No vote on Grandview request

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

In a roundabout-yet-decisive way, the Pawhuska City Council denied proposals Monday which would have closed a section of Grandview Avenue to facilitate a traffic circle-enhanced realignment of the thoroughfare by the Osage Nation.

Tribal officials asked the city to approve the tribe’s Grandview plan, which is tied to $23 million in construction improvements that are currently underway as part of the Osage Nation Campus Master Plan. The proposal had been rejected by city earlier this year before being re-offered by Raymond Red Corn, the tribe’s recently-elected Assistant Principal Chief.

The street realignment was discussed during a 45-minute public hearing which opened Monday’s council session. Approximately two dozen citizens attended the hearing and several spoke unfavorably about the proposed alteration of the city street.

For approximately a half dozen blocks, Grandview runs from Main Street to its dubious intersection with Kihekah Avenue. The avenue runs over “The Hill” — past the Osage County Courthouse and the historic buildings which, for a century, have constituted the Osage Nation’s tribal headquarters.

“We hope this will be something that all of Pawhuska can be proud of,” said Red Corn, who told those in the council chamber that the new Grandview design would make the street safer to travel.

One of the main speakers against the Osages’ proposal was Bruce Gambill, a local judge. Gambill warned the council that approval of the plan would make it difficult for the city to ever regain control over the street — which, he pointed out, provided important options for local traffic.

“People have been using this road for over 100 years — since before Oklahoma statehood,” said Gambill, adding: “This is really the only scenic route that overlooks Pawhuska.”

ON officials said additional parking spaces would be created along the Grandview corridor, which would help to accomodate the tribe’s expanding work force. They said more than 300 Osage Nation employees had been hired in the past three years.

One citizen who spoke in favor of the tribe’s proposal was Steve Tolson. He said people could adapt to changes in their travel habits while pointing to the economic impact the Osage Nation has on the community.

“If a company came to town and said it would spend $24 million here, I think the city would say: ‘What can we do to help you?,’” Tolson said to the council.

More than one person spoke unfavorably of the plan’s design for a roundabout, even though that feature was going to be located off of Grandview. ON official Bruce Cass said the Silver Lake roundabout in Bartlesville, which was cited by one of the speakers, was only about one-third the size of the planned Osage traffic circle.

One speaker asked if the project could be a joint venture of the city and tribe. Another questioned the necessity of closing the street for accomplishing the goals expressed by the tribe.

“Safety — not beauty — is our No. 1 concern,” said Red Corn, stressing the importance of eliminating an existing danger at Grandview’s intersection with Kihekah.

Asked if the tribe would continue with other planned modifications of the street even if the proposal was rejected, Cass said it probably would.

“So, instead of eliminating a bad intersection, the problems could be compounded,” the ON official said.

When the time came Monday to vote on the ordinance that would have allowed for the closing of a 300 foot stretch of Grandview, none of the council members made the needed motion. City Attorney Robert Wilson advised them that, upon failure to act on the ordinance, they should move to the next item on the agenda.

After no action was required on the second item, Wilson recommended that the meeting be adjourned.