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Cherry Tree water district employees not paid for 3 weeks, customers want 2 board members fired

Posted at 9:42 PM, May 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-31 23:13:47-04

STILWELL, Okla. -- A meeting that would have potentially calmed the nerves of some Stilwell residents in fear of losing their water, turned into a chaotic mess after two Cherry Tree Water District board members refused to show up, canceling the meeting.

In rural Adair County, a group of women are ready to make a sale.


“I probably look real ragged," Cherry Tree Water District customer Betty Scott said.


While waiting for the next customer, the women begin to discuss problems with the Cherry Tree Water District, a water utility company in Stilwell. 


“My husband brought back a big chug of water so that we would have something to drink," Scott said.


The water district’s operations are overseen by a board, which is in charge of taking customers' money and using it to pay the bills due to the City of Stilwell, which provides the water. 


“Water is my livelihood," customer Lisa Bolin said.


Across town, water district manager Cameron Bennett stands before a group of 50 customers who want answers from board members after bills haven’t been paid.


“None of the employees have been paid in three weeks as of today," Bennett said.


Only two of the four board members showed up for the meeting. The by-laws say at least three board members have to be in attendance for a meeting to happen. On Friday, the office will be closed because the treasurer did not attend the meeting to sign payroll and accounts payable.


Some residents now plan to sign a petition to get two board members removed, both of whom Bennett says have refused to sign paychecks.


“The water will not be shut off," Bennett said. "I’ve talked to Stilwell. I will still be out there fixing lines. That’s all I can tell you at this point.”


Now, Cherry Tree Water District employees won’t get a paycheck on Friday. But the manager says he'll continue to work for free, like he has done the last three weeks.


Residents are turning to the district’s by-laws, hoping 51 percent of the members will sign this petition to get two board members removed.


“It’s a power struggle that’s what it is," Bolin said.

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