Council approves up to $4.4 million for infrastructure needs

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska city councilors on Thursday, June 2 approved taking on up to $4.4 million of debt for infrastructure improvements.

The councilors also took action on the debt approval in their capacities as trustees of the Pawhuska Public Works Authority.

Ward 4 representative Rodger Milleson voted “no” on each of the two authorizing motions. The other four representatives voted “yes,”

American Heritage Bank is to be the lead lending institution for the initiative, with the Bank of Pawhuska and Blue Sky Bank also authorized to participate in the package. The interest rate is to be 3.6 percent, City Attorney John Heskett said,

The primary objective of the city’s borrowing is to make improvements in its capacity for electricity generation. The new Osage Casino, expected to begin operations soon, will raise the demand for the city’s electricity service roughly to its present limit. All commercial and other development beyond that could put the city in a position of being unable to meet demand.

Some $1 million of the $4.4 million would be available to pay for infrastructure needs other than electricity generation. There has been talk of investing in new water meters, but that has not been agreed upon. At-Large Councilor Steve Tolson on June 2 suggested earmarking the $1 million for water and sewer improvements generally. He said that he was not yet convinced that water meters were the best choice.

Heskett said that city officials could even decide not to draw down that $1 million.

The money is to be borrowed initially for 10 years, but with city government looking at some point to refinance. Heskett explained repayment was being projected on a 20-year basis.

The agreement to take on debt comes at a time when Pawhuska is under pressure to make electricity generation improvements, but it is also a time when city government is experiencing instability due to a vacancy in the city manager position.

Interim City Manager Jerry Eubanks resigned May 26, a day after being charged in Kay County District Court with three felony offenses. The City Council discussed the resignation in an executive session May 26 and then voted, 3-to-2, to accept it. Milleson, who cast one of the “no” votes on the resignation, was still fuming June 2. He commented before the June 2 meeting that he thought Eubanks had been “thrown under the bus.”

Councilors talked in an executive session June 2 about the city manager position, but made no decision on appointing anyone.

The council also decided not to immediately hire anyone to be a consultant for water, sewer and electricity projects.

Ward 1 Councilor Roger Taylor, who is designated as Mayor, told the Journal-Capital that he was acting in the capacity of city manager for the time being and delegating various duties.