By Chris Wright, The News On 6
OKMULGEE, OK -- Okmulgee wants to expand. The city says it needs to annex land from the county in order to protect its water supply. But, some property owners are angry over the annexation and say they won't let it happen without a fight.
Jim Couch and his family have lived on their property in Okmulgee County for more than 50 years. He says the independence it offers is part of the appeal of living here.
"I have two boys, and grandchildren. The kids like to hunt and fish we do it here on our place," said Jim Couch.
So, Couch says he was surprised to receive a letter recently informing him that his land may be annexed. He lives near Lake Okmulgee, which provides drinking water for the city. Officials claim vandals have been tampering with that water, and unless the city annexes land around the lake, it is powerless to stop them.
"If we don't have high quality safe drink water for people in the city limits, and people we sell to as customers, then we've got real problems," said Okmulgee City Manager Bob Baxter.
City Manager Bob Baxter and others stressed that point during a standing-room only public hearing.
Officials say exactly which properties they will annex is far from a done deal, and admit they did send letters to residents who will likely never be annexed.
"We don't want to annex any more private property than is necessary," said Okmulgee City Manager Bob Baxter.
The city says anyone annexed would benefit from city services like police and fire. But, they would also have to comply with Okmulgee firearms and fireworks ordinances.
Most who attended the hearing say they live in the county for a reason.
"It's going to be passed down to my children. I want to have a place to go be on my land without having someone telling me what to do all the time," said Kendell Pollard.