he is so knowledgable.”

“Well you guys can appoint someone else if you want to, but it’s hard to get someone to devote their time and gas money since they don’t get paid for this. And this board is full of confusion and controversy,” said Martin.

Martin’s motion to appoint Stout received a second by Yoder, Ball voted no and the motion passed.

The commissioners discussed a Rural Economic Action Plan Grant for Rural Water District 2.

The grant would pay $50,000 of the $106,000 project to replace the water line. The remainder of the cost not covered in the grant would be paid by the water district.

Yoder said the line is old, leaking and exposed in some places. Some residents, he said, can’t even drink the water. The water line in question is in Pin Oaks addition, just east of Mazie.

The commissioners approved sponsoring the water district in the grant application.

To conclude the meeting, the commissioners unanimously approved depositing $93,504 into the District 2 account. The money was reimbursement from Cherokee Nation for the Elliott Street project.