By Mindy Ragan Wood
A quiet storm has been brewing at the outer edges of Piedmont. Citizens are fed up with the long wait for road and bridge repair and are considering filing a petition to de-annex from their town.
Bryce Everett, a Piedmont resident and business owner, said he does not believe the roads will get better any time soon.
“Currently there’s no way to maintain the area they have, and they won’t be able to maintain it until new businesses increase sales tax (revenue) or some of the property is lessened,” Everett said.
He has spoken with fellow residents about the possibility of de-annexing 23 miles of the outside border of town which would reduce the need for road maintenance but would force Canadian County to maintain the roads.
“I suggested we de-annex 33 feet to the center of the road….that would cut it down by a third,” Everett said. “The bottom line is what they’re doing isn’t working. It’s getting worse and they need to come up with some ideas.”
The idea of deannexation has often been met with mixed reception in last few years as the conversation turns up from time to time. Naysayers do not believe Canadian County Commissioners would be in a hurry to fix roads thrust upon them in addition to the miles they already cover.
“Marc Hader seems to be very helpful. He knows we’re in a bind and I think he wants to help out,” Everett said. “Of that land (possibly) de-annexed, it is going to go to county and their situation is better than Piedmont’s…it’s a lot better.”
Canadian County has partnered with the city to fix one mile of Waterloo Road west of Piedmont Road as it takes on the four miles west of city limits. The partnership spared the city’s budget thousands of dollars because the city will pay for materials for one mile instead of the full cost of employees and equipment.
District 1 Canadian County Commissioner Marc Hader said deannexing from the city does not mean the roads would be fixed quickly.
“In our three districts, we have 900 miles of roads we’re responsible to cover,” Hader said.
County roads are prioritized primarily based on the density of population near a road, by how much traffic the road sustains and other considerations that are subject to the discretion of the commissioners.
Piedmont City Council members have been tossing around ideas to fix the roads.
Earlier this year Councilman John Brown told Yukon Progress he was hopeful that the city could receive road money through ACOG (Association of Central Oklahoma Governments). Brown said Piedmont could apply for the federal transportation funds as early as next year, but the funds would not appear in city coffers until 2035.
With all options moving forward at a snail’s pace, Acting Mayor Bobby Williamson said he hopes to see the city hire its own road crew with furnished equipment.
“Bobby Williamson has some ideas,” Everett said. “He’s going to push harder for more road maintenance.”
The city has budgeted to spend just under $1 million, the most it has ever spent on roads.
“We spent in 2018 more money than ever on roads and road maintenance,” Williamson said.
Despite the extra spending, Everett said he sees some simple things the city has failed to do that would lengthen the life of existing roads.
“Piedmont could spend a penny of prevention instead of a dollar of repair,” he speculated.
“The first rule of maintaining a road is to get the water off.”
As the roads debate carries on, Brown told the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette people who want to de-annex may not realize the services citizens will lose even if they eventually gain road work.
“We had a man come before the council last month asking to get to water, but he was outside city limits and the water pressure is too low, so we couldn’t do it,” Brown said. “But we don’t have any obligation to provide services to anyone who is outside city limits.”
Those outside city limits would lose police services and would rely on the county sheriff for law enforcement. Residents would still be in a fire district.
“And there would be no zoning out there,” Brown pointed out. “Anyone could go out there and put in anything they want, a trailer park, anything and there’s not a thing they can do about it.”
“They could put in a hog farm or a waste dump between Waterloo and 220,” he said.
“There are no rules in the county.”
Brown, a Shelter Insurance Agency owner, said insurance would be a problem too.
“Their insurance rating will be higher,” he said. “In town it’s a five, in county it’s nine so their insurance is going to be higher.”
Deannexing from the city could also cost residents money. According to state statute, the city has the right to demand repayment for infrastructure.
State statute title 11, section 1121111 states that “any lands detached from a municipality and the owners thereof shall be liable to the municipality only for the cost of public improvements which may have been constructed on the detached lands at the expense of the municipality.”
If residents plan to move forward, they would have to file a petition with the city clerk and obtain signatures of three-fourths of voters and landowners in the proposed area within 90 days.
Council members are opposed to de-annexation.
“One guy told me he wanted to de-annex to the north. That would make me ineligible to participate,” Councilman Al Gliechman said. “I wouldn’t have a vote. Most of Bobby’s ward would be taken out too and about 90 percent of them want to de-annex.”