After discussing the pros and cons of building Phase I of a Pawhuska Youth Sports Complex, the Osage County Commissioners’ last week approved a request to use 20-25 acres of public-owned land north of the Osage County Sheriff’s Office.
Commissioners Jackson and McKinney voted yes for the project. Commissioner Hilton voted no.
The approval was contingent upon surveying the property and the complex’s final design which will include four ball fields, water, lights and parking. Some type of fence will separate the sports complex from the jail. Other safety considerations will be factored into the design.
None of the board members disagreed with spokesperson Beth Reed about how much the community needed the sports complex. They were also in favor of the significant economic impact this development would have for Pawhuska and that it would finally give our youth some place to go and provide a great outlet for exercise. However, their concern, shared bt Sheriff Ty Koch, was the location of the complex due to safety reasons.
Koch stressed his main reasom for objecting to the sports faciliy’s location near the county jail was child safety.
"The elements we deal with include murderers and sex offenders," said Koch. "The only time children are close to the jail is during the Cavalcade."
Koch said his department covers security during this annual event. "We can’t provide security year-round," he said, referencing the new facilities’ anticipated use.
"I believe this location is one of the safer places in Pawhuska," countered sports complex advocate Jerry Mosle. "We can avoid problems because Sheriff Koch is right there. If I’m going to do something bad in Osage County, I don’t want to go into the Sheriff’s backyard."
City Attorney Jeff Worten indicated he saw no increased liability due to the proposed location.
"I disagree with the assessment as to liability if something bad happens," said Worten. "No real issue. (The) only one is if the sheriff fell asleep at the switch and left the jail unlocked. Then, it’s a red herring simply because it relates to kids."
The commissioners all agreed to provide county equipment and manpower needed to get the grounds leveled so construction could commence.
"Time is of utmost importance to get this project launched," said Mosley. "If we started today, it would be next season at the earliest before we can get it up and running."
Reed said the new sports complex will make use of public land with private funding.
"We are talking about a $1.5 Million project." said Reed. "We already have $58K committed but have been holding back on fund-raising efforts until we had secured a location. We want this to work for everybody."
Additional supporters of the sports complex include Pawhuska City Councilwomen Kathy Worten and Cindy Tillman.
"Lots of jails are in residential areas," said Worten. "They have to be in someone’s neighborhood."
She mentioned the fairly new complex in Bartlesville and the old county jail next to the courthouse.
"This is a great thing for Pawhuska.," said Tillman. "We have great leaders in the city, county and sheriff’s office."