Bank makes cleanup matching payment

Robert Smith

BARNSDALL — American Heritage Bank’s branch office here is the town’s only bank, and it is of particular importance when the bank chooses a community project to support. Branch Manager Karen Overacker and Mayor Johnny Kelley joined Friday in an announcement that American Heritage was paying a $5,000 matching donation to the Barnsdall Cleanup Fund.

The bank matched community donations up to $5,000, and the money will help Barnsdall city government to clean up unkempt properties when there is no other source of funding. Mayor Kelley said he doesn’t plan to use money from the cleanup fund to simply relieve property owners of their responsibilities.

“I’m not doing that,” Kelley said. He added that if the city uses its cleanup fund to address an unsightly piece of property, he thinks the city should have a lien on the property to help ensure repayment.

Overacker clarified that the bank won’t be involved in making policy decisions about exactly how the city goes about its mission to clean properties that need it, but it is supporting the city’s intiative.

Kelley said Friday he anticipates some property owners may donate parcels of land to the city, which it in turn can use to promote goals such as building new homes.

Kelley, who has been mayor just a matter of months, also commented Friday on matters that reflect positive change in Barnsdall, but that are not directly related to the bank’s matching donation.

The mayor said city government is investing money in its water plant, and has entered an interlocal agreement with Osage County to make street repairs.

“We’re making lots of changes in Barnsdall and trying to bring the town back,” Kelley said. Barnsdall, population almost 1,200, is home to a Baker Petrolite chemical plant that is at the heart of its economy, but it has a retail and service sector that has witnessed creative innovation. Take, for instance, the Sweet Scripture restaurant and candy store that blends high quality personal service with the cultural power of Christian faith.

Barnsdall also has a thriving Chamber of Commerce, and a school system that is currenly carrying out a major bond-issue project that includes a storm shelter for elementary school age children.