Historical buildings are the very fabric that makes our communities and downtowns what they are. These buildings are the icons of our past and the future for commercial business districts, especially in small towns where they are one of the attractions that bring tourists.
Most towns and municipalities have recognized this and make every effort to preserve this past and repurpose these buildings in ways that serve the needs of their commercial districts and bring in business, tax revenue and visitors. In Pawhuska, it is these very buildings that stop people to take a 'second look' at our community. As a merchant downtown, on a daily basis I see people walking the street cameras and phones in hand taking pictures of this architectural art we are surrounded by.
Repurposing of these treasures from our past however MUST be done in such a way that it encourages other merchants and stores to open, to grow and to prosper. In the case of Pawhuska, this means recognizing what is good development, and what is a poor choice. Currently there are two proposals which could undermine this delicate fabric of historic treasures and be detrimental to the future prosperity of our community. The abandonment of the courthouse and the use of the historic Kennedy Building for subsidized housing would be of no benefit to the community as a whole, or the county. These plans are being rushed because in the words of one of those whom they were proposed by, "if we wait, this will be defeated".
If we add to the historical and artistic reasons why the actual cost for these measures, the impact becomes even more significant. The bond issue for the new courthouse and annex I have heard would be for 20 million dollars. This of course means a sales tax increase to .09%, one of the highest in the state. Of course the issuing bond company stands to receive 30% of the total bond, or 6 million dollars in the case of the courthouse.
In the case of the stately Kennedy Building, one of the cornerstones of downtown Pawhuska, it's use for subsidized housing creates an atmosphere that is not helpful to future commercial growth and development and does nothing to assist Pawhuska in our road to become a tourist and art destination, create more jobs and sales tax or improve the overall atmosphere of our historic downtown sector.
What can we do as citizens, business owners and residents of Osage County? Let your voice be heard! Inform our county commissioners that this is not in the best interest of our county or our community. In the case of the courthouse, call the commissioners listed below. For the Kennedy Building call the Osage Industrial Authority and voice a loud and resounding NO to this proposed use. Let there be no doubt that these things are being rushed because there is a substantial amount of money to be made and re-elections to be won. However we do not live in an autocracy where our officials can act as they choose. We live in a democracy where the people's collective voices must be heard and their mandates followed.
To reach the Osage County Commissioners:
District 1: Bob Jackson 918-695-4047 or 918-287-1570
District 2: Scott Hilton 918-798-5056 or 918-396-2747
District 3: Darren McKinney 918-373-5002 or 918-642-5217
Musings by Bruce Carter, Owner/Curator of Tallgrass Art Gallery