Osage Congress passes bills providing assistance to Fairfax and Wynona

During its Nov. 6 special session, the Sixth Osage Nation Congress passed two bills totaling $90,000 to provide municipal assistance to the cities of Fairfax and Wynona for water treatment improvements and for purchasing a police patrol vehicle.

After discussion, the Congress passed bill ONCA 19-01 (sponsored by Congressman Joe Tillman) to appropriate $40,000 from tribal funding to the City of Fairfax to purchase and outfit one police interceptor in wake of the Oct. 7 tornado that struck the city’s Main Street and damaged several of the police department patrol vehicles.

The National Weather Service rated the Sunday evening storm as an EF-0, which caused structural damage to several businesses and Osage Nation entities along Main Street. Tillman said he visited with city officials after learning about the storm damage on TV news reports and noted the concern for public safety without adequate police vehicles for patrolling the streets.

Tillman said it’s been years since Fairfax purchased a new police vehicle, noting the current ones were secondhand purchases or donated to the small western Osage County city. The current police vehicles have high mileage and contain outdated equipment and sustained major damage including broken windows, patrol lights and other body damage, he said.

The Congress members discussed the bill during a Congressional Government Operations Committee meeting held that same day with Fairfax residents in attendance. Police Chief David Bradley echoed Tillman’s comments and said the department typically keeps one officer on patrol duty, which is difficult with the damaged vehicles.

Tillman originally filed ONCA 19-01 with a request of $111,323 to go toward purchasing three police vehicles, but the bill was later amended to $40,000 after discussion.

Congresswoman Alice Goodfox noted the session is taking place during the second month of the 2019 fiscal year and added “what if our Nation has an emergency too? We need to think about that.”

Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn said she felt a duty to help communities where Osages reside and also agreed the Nation shouldn’t have an obligation to replace an entire police fleet.

According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, there are 413 Osages living in Fairfax and Tillman added 66 reside in Ralston and close to 100 in the Shidler area. ONCA 19-01 passed unanimously with 11 “yes” votes and one absence by Congresswoman Shannon Edwards during the one-day session.

The Congress also passed bill ONCA 19-03 (sponsored by Edwards) to provide a $50,000 intergovernmental grant to the City of Wynona for water treatment facility improvements. Congressman John Maker and Whitehorn co-sponsored the bill for the session on behalf of Edwards.

According to the bill, the $50,000 is coming from tribal funds in the general treasury to go toward facility improvements, water treatment equipment and installation/ maintenance. Maker noted the Nation has provided assistance to other Osage County communities in the past and said clean drinking water is a necessity for everyone.

Wynona Mayor Johnnie Jo Lott addressed the committee and said the funding is going toward replacement costs for the city’s 100-year-old water tower.

ONCA 19-03 also passed unanimously with 11 “yes” votes and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed both bills into law after the session adjourned.