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Council authorizes mayor to request early Mimosa Lane, Bypass closure

The Tahlequah City Council, during an April 4 meeting, gave Mayor Suzanne Myers authorization to request the closure of the intersection at Mimosa Lane and State Highway 51 Bypass from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

"This is the intersection across from where RibCrib, Century 21, it goes on across to McDonald's and Reasor's on the back side. We've had, over the years, many accidents there. [It's] certainly a hot spot for the police department, the fire department, and EMS," Compliance Coordinator Ray Hammons said.

Hammons added that ODOT is planning to permanently close the intersection in the foreseeable future; however, due to the ongoing construction in the area, he believes more drivers will use the intersection as a detour which would then cause more vehicle crashes.

"I spoke with Chris Wallace with ODOT and he is amicable in saying he would like to come over here if we wished, if the council is of mind to go ahead and close that temporary as a cross street until it is permanently made that way, which hopefully when we start the new road between [Mimosa Lane and Park Hill Road] they're going to work jointly with us at the same time in the project," Hammons said.

Hammons said he spoke with officials from the Tahlequah Police Department, Tahlequah Fire Department, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, Cherokee County 911 Center Authority, and EMS, and they agree it's the "right" move.

"This will be in the center medium of the [Bertha Parker Bypass] that goes from the northwest side of Mimosa Lane to the southeast side of Mimosa Lane. You won't be able to 'jet' across four lanes of traffic," Hammons said.

Ward 2 Councilor Keith Baker pointed out that there have been close to 46 vehicles crashes in that intersection over the last six years while Hammons said there were two this past week.

"I can say when that Bypass was created in 1985, that intersection alone we had a wreck and I was a part of that and it was just basically because someone crossing the road. I do think this is a large safety problem as well as it will hopefully deviate traffic to other avenues that's causing some of the problems in the neighborhoods as well that are part of [that intersection]," Baker said.

Ward 4 Council Josh Allen asked if businesses in that area have been contacted and Hammons said he has not called. City Attorney John Tyler Hammons said ODOT has already approved the permanent closure.

The board was updated on the odor issues from the Tahlequah Public Works Authority.

David Lindsey, TPWA special services director, read from a statement written by Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Darrell Curtis.

"We are aware of the odor issues permeating the city and we are actively working on correcting this issue. We believe unknown substances were illegally dumped into our manhole(s) at some point," Curtis wrote.

He added that the unknown substance can disrupt the treatment process while leaving Tahlequah smelling "foul."

"The wastewater treatment system relies on bacteria to treat waste and keep any odors at bay. When someone dumps chemicals, grease, oils, etc. in a manhole, this can kill all the good bacteria used for waste treatment. It can take months to remedy a situation like this," Curtis wrote.

The unknown substance reportedly killed off all the good bacteria in the basins and Curtis said this has only happened one other time in his 18 years at the facility.

"We are working with [Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality] and surrounding wastewater treatment facilities to restore the good bacteria in our reservoirs. We are constantly bringing in 'sludge,' a process of reseeding our basins with the good bacteria from another facility, and even looking into a chemical treatment that may help quicken the process. Our laboratory numbers are currently trending in the right direction, but the process is lengthy. As we get the correct balance back of good bacteria, the odor will begin to dissipate," Curtis wrote.

Officials with TPWA are asking anyone to report if they see illegal dumping into a manhole.

In other business, Myers gave a proclamation for Donate a Life Month to Susan Erler, of LifeShare of Oklahoma.

"One of the most meaningful gifts that a human being can bestow upon another is the gift of life and over 103,000 men, women, and children are currently on the national waiting list for organ transplantation of which nearly 742 reside in Oklahoma, and whereas 649 organ transplants occurred in Oklahoma in 2023 thanks to the selfless generosity donor heroes of which 559 lives were saved," Myers said.

The board approved the 2024-2025 Tahlequah Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 201 contract.

What's next

The Tahlequah City Council meeting is Monday, May 6 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.


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