OSAGE | At the Nov. 6 meeting of the Osage City Council, members approved $20,000 to the Osage Chamber of Commerce. The total cost of the project, including the building rehabilitation, was estimated at $40,000-50,000, with $18,000 being the purchase price.

The funds will purchase a Main Street storefront building to be used as the new Osage Chamber of Commerce office and Osage Welcome Center. In addition, the building will also have public restrooms for use by shoppers in the downtown area.

“Mitchell County reaped about $10.68 million in travel expenditures from food, gas, hotels and businesses, which is more than both nearby Chickasaw and Worth counties. We need a visible welcome center,” said Osage Chamber of Commerce Director Kati Henry.

Prior to making the request, chamber board members toured the main street business.

Henry specifically requested funds from the city’s hotel/motel tax be used to purchase and renovate the building. Council members expressed a desire for the building to be handicapped accessible and open during downtown business hours.

“With an overwhelming number of our visitors being senior citizens, it would absolutely need to be handicapped accessible,” said Henry, “and obviously, if something were going on town, event wise, we would be open for that as well.”

Osage Public Works Director Jerry Dunlay, as well as council member Rick Bodensteiner, toured the 1,000-square-foot building prior to the council meeting to gauge its soundness and whether it would work for council’s purposes.

“The chamber is very important to Main Street,” Bodensteiner said.

Located in the basement of city hall, the space has served both as an office for the chamber as well as a welcome center. Visibility has long been an issue, said Henry with it being difficult for many outside of the community to find the chamber office.

“We did the Main Street trick-or-treating,” Henry said, “and if Kathy Penny hadn’t sent people downstairs, no one would have shown up. We need the visibility of being on ground level. It is important to be right in the heart of the spending district.”

Bodensteiner made a motion to grant $20,000 to the Osage Chamber of Commerce for the purchase of the building and to cover attorney and recording costs of the purchase, in order to get the project started. The motion, which was seconded by councilwoman Voaklander, passed unanimously.

In other action, council members voted unanimously to purchase the parking lot, located at the corner of Seventh and Chase Streets, from the Cedar Valley Seminary Foundation for $125,000.

The city would own the lot, maintain it, paint the stripes on for parking, and work with the foundation on event parking, with the plan being for the parking lot to be used as visitor parking, for those who were patrons of the downtown businesses.

Dunlay said there was the possibility of posting signs declaring parking in the lot to have a two hour time limit. When the parking lot was needed for an event, the signs would be covered.

While questions were raised on how to enforce that, several members of council stated it would become obvious quickly if the same cars were parking there day after day and if people were using that space in a manner other than which it was intended, something law enforcement would be able to issue tickets for should it become a problem.