The municipally-owned building which had long served as the local senior citizens center may soon be leased to a private business, according to a decision made last week by the Pawhuska City Council.
Without public debate and by a unanimous 3-0 margin, the Council voted in favor of leasing the facility to an as yet un-selected, for-profit group. A cutoff date for submission of leasing proposals is expected to be set in the near future.
One business that has already been publicly proposed as an occupant for the building is local restaurant Buffalo Joe’s. The owner of the restaurant, Kim Laird, has expressed interest in expanding her enterprise with a move into the vacated facility. A local petition effort has even been undertaken on behalf of the proposal.
The motion for leasing the building to a for-profit entity was made during a Dec. 2 city meeting by Councilwoman Cathy Worten. Her recommendation, seconded by Mayor Roger Taylor, received a third favorable vote from council member Cindy Tillman. Councilmen Mark Buchanan and Travis Finley abstained from the voting.
An agenda item for the meeting stated that the council was to: "Consider for-profit or charitable usage of the senior citizens building and set a date by which proposals will be accepted from the public."
The council decision effectively denies a proposal made the previous month by two local businessmen. Steve Tolson and Terry Loftis had suggested that the downtown building be used as a community food bank.
Pawhuska Senior Citizens Center operated for decades at the building, which is located at 200 S. Palmer Ave. The center was closed in November, with operators citing a steady decrease in public usage of the facility.