ONEOK employee meets with residents about pipeline

AUTUMN OWENS/WD PHOTO

A ONEOK employee recently met with West Parker County residents to listen to concerns about the Arbuckle II Pipeline construction taking place on their properties.

ONEOK’s Director of Real Estate Services, which includes right of way acquisition, Walt Hoppensteadt met with three residents at one of the pipeline sites and listened to their concerns.

“We did meet with three landowners out there in Weatherford — Mr. Walden, Mr. McWilliams and Mr. and Mrs. Waters. It was a good meeting, they had some concerns about the pipeline construction on their property and they wanted to talk to somebody from ONEOK, so I made the trip down there and listened to all of their concerns,” Hoppensteadt said. “I felt like it was a good meeting, we got a chance to discuss all the concerns and each landowner had a chance to talk to me directly.”

ONEOK, out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, announced the 530-mile pipeline project in November 2018 and the 24-inch natural gas pipeline is traveling through 15 counties to South Texas.

Resident Steve McWilliams said the extent of damage is done, but that Hoppensteadt did listen and take notes during the meeting.

“They were willing to write checks right then and there for small damage and I told them I wasn’t there for a check list to assign value to. I did tell them that one thing I wish I would have done in the contract was require them to put an electric fence up to keep the cattle away and [Hoppensteadt] told me to get it done, send him an invoice and he’d pay it,” McWilliams said. “I said, the extent of damage that was done probably didn’t need to be done had we been given the opportunity to walk the land.”

McWilliams scheduled a meeting with his land agent at the beginning of July to walk his land and see what trees could be saved in the area, but without notice and without meeting, about 56 of his trees were cut down and mulched.

“They took a lot of notes and listened and I think they were just amazed at some of the stuff we told them,” McWilliams said.

Resident Larry Walden said he felt the meeting went well.

“We got to air all of our concerns and we don’t know that it’s going to change a darn thing, but we had an ear,” Walden said. “Now, if they’ll do anything that would be another matter, but for the first time we talked to someone who is actually an employee of ONEOK.”

Resident Debra Sue Waters said the company should change its policies.

“They were ready to write every one of us a big check, but I said it’s not about the money — not that I may not take money because somewhere down the line if they do more damage, they’re going to have to pay me,” Waters said. “I trusted the wrong people already and look where it’s gotten me. They’ve got to change their policies and I honestly blame the land agents because it’s almost like they’re trained to tell us what we want to hear from them and then we sign the documents.”

Hoppensteadt said ONEOK does acknowledge that some mistakes were made on some of the properties.

“We acknowledge that we’ve made some missteps with some of these property owners and we’re looking into each and every one of those situations. I’m in touch with the construction company and I gave all the property owners that were there my contact information — both my cellphone and office direct line — so they can call me with any concerns going forward,” Hoppensteadt said. “I’m not at liberty to talk about each individual agreement that we have with the property owners, out of respect for them we do keep that confidential. But I can tell you that they did voice some concerns about issues on their properties, I acknowledge that we made some mistakes on some of these properties and that we are going to rectify those problems.”

ONEOK Vice President of Construction Projects Todd McKimmey said the company is committed to maintaining good relationships with landowners.

“ONEOK has a reputation for the fair treatment of landowners, and that’s something we take pride in and work hard to uphold,” McKimmey said. “In the past two years alone, we have negotiated thousands of easements with landowners. We are committed to maintaining good relationships with landowners along our pipelines.”

As for a completion date for the pipeline, ONEOK Communications Manager Brad Borror said the full project is scheduled to be finished by early 2020.

“The overall pipeline is still on schedule to wrap up early next year, but through this particular area in Parker County, we should be wrapping up in the next few weeks,” Borror said. “As part of the process, once construction is complete, there’s a restoration phase and that process will take significantly longer due to planting seasons and to ensure that the right of ways are restored to the landowners’ specifications.”

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