Courthouse proposals topic of 6 meetings

Mike Erwin |

A select, seven-member committee studying the Osage County Courthouse situation conducted an information-gathering meeting Tuesday in Pawhuska.

“We’ve scheduled these meetings across the county to present the plans that we have and get input from citizens,” said the committee’s co-chair, Mike Tolson.

Pawhuska’s meeting was the third in the past week for the committee, which will hold several more over the next two weeks. The first was held April 18 in McCord and one at Hominy last Thursday drew just two people.

Thursday, the committee will hold a meeting at the Gilcrease Hills Homeowners Association Building in Tulsa. Two additional meetings are to be May 2 at Fairfax and May 4 at Skiatook City Hall. All the meetings start at 6:30 p.m.

The series of town meetings is re-opening public discussion about problems related to the Osage County Courthouse in Pawhuska. Since it was constructed in 1914, the courthouse has withstood piecemeal modifications, with no major upgrades. It has long fallen short of meeting the moden needs of the county and its residents.

Formed in late 2015 by then-Osage County Commission Chairman Scott Hilton, the committee has met dozens of times to consider the courthouse issues.

Two potential solutions have been suggested by the committee.

One calls for renovating the courthouse and the county-owned Kennedy Building at Sixth and Kihekah. Cost for those projects are estimated at $19.4 million.

Option 2 would include renovations to the current courthouse plus construction of a three-level addition on the north side of the courthouse. Cost of those projects was estimated at $17.8 million.

Both plans would include adding a courthouse annex facility at Skiatook.

Last year, Hilton was defeated in his bid for re-election as Skiatook-area commissioner. Fallout over his not delivering a courthouse annex facility for the county’s fast-growing township was among the issues that doomed his campaign.

Tolson said the committee has attempted to avoid some of the problems brought about by a previous courthouse proposal. In 2011, county voters rejected a proposed upgrade/expansion by more than a 4-to-1 margin. The committee’s formation came in the wake of public meetings in 2015 where suggestions for improvements were generally rejected.

Tolson said the committee will consider input from the public meetings before rendering a final report to commissioners.

“Our responsibility is to recommend what we think ought to be done,” Tolson said.

(Information from the Pawhuska meeting — which was to start at 6:30 p.m. at the Osage County Fairgrounds’ Ag Building — is planned for next week’s edition of the Journal-Capital.)

Noting that there were problems with posting the meeting notice for the earlier meeting, Tolson said another Hominy meeting is planned, probably on May 11.