State and federal officials help Barnsdall seek dam-repair funding

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Barnsdall Mayor Johnny Kelley said June 9 that he had been to Oklahoma City the day before and met with representatives of the Oklahoma governor’s office, U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s office and others in regard to securing financing for repairs to the Lake Waxhoma dam.

Barnsdall municipal officials, along with Osage County, state and federal personnel responded in May to two separate incidents involving leaks at the Lake Waxhoma dam. Preliminary estimates have been that millions of dollars will be needed to pay for repairs.

Kelley said he didn’t yet have details to share regarding a solution, but he said that he felt the consultations on June 8 had gone “very well.”

State Sen. Bill Coleman, who represents the Barnsdall area in the Legislature, also pledged last week to help with Barnsdall’s search for funding to remedy problems at the dam. Barnsdall gets drinking water from the lake and uses it for recreational purposes, as well.

“I can’t guarantee you results, but I can guarantee you I’ll push,” Coleman told a Barnsdall Chamber of Commerce luncheon audience June 8.

The first Waxhoma leak incident in May involved a breach at the spillway, and workers toiled May 19-20 to plug it. The second breach was discovered early Saturday, May 29, and Osage County Emergency Management Director Jerry Roberts said at the time that dirt had given way at a spot somewhat south of the first leak.

Money also needed for ceiling

In a separate matter, efforts are ongoing to raise money to help pay for a new ceiling in the field house on the public school campus. Beth Bell commented at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon June 8 that persons attending Big Heart Day, on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, donated some $1,200 toward the effort.

Local insurance agent Steve Overacker also commented briefly in the Chamber meeting about organizing a public benefit event to raise money for the ceiling.

The playing floor in the field house has been refinished, using money donated privately in memory of the late Coach Joe Gilbert. The field house is named for Gilbert, who worked at Barnsdall Public Schools for 66 years prior to his death at the age of 87.

Jeff Lay, school superintendent in Barnsdall, said last week that contractors have been reluctant to offer any firm price for putting in a ceiling. Lay attributed that reluctance to current economic conditions, in which prices for materials may rapidly change.

Lay said the school district has had three options to examine, ranging in possible cost from about $90,000 to $230,000. He indicated the $230,000 option was not realistic.

“There are always people that are willing to step up and help with projects around the school,” Lay said, praising the community spirit of Barnsdall’s residents. “We do not have the funding to do all the things that need to be done.”

Barnsdall Public Schools has just completed the work on a multi-million-dollar bond issue project, and Lay explained that he will be conducting an analysis of the school district’s budget to determine where money might come from to help with the field house ceiling.