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Sen. Jim Inhofe has Picher's stimulus funds frozen

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Modified: July 9, 2009 at 10:04 am •  Published: July 9, 2009
TULSA — Sen. Jim Inhofe has had $135,000 in federal stimulus funds frozen that was to have gone for capital improvements in a fading mining town in a Superfund area, saying it makes no sense to invest in the town.

There are only about 100 residents left in Picher, a mining town in northeast Oklahoma where only 19 of 54 housing units have active water accounts, town clerk Carolyn Elmore said.

Inhofe, a Republican who strongly opposed the $787 billion economic stimulus package Congress approved earlier this year, said Wednesday that the money earmarked to the Picher Housing Authority would have been wasted.

"It is almost like they had this pot of money they got to get rid of," he said.

The senator's spokesman, Ryan Jackson, said the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has agreed to honor the senator's request to withhold the money.

The HUD funds are designated for capital improvements, but the Picher housing program gets smaller each month as state and federal buyouts of residents in recent years have dwindled the town's population.

The town is part of a 40-square-mile area that the federal Environmental Protection Agency put on its Superfund list in 1983, years after lead and zinc mining companies pulled out.

In the 1990s, a study found elevated blood lead levels in Tar Creek-area children, and teachers began noticing years ago that students were learning more slowly and couldn't focus.

In 2006, a U.S.

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