By Mick Hinton
The Moore American
NORMAN — A rural Norman landowner has raised concerns about tons of dirt and debris that Cleveland County crews dumped over a five-day period onto the property to his east.
George Dotson said in early January he witnessed nearly 100 truckloads being dumped by county trucks onto the property. The dirt and debris came from a city-county road improvement project four miles away on the north side of Highway 9.
There is a natural tributary flowing through both properties, Dotson said. He is concerned that heavy rains will erode his property because the natural flow of water through the channel has been altered.
Cleveland County Commissioner Darry Stacy, whose crews moved the dirt and debris, said Dotson’s concerns are unfounded. Dumping the dirt at that location saves the county “huge sums of money,” Stacy said.
He estimated that it would have cost nearly $70,000 to haul the dirt, tree limbs and other vegetation to an approved landfill site 24 miles away in south Oklahoma City. But it cost less than $700 to haul the dirt just four miles away onto private property.
Stacy said county crews have been dumping excess materials onto the site along Cedar Lane since at least 2006 and that it is done routinely at sites throughout the county and in other counties. In addition to the site being handy for crews, he said the ravine that was filled in was a potential safety issue on Cedar Lane.
“Darry Stacy told me that this was really a city project, and not a county one,” Dotson said.
Shawn O’Leary, public works director for the City of Norman, said city officials did not even know about the dumping until Dotson talked to his council member Lynne Miller. She relayed Dotson’s concerns to city officials.
O’Leary said the city discovered that dumping all of that dirt and debris onto the private property “was actually altering the flow of the stream” that runs into Dave Blue Creek and eventually into Lake Thunderbird.
“The county got a little bit liberal with moving of dirt and pushing it into the flow line,” he said. The city asked the county to correct the problem they had caused.
Stacy said the city’s concern prompted the county to go back into the area and deepen the bed of the tributary and partially restore the site to its natural state.
O’Leary said he will not consider the project adequately completed until the county will come onto the area — all on private property — and put down a straw-like mesh to curb further erosion.
On Jan. 27, commissioners voted 2-1 to adopt in writing a policy concerning the dumping of excess dirt and debris onto private property.
Stacy said it was a case of formalizing in writing what has been the practice on dumping for several years. He acknowledged that Dotson’s concerns prompted commissioners to adopt in writing what had been the practice for many years.
At the Jan. 27 meeting, County Commission Chairman Rusty Sullivan offered an amendment that would have eliminated county employees and their relatives from accepting the dirt from the county.
But Stacy responded, “To exclude an employee or relative isn’t being fiscally responsible.”
The land where the dirt was dumped is owned by Yvonne Hatfield, a sister of Paul Myer, road foreman for Commissioner Stacy. Another brother, Mark Myer, is foreman for Cleveland County Commissioner Rod Cleveland.
In an interview Friday, Stacy said he had been assured that the dumping was within the law and he had no problem with where the dirt was placed. He encouraged other county property owners who will voluntarily accept the dirt and vegetative debris to let commissioners know. Landowners must sign a waiver allowing county trucks onto private property.