Kennedy Building declared surplus property

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Osage County Board of County Commissioners voted, 2-1, on Nov. 28 to declare surplus the Kennedy Building, located at 550 Kihekah Avenue in Pawhuska. This means the commissioners have formally stated they do not need the building for official purposes.

District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones and District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney voted in favor of the declaration. District 2 Commissioner Steve Talburt voted “no” and said after the meeting that he was interested in possibly having an executive session regarding the building.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Kane declined to comment about the possibility of an executive session, citing a desire to have more information.

There was no agenda item on the board’s Dec. 5 agenda for such an executive session, so it was unclear when or even whether the closed-door session would be held.

The decision to classify the Kennedy Building as surplus property fulfilled the first of several requirements listed in an Oct. 11 order agreed upon in Osage County District Court regarding the sale of the Kennedy Building. The court’s order, which is intended to resolve a lawsuit that Jay Mitchell brought against the commissioners in August 2018, says the county board “shall” sell the building.

The next step to be taken in keeping with the court order is for the county clerk to provide a copy of the commissioners’ resolution on the surplus declaration to the Osage County District Court. The court is then to appoint “three disinterested freeholders of Osage County” to appraise the building. The appraisal information is to be provided to the commissioners, so that they can have legal advertisements published to the effect that the building is about to be sold at a public auction.

“If the Kennedy Building is not sold, or a sum of less than $232,000.00 is the highest bid, Osage County shall re-sell until a sale is finalized,” the court order says.

The court order mandates that county government is to receive the first $232,000 of the sale price and Jay Mitchell is to receive “all sums in excess of $232,000.”

County government previously attempted to sell the Kennedy Building in 2017. The county commissioners authorized the sale in July of that year and an auction took place in August. Mitchell, who is a real estate investor, offered the top bid, which was $232,000. Ladd Drummond was identified as the other leading bidder for the four-story building that dates back to 1927 and was initially used as a bank. Most recently, persons involved with the making of a movie in Osage County have leased the building.

Following the 2017 auction, questions were raised publicly about whether there would be any requirement placed upon Mitchell to maintain the building and to keep it from sitting unoccupied. In late September 2017, the county board invalidated the sale on the basis that it had failed to formally declare the Kennedy Building to be surplus property. When Mitchell filed suit, he alleged breach of contract and possible conspiracy to deny him the building. The Osage County District Court decided the building could not have legally been sold in 2017, but did not let the county board off the hook on the subject of breach of contract. Hence, the desirability of a negotiated agreement.