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Attorney: Fairfax property could go through surplus process

Robert Smith

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Kane on Monday said that a parcel of downtown Fairfax property where Osage County commissioners have paid for demolition and cleanup of a dilapidated former commercial structure will probably need to go through a process of being declared surplus.

Kane explained to the Journal-Capital that the property could then be sold at auction or transferred to another political subdivision of the state of Oklahoma.

Kane, who provides legal advice to the commissioners for the District Attorney’s Office, initially commented in response to a question raised during the citizen input period of the weekly county board meeting by Jerry Butterbaugh, who has previously tried to acquire the property.

Kane told the Journal-Capital that the discussion that ensued Monday, when Butterbaugh asked about the future of the property, marked the first time the commissioners had considered the question.

“I do not have any grand plan, but I am interested in it moving forward,” Butterbaugh said Monday, clarifying he just wants to see the property put to good use now that the demolition and cleanup of the former Big Hill Trading Co. facility has been carried out.

Terry Loftis, a general contractor who has represented the commissioners in the process of carrying out the demolition and cleanup, told the county board Monday that the project was about to be wrapped up, weather permitting.

Butterbaugh reminded the commissioners and others present that the Big Hill property came into possession of Osage County because of non-payment of taxes. Butterbaugh attempted to acquire it through a tax sale, but the county was unable to give clear title. The property has also been the subject of litigation involving the former owner.

That litigation has concluded, and suggestions that the former trading company building could be rehabilitated for economic development purposes have failed to bear fruit, and the remains of the Big Hill store have been removed.

“What must be done now?” Butterbaugh said Monday.

District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones pointed out that the county has now invested money in the handling of the property, and clarification regarding the next moves would be needed.

Kane said she thought the next step would likely be a normal process of declaring the property to be surplus, and unneeded by the county for its purposes.

Butterbaugh, though he acknowledged he is not a lawyer, told the Journal-Capital that he was unsure if a surplus process was the appropriate way to go, suggesting that it might more appropriately, quickly and more easily be sold by the county Treasurer’s Office.

“I don’t think Sally (Hulse) can right now because of where it’s been,” Kane said, commenting on the possibility that the property could be sold by the treasurer. “I don’t know that she can.”