The Cherokee Nation presented Inola a $50,000 grant for its water meter replacement project Monday.
Director of the Cherokee Nation Office of Environmental Health and Engineering Billy Hix issued the grant with a short presentation before the Inola Board of Trustees.
“We have an agreement, the same format as the last agreement we signed with you guys, that will be $50,000 in tribal funds for the town to help with the purchase of a new automatic meter reading system,” Hix said.
Assisting Inola with the water meter replacement project had been on the Cherokee Nation’s slate since Inola received a DEQ consent order in 2016.
“Our interest is to help our communities becomes self-sufficient and sustainable,” Hix said after the meeting.
The Cherokee Nation assists towns throughout the 14 counties within its borders.
Helping communities fix infrastructure problems, like water and sewer issues in Inola, “helps the Cherokee people that live in those communities receive safe, reliable and affordable water.”
Each of the town trustees thanked Hix personally with a hand shake before voting unanimously to accept the grant.
Discussion turned to choosing which water meter system to purchase.
Utilities Director James Kilpatrick highlighted two potential meters, a “drive-by” system quoted at $159,000 and a “fixed base” system quoted at $193,600.
The prices include software, training and installation. Both meters would provide more accurate readings of water usage. The “drive-by” system would require the utility department to go to each meter and read it. The “fixed base” system would allow the town clerk to pull up live water readings of all the meters from town hall.
“There is a lot of benefits to both ways,” Kilpatrick said. “Everybody is going to these automatic reading systems.”
Trustee Dan Corle asked Kilpatrick which of the two he preferred.
“For the ease it would be the fixed base, but you know, that’s another $30,000,” he said.
“But think of how much money you’re going to save freeing up their time to go do other stuff,” said Town Clerk Brandi Powell.
The trustees voted to purchase the the “fixed base” system with a 10 year financing plan with annual payments of $24,892. Paying $50,000 down from the Cherokee Nation grant, they expect to pay the system off early.
Trustee Billy Wilson and Mayor Larry Grigg discussed finding additional grant monies to pay off the system so as not to pass on the cost to the residents of Inola.
Water meter replacement is one of many small steps in a $5 million project to bring Inola’s sewer and water systems up to code. Inola is seeking funding sources from all over.
The Cherokee Nation may assist Inola more in the future. Hix told the council, “We will be applying for Indian Health Services money and Cherokee Nation money to go along with those rural development funds.”
“The Cherokee Nation has been super helpful,” Wilson said ahead of Monday’s meeting. “They have bent over backwards to help us, they are doing everything they can, and we appreciate them very much.”