Osage Congress approves $947,000 for FY 2018 capital asset and improvement projects

For the 2018 fiscal year, the Fifth Osage Nation Congress voted to approve $947,000 in proposed spending for capital asset and improvement projects.

On Sept. 27, the Congress unanimously approved bill ONCA 17-102 (sponsored by Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn) that authorizes the $947,000 in tribal funds to be appropriated toward various projects including $500,000 for office remediation and renovation costs for the former First National Bank building where the Congress is now housed in wake of mold problems at the Congressional Chambers building.

During the discussion and debate process, the Congress approved adding the $500,000 into the capital assets and improvement budget to fund the building renovation costs to house the Congress as officials consider long-term solutions for housing the Legislative Branch. Congresswoman Shannon Edwards proposed the amendment because she believes “this building has sufficient space for Congress offices and storage for records.”

The former bank building is four stories tall with vacant office space on the fourth floor. Initial plans call for renovating that floor to accommodate Congressional office space and the money would go toward other costs including any remediation costs, roof issues and elevator repair work.

Congressman RJ Walker said he supports the $500,000 amendment because the former bank building is a national registered landmark and believed the renovation work would also be great to house the Congress.

Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead, who is Second Speaker and chairwoman of the Congressional Affairs Committee, said discussions are leaning toward demolition of the Chambers building due to the mold. She also delivered some bad news that the painted mural wall that separates the Chambers room and the Osage Minerals Council offices has mold on it and it’s probably not salvageable. The three wall murals in the building were painted by Osage artist Robin Polhamus.

The Osage Minerals Council offices are also relocated from the Chambers building, which also includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs Osage Agency on the opposite side near the ON Museum. Buffalohead said she is also hearing the BIA had its own office testing done to check for mold and there’s a possibility some offices have it.

Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt expressed thanks to the Executive Branch officials and departments that helped relocate the Congress offices to the former bank building before the fall session started in early September. Those parties include Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn, the Information Technologies Department, Tribal Works and the Communications Department, which livestreams and records the sessions and Congressional committee meetings. Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn said she also supported the cost so the full-time Congressional staff can have a safe work environment.

Also in ONCA 17-102, the other proposed capital asset and improvement projects will receive money for their costs including:

-        $150,000 for design costs for a new properties complex on the government campus.

-        $25,000 for Headstart playground equipment.

-        $22,000 for structural analysis engineering costs for the ON Heritage Square, which is the Pawhuska Main Street building that houses the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center and the Language Department.

-        $75,000 total for playground equipment at the three Wah-Zha-Zhi Early Learning Academy facilities in Skiatook, Pawhuska and Fairfax.

-        $125,000 for signage and way finding costs for the entire ON government campus.

-        $50,000 for renovation costs of the ON Visitors Center at Main Street and Lynn Avenue in Pawhuska.

ONCA 17-102 passed with 10 “yes” votes and two absences from Congress members Otto Hamilton and Walker at the time of the final vote.