Aug. 10 – The city of Yale will be able to avoid declaring bankruptcy for its Water and Sewage Trust Authority after reaching a settlement with the natural gas supplier that sued the city.
In a Payne County District Court filing seeking to recover money from the company that owns the pipeline delivering the gas, the city’s attorney argued that the amount charged was based on metered usage that far exceeded the gas actually flowing through Yale’s meters.
Although the Oklahoma legislature responded to the situation by creating a grant fund specifically for Yale and several other small towns that found themselves in dire straits after receiving huge gas bills when costs soared in arrow during winter storm Uri in February 2021, the supplier filed a lawsuit in the Tulsa District. court to recover $1.4 million plus 18% interest, which added about $25,000 a month to the city’s balance.
City commissioners met in their capacity as trustees of the city’s utilities authority on July 15 to authorize their outside counsel to proceed with the bankruptcy filing.
The intention was to dissolve the Water and Sewage Trust and sell the small amount of assets it owned in Chapter 7 winding-up proceedings.
But that won’t be necessary if the deal directors approved on Tuesday goes through.
Yale City Attorney Roger McMillian told authority administrators that BlueMark Energy, LLC has agreed to allow the city to submit its state grant application and is willing to accept 1,180,540 $.93 of grant proceeds.
If the city receives more than that, it will be allowed to keep the excess, up to about $1.4 million under the agreement. Any proceeds received over this amount will go to BlueMark Energy.
City Clerk Deanna Couch told News Press that any funding the city receives above the settlement amount still won’t make up for what it has already paid to BlueMark and what has been spent dealing with the coronavirus crisis. fuel and maintaining the gas supply for residents. She said city staff did what they had to do.
“We didn’t want to be on every news channel as a city that let its people freeze,” Couch said.
Trustee Larry Brown, who opposed the bankruptcy filing in July because he believed the city had been defrauded by its delivery company, said he still feels the same way, but is glad Yale have a way out.
There really was no other option, he said.
Negotiations were continuing until the last minute, several administrators said. They all expressed relief at having a chance to resolve the situation without having to take the drastic step of being the first Oklahoma city in recent memory to file for bankruptcy.
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