The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority board met today for its regular February meeting. Tucked within the inch-thick formal agenda packet was an item to consider adoption of a “Right-of-Way Acquisition Policy” for the Driving Forward Program.
The OTA calls it “Right-of-Way Acquisition,” but those in the path of some of the new projects, including the $300 million EOC Loop, might call it something else. The four-page document outlines procedures to “accommodate the projected construction” of the bond-funded projects.
“OTA possess neither the dedicated staff nor in-house experience for the anticipated volume of acquisitions by purchase or condemnation of the new required rights-of-way; and the vast majority of the purchases shall be funded from bond revenue and not from current operating budget …
Consequently, these policies shall support OTA’s acquisitions for the Driving Forward Program (and complies with the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisitions Act … as embraced in 730 of the Oklahoma Administrative Code.”
The entire document is here: OTA Driving Forward Land Acquisition Policies.
- Each separate conveyance shall be independently verified and reviewed prior to initial negotiations
- OTA will satisfy the mortgage, liens and surface leaders (not mineral rights) and OTA shall secure a clear title.
- Unless a parcel is worth less than $10,000, documented appraisal reports shall be made before any negotiation. (It’s a case by case deal with the director for parcels valued between $10,000 – $25,000). A separate certified licensed appraiser will be hired. At any time deemed necessary, a second appraisal may be requested only by the Review Appraiser or the OTA Executive Director.
- Just compensation is defined: the value of the property taken, and in addition, any injury to any part of the property not taken … if only part of a tract is taken, just compensation shall be ascertained by determining the difference between the fair market value of the whole tract and the fair market value of the portion left after the taking.
- OTA will do its pay-offs with integrity and sound judgement. AND, payments to displaced owners and tenants for relocation benefits may be made as an incentive to settle, but not required at any time time during negotiation or condemnation proceedings.
- OTA wants to avoid court to save money and time. Sincere attempt to purchase should be made before referring a case to eminent domain (condemnation). No threats or coercion shall be used by OTA’s agent. And the OTA Executive Director gets to approve any changes of amounts to any offer.
- If OTA takes part of parcel, and the remainder is deemed “uneconomic,” they’ll make an offer to buy that part too.
- No one talks to the media. “All news releases related to Right of Way acquisition must be approved by the OTA Executive Director before release. Anyone giving an interview or statement for use by news media and acting in the capacity of OTA spokesperson must be accompanied by the OTA Director of Communications and Facilities, or his designee.
The OTA board approved the document unanimously.
Because Interim OTA Director Neal McCaleb is recovering from surgery, Alan Freeman, assistant executive director for finance and administration, gave the Director’s Report at the meeting. He said the Driving Forward program is progressing and another public hearing for the EOC will occur in a month or so when a possible alignment will be presented and public comments will be accepted..
Meantime, a public hearing for the Kilpatrick Extension will be held at the Mustang Town Hall tonight. OTA Spokesman Jack Damrill might expect a less-heated exchange than last week’s public hearing in Choctaw. “Those people want it and understand. It won’t be like Thursday night,” he said.
Other actions from the meeting included approval to purchase 37 new OHP vehicles to patrol the turnpike system at a cost of $873,397; paying January’s bills that amounted to $15 million and hearing a Highway Patrol report that included news that troopers made nearly 10,000 violator contacts, assisted 1,400 motorists, investigated 74 wrecks with five deaths. There were five drug interdictions on the Muskogee and Will Rogers turnpikes.