Emergency Drought Relief Funds application goes to Governor

Jason Angus Reporter

September 26, 2013

City Council passed a resolution authorizing an application be submitted to the State of Oklahoma for Emergency Drought Relief Funds during a special City Council meeting held on Wednesday, Sept. 25, in Council Chambers of the Municipal Complex. Mayor David Webb, Vice Mayor, Councilman Rick Henry, and Councilman Rick Steen were absent, but enough Council members were present for a quorum.

Council voted to appoint Councilman Dwayne Martin to sit in as Vice Mayor before Councilman Micheal Beason provided a summary of the only item on the agenda: the application to request Emergency Drought Relief Funds pursuant to Title 27A O.S.A., Sections 2250-2252.

Although there is no application form or specific content required to apply for Emergency Funds, Beason drafted a seven page indexed synopsis of Altus to send to Governor Fallin’s Office. He credited receiving much help from Councilman Martin and City Clerk/Treasurer Debbie Davis and staff in the process.

“With Index No. 1, what I am trying to show the State and Governor is that Altus is not only a community that houses an Air Force base but we are a water hub. Not only the Altus Air Force Base, but Creta, indirectly, Eldorado, Martha, Duke, all of these smaller communities get their water from us, so they depend on us to provide the water for them.”

Beason stated that the application also outlines rainfall summaries and the U.S. Drought Monitor to show that Jackson County is the only county still in “exceptional drought” status, and provides current water levels at Lake Tom Steed (28 percent) and Lake Lugert-Altus (12 percent), according to the Beauea of Reclamation, to show that the two primary bodies of water supplying water are “well below capacity.”

The application also highlights the opportunity Altus has by owning rights to water in the Round Timber Water Well Field in Texas and also wells in the adjacent Holloway wells. Beason provided a United States Supreme Court case showing that Altus remains to lease hold rights on those two properties.

There are also cost estimates provided to rebuild the infrastructure at Round Timber at $2.3 million, and a possible second pipeline at $1.9 million. Beason believed there to be $3 million availible in the relief fund.

“It’s simply showing the State we’re gonna have these costs, we have this ground water source that, based on our history, based on what we do know from preliminary study reports, is still a viable ground water source for us. And probably… in my opinion, a very necessary groundwater source for this community, even if we get rain tomorrow. I dont believe any one of us wants to be in this position again,” Beason stated.

Councilman Perry Shelton commended Beason for his efforts, calling it great work, and motioned to approve the application, which was seconded by Councilman Chad Osborne. Councilman J.R. Rowland commented, “This is one of the best written grants I’ve ever seen. It’s very clear, very concise, very well documented.”

Audience Member Sandy Willis presented a question asking how the funds would be divided among municipalities affected by drought if the City was to be approved for the Emergency Relief Funds. Beason replied that “there is no guidance in the Statutes,” except that the state “will decide how the funds are dispensed if at all.”

Audience Member James Mahan also commented that the grant would come to the City of Altus for being the municipality that applied for the grant, unless other had also applied, and added that with Federal and State grants the funds must be used for the reason requested, otherwise it would have to be paid back.

“But we need the money in order to get this project started, that should have been started a year ago. That should have been brought up. That should have been ready to go to pump water. If they told us we could pump it tomorrow, we can’t. And we should be able to cause were in trouble.”

City Attorney Catherine Coke informed Mahan and the audience that the law for Emergency Drought Relief Funds only took effect this May, and is a very recent law.

Beason clarified that the City of Altus can only apply for funds for itself and that it is uncertain how funds will be dispensed if at all. “I think this application makes it very clear that perhaps there is no other county in all of Oklahoma that needs that funding as worse as we do because we’re still in exceptional drought conditions.” Beason stated that he will deliver the application to the State Capitol today.

Emergency Management Director Lloyd Colston also commended Councilman Beason for his efforts and reminded Council and the public that there is meeting being held for anyone to attend, 6:30 p.m. tonight, Thursday, at the Southwest Technology Center, 711 W. Tamarack, to discuss the Hazard Mitigation Plan approved by Council earlier this month.