A local couple with a home and acreage near Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal property are concerned about the tribe’s apparent plans to petition Pottawatomie County commissioners to de-annex the tribe’s legal jurisdiction area to incorporate a town of FireLake.
Catherine Oglesby and her husband, John, along with other family members, have property and homes in the county jurisdiction that is located east of U.S. 177 between Hardesty and Benson Park Road. Catherine Oglesby said they don’t want to be de-annexed from the county and they don’t want to be included in any proposed township.
A published column by CPN Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett indicated plans to ask county commissioners to call a de-annexation election to define the tribe’s legal jurisdiction from the two towns the tribe borders for a FireLake township. That concerns the couple because they don’t know how such an issue might affect their 17.5 acres.
“It’s our understanding the Potawatomi tribe wants to make up their own township there,” Catherine Oglesby said. “We don’t want it — this is privately owned property. I’m nearly 70 years old and I’ve been here all my life — it’s my property and I don’t want to be de-annexed or in his township.”
John Oglesby, who said there are conflicting maps for the area of their home, said he’s concerned about what the tribe is defining as legal jurisdiction for a township — whether it be tribal-owned land only or land within the tribe’s service area, which includes their area.
“It’s not clear — there’s trust land all around here,” John Oglesby said.
But the couple, who built their home in 1980, have paid county taxes since then and want commissioners to be aware they don’t want to be de-annexed should the issue officially come before the Board of Pottawatomie County Commissioners.
John Oglesby said he also wants to know from the tribe what areas CPN wants to incorporate into a township. In addition to talking with Commissioner Eddie Stackhouse directly, they also aired their concerns before the Pottawatomie County commissioners earlier this week.
The couple based their concerns on the April issue of the HowNiKan, in which Barrett addresses the issue.
In his column, he talks about the tribe being less than one month away from being independent of towns on the borders and operating its own water and sewer systems, as well as regulating its own distribution of electricity and operating its own police and court system.
“The logical next step is to join the community of cities as a recognized town under the law,” Barrett writes. “I plan to introduce a bill to the Tribal Legislature to incorporate the town of FireLake and petition Pottawatomie County commissioners to hold a de-annexation election to clearly define the separation of our legal jurisdiction from the two Oklahoma towns that we border. We should all pray that these communities view this as an opportunity for partnership in mutual progress.”
Page 2 of 3 - John Oglesby, who said they just want to know what areas they tribe is looking to incorporate into the proposed township, said they want commissioners to be aware they don’t want to be de-annexed from the county.
Stackhouse, who indicated Thursday there’s always been rumors, said they haven’ seen anything come across their desks on this issue.
Stackhouse, who said a township would require a zip code and a post office, said he doesn’t see that happening with all the post office cuts nationwide.
As far as any request for de-annexation, Stackhouse also isn’t sure what CPN may be looking at.
“I’ve never seen any mapping or diagrams or boundaries of what he wants,” Stackhouse said in response to Barrett’s column. “We’re sitting in limbo as far as the boundaries and what’s he’s trying to propose.”
Stackhouse said he’s talked with the couple many times about their concerns and knows they are worried, but told them that they are county taxpayers and CPN can’t take their property without them selling or signing it over.
As far as a de-annexation election, any request would have to be put on an agenda and discussed.
“We haven’t been presented with documentation that he wants to pursue this township,” he said. “It’s all new to us.”
Stackhouse, who explained they don’t have enough information about the proposed issue to answer any questions at this point, said as a commissioner he wouldn’t want to de-annex any portions of the county without first considering the constituents as well as the those areas that are on the county’s tax rolls.
District 2 Commissioner Randy Thomas said if the couple pays county taxes, their property is not in tribal trust, so de-annexation shouldn’t be an issue for them, although he’s still gathering information on the issue as well.
As far as what to do next, Thomas said they’d wait to see if CPN notifies them about the issue and then seriously address it.
“I don’t think they can start annexing and de-annexing,” Thomas said, adding he doesn’t think anyone can take people’s ground to build a city.
The News-Star requested further information from CPN on its plans involving the proposed Township, possible boundaries as well as the couple’s concerns.
Jennifer Hardesty, a CPN spokeswoman, said Barrett had no additional comments on the issue other than what was written in his column.
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