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Shawnee, tribe clash over water deal

By Ann Kelley Published: June 18, 2008
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SHAWNEE — Pottawatomie County commissioners agreed Tuesday to allow a tribal-owned water district to annex county territory to serve a pocket of residents in need of water.

The $5 million plan will bring water to as many as 440 households in the Dale area, as well as Dale Schools, said Potawatomi Nation Chairman John Barrett. The system also will serve the tribe's FireLake Grand Casino on Interstate 40 and future tribal development in the area, Barrett said.

The annexation was not accomplished without protests from neighboring city officials, who want the option of serving the annexed areas as they are developed.

James Gammill, deputy executive director of the Oklahoma Rural Water Association, said the Potawatomis are the only tribe in Oklahoma to own a water district that serves customers outside their tribal businesses and members' homes. Gammill also said he knows of no other tribal-owned utility companies that have competed with cities for customer territory.

Where will the water come from?
The water will be piped in from the tribe's South Pottawatomie County Rural Water District No. 3 in Wanette. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation bailed out the water district operation about three years ago and has since invested more than $1.5 million in upgrades, Barrett said.

The district buys water from the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust.

McLoud City Attorney Mike Warwick said his city has invested $5 million in a new water plant to eventually expand its service area.

Shawnee Mayor Chuck Mills said Shawnee already serves areas outside the city and could eventually do the same for Dale.

Mills said the city has hired an attorney to research the legal ramifications, but it hasn't been determined how far Shawnee officials will be willing to protest it.

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Potawatomi water deal
•The $5 million plan will bring water to households in the Dale area, Dale Schools and the Potawatomis' FireLake Grand Casino on Interstate 40.

•The water will be piped in from the tribe's South Pottawatomie County Rural Water District No. 3 in Wanette.

•Property owners in the annexed area would not be required to hook onto the system, said Richard Kunze, representative for the tribe's water district. He said the tap and membership fee would cost $900, and property owners would pay to run lines from their homes to the main water line.

•The waterline that will run from southern Pottawatomie County to the Dale area could potentially benefit others along the way. As many as 400 households in the Stafford Estates addition just outside the western edge of Shawnee and other neighboring additions also could potentially connect to the tribal water system.

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