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Tar Creek Buyouts Average $6,000 Higher

PICHER, Okla. (AP) _ Federal buyout offers to homeowners in the lead-polluted Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma are about $6,000 higher on average than offers in a state program two years ago, officials said.

On average, the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust has offered $60,376 per house during the federal buyout, said Larry Roberts, the trust's operations manager. The 2005 state program, which focused on homes with children under age 6, had an average purchase price of $53,587 per home, Roberts said.

``We are seeing larger residences in this buyout than in the 2005 buyout,'' Roberts said.

A nine-member trust was appointed by Gov. Brad Henry last year to oversee a federal buyout after a 2006 report showed hundreds of homes, businesses and churches in the Picher, Cardin and Hockerville area in Ottawa County could potentially cave in.

The homes are located in a 40-square-mile area that once was a former lead and zinc mining hub. The area has been plagued by mine collapses, open mine shafts, acid mine water that turns Tar Creek orange and mountains of lead-contaminated waste. Local children repeatedly test high for dangerous levels of lead in their blood.

Sonya Harris, the previous manager of the trust, resigned last month, claiming that buyout offers to homeowners were too low and state officials were undermining the relocation committee.

Roberts said the trust is offering $46.60 per square foot, on average, for homes in the current buyout, compared to $38.85 per square foot in the 2005 program.

``More than half of the houses in the current buyout are in average condition,'' Roberts said.

The trust accepted 24 applications to be reviewed and appraised, rejected two applications and tabled one application.

Roberts said the two applications that were rejected came from residents who either were not qualified or didn't live in their home in the time period outlined by the trust buyout guidelines.

Related Stories:

10/3/2006 Group Gets Buyout Requests From Tar Creek Area

10/15/2006 Residents Of Mine-Polluted Ottawa County Town Preparing For Buyout

11/13/2006 Officials To Give Tar Creek Buyout Information

12/19/2006 Appraisals Begin For Tar Creek Federal Buyout

2/12/2007 Voters Deciding Fate Of School District

2/12/2007 Tar Creek Trust Says Land Was Given Away

3/3/2007 Oklahoma Town Is A Toxic Waste Site

4/7/2007 Delay In Offers, Low Assessments Worry Some Tar Creek Residents

5/10/2007 Tar Creek Buyout Continues Amid Funding Concerns

5/18/2007 Tar Creek Pollution Called Regional Problem

6/30/2007 Former Lawmaker To Lead Tar Creek Trust
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