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Bethel To Discuss Town Charter, Jan. 23

 

January 7, 2021

During its Monday night meeting, Bethel Acres' Board of Trustees set a special meeting for Saturday, Jan. 23 at noon to discuss and hear comments on a proposed town charter.

Town Attorney Breanne Gordon said that for a long time, residents and leadership of Bethel Acres believed that their town had a charter.

"We did some research and realized there was not," Gordon said. "But according to Oklahoma statute, you can kind of relate back if you submit certain paperwork and minutes, so this will be their first charter."

Before the charter becomes official, Gordon said it must be approved by a vote of people. She said the board will post the proposed charter in advance of the Jan. 23 meeting so the public can examine the document, and offer comments at the meeting.

Ward 1 Trustee Lucas Cannon was not at the meeting. Ward 4 Trustee Maeghan Olsen said Cannon was recovering from COVID-19, and was disappointed to miss the meeting. Mayor Tony Carlile missed last month's meeting, also due to COVID-19.

The board also approved an Election Resolution, setting a date and filing window for ward seats 2 and 4. Trustees Brian Pierson of Ward 2, and Olsen of Ward 4, will see their terms of office expire in April. Filing for the seats begins at 8 am on Feb. 1, and closes at 5 pm on Feb. 3.

Pierson indicated during the meeting that he intends to file for reelection, but Olsen did not indicate one way or another.

Per the resolution, which was approved by the board 4-0, qualified candidates will live within the boundaries of the ward they intend to represent. However, trustees will be elected at-large. Should an election be necessary, the date has been set for Tuesday, April 6.

Once the seats have been filled, the new or returning trustees' terms of office will expire again in April 2025.

During the period of the meeting in which the trustees hear officer reports, Oil & Gas Inspector Neal Davis gave the board some seemingly positive news.

"By all indications, as of last Thursday the 31st, Abundance is now owned by Hood Oil & Gas," Davis said.

As Pierson and Carlile explained after the meeting, Abundance Energy has been a thorn in the side of Bethel Acres for some time. In addition to owing the town money, Pierson said many of their previous well sites are in states of "grievous disrepair."

Now that Hood Oil & Gas owns the well sites, Davis said he was optimistic the sites will be cleaned up, and properly maintained. Davis recommended the five sites now owned by Hood Oil & Gas for a renewal permit, and promised to follow up with them in the next couple of weeks.

"The big thing in my mind ... is not so much the permit fees as is the homes around in the radius around the injection wells that need to be water tested," Davis said. "I'm really going to push them."

Although the board ultimately did not approve renewal permits for the sites, the trustees did invite representatives of Hood Oil & Gas to their next meeting, on Feb. 1 at 6 pm. Mayor Carlile said until the board learned more about the condition of the sites, he was not comfortable approving their renewal permits.

"I have a problem with approving them without knowing the actual status of each one of these," Carlile said.

Davis said he wouldn't recommend a different course of action, but he remains optimistic that the new owners want to come in, and make things right with these problem sites.

"There needs to be a representative from Hood come to our meeting," Carlile said. "Let's have it on the agenda for next month. Let's discuss ... what needs to be done to get this thing off on the right foot, and get it going in the right direction."

The one divided vote during the meeting came during the discussion around approval of a building permit for Seth Koenig on Coker Road. Koenig was not at the meeting, but sent a representative to speak on his behalf.

Koenig's representative said the plan is to build a bare-bones metal building on a 10-acre plot of land to entice a buyer. She said there would be a well drilled for the structure, but there would not be electricity installed. The plan, she said, is for the buyer to take care of electricity, and customize the building however they'd like.

Koenig's initial application was marked as "residential," which gave Pierson pause.

"Is it really a 'residential building,' or is it an 'other'?" Pierson asked. "If you can buy it and do whatever you want with it, what if it's not a residential?"

"Then they have to come in for a business permit anyway," Olsen said.

Pierson pointed out that they could turn the building into a barn, or something else, and build a house elsewhere on the property.

"So if it says 'residential', are they restricted then for using it for anything else, with this building permit?" Pierson asked.

"Based on this, they are," Mayor Carlile answered. "This says they're going to use it as residential."

Olsen suggested allowing the representative to change the 'residential' mark on the application to "other." Ultimately, this is the action the board agreed on.

Olsen motioned to approve the amended application, and Pierson seconded. Three of the trustees voted in favor of the application, with Mayor Carlile voting against.

 

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