ON Congress approves $300K to remodel building as central receiving facility

The former Mid-Continent building is on Pawhuska’s south end just off State Highway 99 located at 111 John Dahl Ave. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

The Osage Nation Executive Branch is continuing plans to remodel a recently purchased Pawhuska building to serve as a central receiving facility after the Seventh ON Congress approved a $300,000 appropriation to fund the ongoing project.

During the 11th Special Session, Congress unanimously approved bill ONCA 22-17 (sponsored by Congressman RJ Walker) to appropriate $300,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding “for a CARES Continuation project for the remodel of the Mid-Continent Building as a COVID- compliant central receiving facility.” The Nation announced the building purchase in August with 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding.

Walker said the building remodel appropriation was in a previous bill of other CARES Act continuation projects, but bill sponsor Congresswoman Alice Goodfox planned to withdraw that bill and those project appropriation requests would be divided up into smaller bills and he agreed to sponsor ONCA 22-17 at the request of Goodfox and the Executive Branch.

The former Mid-Continent building is on Pawhuska’s south end just off State Highway 99 located at 111 John Dahl Ave.

“It’s a nice building, needs some repairs, it’s going to serve as a receiving facility,” Walker said during an Oct. 26 Congressional Governmental Operations Committee meeting. “This is an opportunity with federal funds to improve a building that we can use as a receiving facility.”

James Weigant, the Nation’s COVID Task Force Coordinator, noted the Nation does not have a receiving facility. “Anytime anything in the Osage Nation is purchased, random delivery drivers are trying to locate these deliveries and people are coming and going through buildings. We’ve had semi-trucks pull up in front of Chief’s office trying to unload and it’s very counter-productive. Additionally, as a COVID response, and this is what we’re focusing on, is that by directing all deliveries to one location, we’re able to social distance and to reduce chances for contact and also to contact trace. If we know where everyone is going and all deliveries are going to one building, we know who’s in there.”

Weigant said when deliveries and materials need to be delivered to departments and programs, “we know what limited employees in that department will be entering all Osage Nation buildings. The (Mid-Continent) building has good bones, it does have some issues we need to resolve. Tribal Development came up with a quote of what we need to get this building up to code and meet our needs and that’s what the appropriation amount is … We feel this investment in our Nation will help the Nation function as an organization, but more importantly it will greatly reduce our exposure to COVID going forward.”

Weigant said about 10 ON employees will be working at the receiving facility when the remodel is complete. The Nation uses garage space at the Pawhuska Business Development Center to house deliveries and those operations will relocate to the remodeled building.

ONCA 22-17 passed with a 12-0 vote on Oct. 29 and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed the bill to take effect.