Pawhuska councilors weigh selling City Hall

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska city councilors Aug. 31 neither accepted nor rejected an Osage Nation request to buy City Hall and the old fire station, and Mayor Roger Taylor said city officials would continue to consider the idea.

Taylor commented following an executive session, in which councilors discussed a presentation by Osage Nation Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn. Councilors took no official action Aug. 31. Ward 4 Councilor Rodger Milleson was absent.

The current Pawhuska City Hall once belonged to the Osage Nation, and Red Corn acknowledged the tribe has emotional and historical reasons for desiring to buy it. Constructed in 1894, the building was initially the Osage Council House. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Red Corn outlined a potential process for Pawhuska city government to sell City Hall but continue to occupy it for a relatively brief period, while preparing another facility to serve as the municipality’s administrative hub.

He said the Osage Nation could lease City Hall back to Pawhuska through an arrangement that would be “friendly, not at all onerous,” but that would nonetheless give city government incentive to get out of making the lease payments.

Red Corn suggested the possibility that a lease charge might be calculated by determining what the Osage Nation’s revenue would have been, had it invested at interest the money used to make the purchase from the city. He mentioned possibly looking at such a calculation in terms of annualized interest income of 2.5 percent, divided by 12.

Red Corn also spoke of the possibility that Pawhuska municipal government might need about 18 months to provide replacement accommodations for itself.

At-Large Councilor Steve Tolson said he had been asked whether a deal might be possible that would involve the sale of City Hall but not the old fire station, which is located just to the rear of City Hall.

”Never say never,” Red Corn said, but he clarified the Osage Nation does desire to buy the old fire station. He indicated the Osage Nation is interested in the old fire station as easily accessible meeting space.

The Osage Nation previously approached Pawhuska city government in January 2020 about a potential sale of City Hall. The City Council at that time approved beginning a process of communication on the subject, but there was not a sale.

In regard to fresh consideration of the potential sale of Pawhuska City Hall to the Osage Nation, Red Corn told city councilors that the Osage Congress would come into session right after Labor Day. The tribal Congress could be called into a special session at a later date, if necessary, he added.

Pawhuska councilors inquired whether the Osage Nation is also interested in buying the city’s police station.

“To date, we have made no firm decision on whether or not to purchase the police station,” Red Corn said. He also reiterated a desire to move the Osage Nation Congress out of its current quarters on Main Street in Pawhuska, across an intersection from The Pioneer Woman Mercantile. He characterized it as an “absolute shame” that the Congress is housed in what should be treated as prime commercial real estate.

The Osage Nation acquired the former First National Bank building, where the Congress sits, in 2015. About a year later, The Pioneer Woman Mercantile opened and became a whirlwind commercial success.

As they consider selling City Hall and the old fire station, Pawhuska councilors will be thinking not only about the appraised value of the property but about what it will cost to fully replace it.

Police Chief Lorrie Hennesy said she would welcome the opportunity for her department to have a new station.