Legislators transfer landfill company to tribe
Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd speaks during the June 13 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Tribal Councilors voted to transfer Cherokee Nation Waste Management LLC to the tribe and take on its $1.5 million debt. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its June 13 meeting, the Tribal Council voted to transfer Cherokee Nation Waste Management LLC, which operates a landfill in Stilwell, back under the tribe.
At the May 26 Rules Committee meeting, Natural Resources Secretary Sara Hill told Tribal Councilors the resolution would eliminate the LLC and brings it back under the tribe’s fold.
“We’re wanting to eliminate the Cherokee Nation Waste Management entity and move the landfill back under the Cherokee Nation, which is where it started back before the LLC was created,” she said. “So we’re going to put the Cherokee Nation Waste Management group out and put the landfill back under the control of the Cherokee Nation itself.”
She also said for that to occur the tribe would need to incur the $1.5 million debt the LLC has.
“It’s about $1.5 million debt for equipment that they took out in 2014. They want to move that debt from the LLC over to the Cherokee Nation itself,” Hill said. “The Cherokee Nation will be responsible for that debt instead of the LLC. This includes consent to be sued… If we didn’t pay our loan to the bank (Welch State Bank) the bank could sue us to get the money that we owe them back.”
We’re wanting to eliminate the Cherokee Nation Waste Management entity and move the landfill back under the Cherokee Nation, which is where it started back before the LLC was created.
Sara Hill, Natural Resources secretary
During the Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd asked Hill if the CN is looking to permanently close the landfill in the future. Hill said that “every landfill closes eventually.”
“Every landfill has a life cycle…When you sit down to plan a landfill you should plan it for 100 years worth of operations, closure and post-closure because it’s a long-term business,” she said. “But what there hasn’t really been at Cherokee Nation is a long-term strategic plan for the landfill, and that’s what we’d like to do. We’d like to go in and look at a closure, post-closure plan and set a date so we know, ‘OK, the landfill, it was open in the (19)80s. It can’t run forever.’ So we’re going to look at what is the best date to close that on, and that can be a 5-to-10-year time span potentially looking at that. But those are not decisions that we have made right now.”
The resolution passed unanimously. Tribal Councilors Janees Taylor, David Thornton and Wanda Hatfield were absent.
Legislators also unanimously renewed the Cherokee Immersion Charter School as a state charter school for another five years.
“This ensures our youth who are immersed in our Cherokee language each day are not only learning the culture to pass on to future generations, but learning it based on a curriculum that is state-certified,” Byrd said. “Research shows that bilingual learners often think more critically and are analytical, but this charter also ensures students learn the same grade-level standards as their counterparts across the state.”
According to CN Communications, the school serves more than 100 students from preschool to eighth grade.
Tribal Councilors also approved a grant application that would provide storm shelters to select Head Starts within the tribe’s jurisdiction.
During the June 13 Education Committee meeting, Marshal Shannon Buhl said, if obtained, the grant would provide safe rooms at various Head Starts.
“This grant is only intended for Head Start programs that’s on tribal lands, so there’s eight of them,” he said. “It’s going to be eight facilities in Kenwood, Cherry Tree, Pryor, Walhalla up in Nowata, Redbird, Jay. Those are going to be 400-square-foot facilities that’s going to be attached to the existing building, and they can hold about 80 people.”
He said the other two locations would be in Tahlequah.
“There’s going to be two facilities at the Children’s Village (Early Head Start) at the circle (at Sequoyah Schools). One is specifically for infants and the other will be for other children,” he said. “The big one’s going to be 2,000 square foot and hold about 400 people. The second one is going to be 800 square foot and going to hold about 160 people for the infants.”
Buhl said the approximate $800,000 grant is specifically for staff, students and those picking up students during a storm.
“These are not community storm shelters,” he said. “They’re specifically paid for and designed for the staff, students and any parents or family members that are there to pick the kids up if a storm happens.”
In other business, legislators:
• Increased the fiscal year 2016 capital budget by $129.5 million to $291.8 million,
• Increased the FY 2016 operating budget by $11.4 million to $676.6 million, and
• Confirmed Evan M. McLemore to the Cherokee Nation Administration Appeals Board.