ON proposes discussion of possible city hall sale

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
ON Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn comments before the Pawhuska City Council regarding the ON’s interest in buying the city hall building. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

The assistant principal chief of the Osage Nation last week proposed to Pawhuska municipal leaders the beginning of a deliberative process that could lead to the ON purchasing the city hall building on Main Street.

Raymond Red Corn, the ON’s assistant principal chief, addressed the Pawhuska City Council, City Manager Dave Neely and other officials, and suggested entering into a series of discussions that could last several months — he characterized the process as “a long, slow walk.” Red Corn said the ON would be interested in paying the city “whatever it would take for the city to replace this building” in terms of square footage and overall usefulness for the public.

The city council voted 5-0 to authorize Neely to move ahead in exploratory discussions with representatives of the ON.

Red Corn noted that the Osage people were the original owners of Pawhuska’s current city hall, having built the structure in 1894. He said the ON is interested in acquiring the building now because it would like to move the Osage Nation Congress out of the old bank building located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Kihekah Avenue and Main Street. The ON is interested in converting the ground floor of the old bank building to retail use, he explained.

Red Corn described the ground floor space at the bank building as perhaps “the best commercial retail location in the city of Pawhuska.” It is located at the same intersection as The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, established in the fall of 2016, which has become a major drawing card for Pawhuska and Osage County.

“We’re going to really take our time doing this. There are a lot of stakeholders,” Red Corn said, emphasizing he anticipated a multi-step process that would require discussion, consent and planning on the part of the Osage Nation Congress, as well as city government. He said the Osage Nation desires for the process to be as open and transparent as possible.

Joe Tillman, speaker of the Osage Nation Congress, also addressed municipal officials, and voiced an interest in having the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Congress decide to initiate an exploratory phase of discussions with the city.

Councilor John Brazee said he thought a new city hall for Pawhuska might make it easier for residents to get in and out of the building to transact their business, and the Osage Nation would be able to recover a building that formerly belonged to the Osage people.

Councilor Jordan Foran said she is interested in knowing what the current city hall building is worth, as well as what a new city hall would cost. She added that she favors having a public, forum-style discussion of the potential sale to allow residents to make comments and ask questions.

“I think that is an excellent idea,” Councilor Mark Buchanan said.

Neely said last Friday that he’d had contact with the ON since the Jan. 14 council meeting, and he touched on the ON’s desire for the sale exploration process to be “above board.”

“I think it’s a win-win situation for us,” Neely said, referring to a potential sale of city hall to make way for the conversion of space at the bank building to retail use.