Kennedy Building auction plans delayed

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

The Osage County Commission agreed Monday to delay plans for disposing of a vacant downtown building until a select committee has moved further along with its study of Courthouse Renovation options.

Commissioners were asked to hold off on taking any action that might clear the way for a public auction of the historic Kennedy Building, located at 6th and Kihekah Avenue.

An item on Monday’s county commission agenda indicated the commissioners were going to discuss — and possibly could take action — “regarding advertisements for sealed bids, setting opening bid limit & bid opening date on sale of the Kennedy Building.”

Committee members, who were recently appointed by the commission, requested the moratorium so that the study group could consider “all of the options” surrounding the Osage County Courthouse issue.

The seven-member study committee includes District Judge John Kane, Assistant District Attorney Mike Fisher and Undersheriff Lou Ann Brown as well as local attorney Mike Tolson, Pawhuska businesswoman Cathy Ross, builder Jerry Loftis and Fairfax businessman Berry Keeler.

During its preliminary meetings, the committee has reportedly discussed its “mission” as well as its public accessibility. While the committee was not specifically required to abide by Oklahoma Open Meetings Act policies, the decision was made to do so in an effort promulgate citizen input.

Appointment of the committee followed the commission’s recent suggestions with regard to increasing the county sales tax in order to finance construction of a new Pawhuska facility which would replace the century-old Osage County Courthouse. The plan also called for a courthouse annex to be provided for Skiatook, which is the county’s fastest-growing area.

That proposal immediately drew strong opposition, much of it a remnant to the county’s 2011 courthouse renovation-expansion proposal — which was turned down by voters by a considerable margin.

One of the committee members asked commissioners for additional direction on the study. Mike Tolson asked if the preferred focus should be the renovation/rehabilitation of the existing courthouse or on the utilization of other buildings available for county use.

Constructed as a bank in the mid-1920s, the Kennedy Building was more recently used by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. It has been vacant since last summer when the DHS offices moved into a new facility.

County officials spent quite a bit keeping the Kennedy Building in service and are currently facing additional expenses on it, as well as on the courthouse.

The committee is scheduled to give a progress report on its study at the Dec. 28 commission meeting.