It was standing room only during the Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday morning.
It was a larger-than-average turnout and nearly everyone was there for the same reason, which was listed on the agenda simply as, "discussion/possible action regarding interlocal agreement with the City of Claremore for the development of transfer site."
The commissioners discussed the interlocal agreement first, ultimately taking no action, and all community feedback was held until the designated public comment portion at the end of the meeting.
The county's attorney said essentially no action was taken during the meeting because they had not yet received a copy of the proposed agreement from the city.
Commissioner Ron Burrows said the item came back up for discussion following a presentation by Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas two weeks ago.
"This is still in the planning and discussion phase," he said, adding that he believes the city still has some zoning changes ahead of them.
Between the commissioners meeting and the call for public comment—the commissioners entered into an executive session on an unrelated matter. Concerned citizens used this time to bend the ear of the city officials they picked from amongst those in attendance.
Flyers, with the city-produced map, had been dispersed in the area, so many in attendance clutched their copy as they took to the podium to address the commissioners.
First up was a woman who was moved to tears as she told the commissioners..."When I was a kid it was a landfill. And I remember everyone got very sick. And most of them survived but it's with them forever. We're all afraid when they start disturbing this that everyone will get sick again…I don't want anyone to get sick. Everyone out there just wants to live and have a life and a business and a family."
She expressed concern for the safety of her children, students at Sequoyah.
The next person to address the commissioners asked if an environmental study had been done—and if it was available to the public.
She said water pressure is also a dire issue for residents in this area. It's an issue she said would need to be solved before anything else.
"I walked down to the landfill once after they quit dumping and there were needles, syringes, pieces of tubing used in operating rooms and old gloves all floating down there. That runs down into Claremore Lake," another concerned citizen said. "If they disturb that it will run down into Claremore Lake and we'll be drinking it."
He said he knows of five people living near the site that have been diagnosed with cancer.
"Something is going on in that area and we need to find out what it is," he said. "They're bringing trucks in there and dumping stuff at dark. I'd like to know what it is…I don't know what they're putting in there but it ain't legal. There's something going on."
The commissioners interjected to say this is a matter they're sure the city will want to look into.
The next man to the podium just moved onto his property a few weeks ago.
"It's like they took everything they could that people don't want around their homes and lumped them all together, when they could easily fit these into an industrial park where they already have noise and smells and security," he said.
Property value, he said, is another key concern.
The proposed project, he said, will make it hard for anyone in that area to sell their home.
"I know they need to have these facilities but I think there's plenty of acreage elsewhere," he said.
Next up was a woman who said she doesn't live in the area in question—but she has some concerns about conflicting information being dispersed.
"Jails and prisons are very secure locations. However, how much contraband is brought in," she said. "Our correction officers do not carry guns or weapons inside the jail for a reason. So we're sticking our inmate farm next to a shooting range where there's going to be guns. Come on guys….I get they're trustees, but they're still inmates and they'll be next to guns."
Another disgruntled area resident said her husband is a veteran who won't want to hear shooting all the time.
• What has been done at this point?
• To whom do we direct further discussion on this?
• Since it is county land does this board have the final decision or does that fall on the city?
• How much research has been done on the sludge composting idea?
Multiple people said they moved into the country to get away from city issues.
"This property was my dream," one woman said. "But my dream never included living next to this type of element."
One-by-one nearly everyone in the room took the chance to address the board and they all had virtually the same message—"We don't want this."
After noting the questions as they were posed, the commissioners attempted to respond to each of them in turn.
The commissioners reiterated that everything proposed in the plan is "just an idea, a concept of what the idea will look like."
Everything is in the preliminary stages.
What has been done at this point?
"You've seen that diagram," Burows said. "We sat around this table, in public meetings, and came up with that concept. It was presented to us that where the landfill is, or was, will be undisturbed."
Development, he said, will take place outside of that area.
The commissioners said that the public is welcome in any public meeting—but that the project is being done on city property so ultimately the authority lies with the city. The project will also be subject to city zoning.
When zoning changes are addressed, the commissioners said, everyone living in the area will be notified.
"Right now it's in the infancy stage. There's a lot being said on Facbeook. I see things on there that aren't true," Commissioner Dan Delozier said. "When you go to a city meeting I'm sure you will find out what they're proposing."
He said the transfer station will benefit the county—"We set dumpsters out right now and we allow a lot of people to use them. With the transfer stations we would own our own dumpsters instead of paying for them like we do now. So it would be a concern."
He continued in addressing the concern over inmates.
"What most of you probably don't think about is they pick up trash along our roads every day," he said. "They pick up trash in front of the school."
This, he said, is not a prison.
"They're talking about using inmates to sort trash. They'll have deputies with them at all times," he said. "The gun range is for police officers, for the 22 departments that use it now."
He said he's talked to residents near the existing range who "didn't even know there was a firing range out there."