Public resistence to constructing a new annex adjacent to the extant Osage County Courthouse may have waned in the five-plus years since voters rejected a proposed expansion to Pawhuska’s 103-year-old courthouse on the hill in 2011, according to members of a committee that’s been studying the courthouse situation since late 2015.
During a community meeting last week to discuss courthouse improvement options, local residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of an annex plan drawn up by an architectural consulting group that had been working with the committee
District Judge John Kane, the committee’s co-chair, expressed his surprise over results of a straw poll taken at the end of Tuesday’s gathering at the Osage County Fairgrounds’ Ag Building.
Those in attendance voted 21-3 for constructing an annex adjacent to the existing courthouse, rather than refurbishing county-owned older buildings located downtown, said the other co-chair, Mike Tolson.
A similar public polling taken more than a year ago showed a vast majority of those responding were in favored restoring the historic Kennedy and Whiting Buildings — projects which the committee has found would be considerably more expensive than constructing a whole new building.
“That appears to be the more favorable option , once they’re given all the facts,” Tolson said.
Tolson said the local turnout was the biggest of the four that the committee has held thus far. Two days after the local gathering, no one showed up at the meeting scheduled in north Tulsa’s Gilcrease Hills area, the committee member said. He said more probably would have been at the Pawhuska meeting had the weather not been threatening.
The seven-member committee was to continue gathering public input at a Tuesday meeting in Fairfax. Thursday, the committee will address the issues during a meeting at Skiatook City Hall.
Residents of the rapidly-growing Skiatook area have been making a case for their own courthouse annex.
“All three of the plans we’re discussing would including renovating the current courthouse and building some sort of annex in the Skiatook area,” Tolson added.
The first community meeting was held April 18 at McCord. Another held that same week in Hominy drew just two people.
“We’re going to try another meeting in Hominy (at the Osage County Interlocal Cooperative building at 207 E. Main) on Thursday, May 11,” Tolson added.
Two potential solutions have been suggested by the committee.
One calls for renovating the courthouse and the county-owned Kennedy Building at Sixth and Kihekah. Cost for those projects are estimated at $19.4 million.
Option tw0 would include renovations to the courthouse plus construction of a three-level addition on the north side of the courthouse. Cost of those projects was estimated at $17.8 million.
Both of the plans would include a courthouse annex in Skiatook.
Tolson said the committee will consider input from the public meetings before rendering a final report to commissioners.
Other appointed members of the courthouse study Committee include Cathy Ross, Jerry Loftis and Berry Keeler. Former Undersheriff Lou Ann Brown and District Attorney Rex Duncan.
“Our responsibility is to recommend what we think ought to be done,” Tolson said.