Pottawatomie County commissioners, following an executive session on Monday, plan to negotiate with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation regarding the Mission Hill property on Gordon Cooper Drive.

Pottawatomie County commissioners, following an executive session on Monday, plan to negotiate with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation regarding the Mission Hill property on Gordon Cooper Drive.

The Pottawatomie County Health Department, Solara and the Family Justice Center currently occupy the properties at 1900 and 1904 Gordon Cooper Drive.

The land in which those buildings was constructed was once part of Citizen Potawatomi Nation, but in 1959 the Secretary of the Interior deeded the land to Pottawatomie County as long as the land was used for school or other public purpose.

At the August 21 commissioners meeting, commissioners approved the assumption of the two leases on that property, including Solara and the Pottawatomie County Health Department, with CPN threatening a lawsuit because the property is not being used for public use.

Following an executive session Monday to discuss the Mission Hill property, District 1 County Commissioner and Chairperson Melissa Dennis issued the following statement.

“In order to negotiate with CPN on the Mission Hill property, we had no other choice than to buy out the lease to legally negotiate further,” Dennis said.

“The original buyout started out as approximately $1.6 million, which the county could not afford. Pottawatomie County had to wait a year and a half until the lease was more affordable. In August, we purchased the lease for $835,000,” Dennis said.

“Now that we have purchased the buyout, we in good faith have been able to negotiate on the Mission Hill Property. In 1959, when the Secretary of the Interior deeded that property over to the county, it was bare land. Since then, a hospital and a health department have been built on the property. As good stewards of the county, we only think it is right to be compensated for the assets constructed on the property,” she said.

“We are going to instruct the district attorney to continue negotiations based on those factors,” she added.

According to a statement on Aug. 22 by CPN Chairman John Rocky Barrett, CPN feels as though the property is not being used for public use.

"The Citizen Potawatomi Nation deeply values the goodwill and vital working relationship with the Pottawatomie County Commissioners,” Barrett said. “The Mission Hill Hospital dispute has continued for more than 15 years, however, and must be resolved in a lawful and equitable manner. This isn't 1889, it is 2017. Tribal land can't just be taken away and misused without fair and equal treatment under the law. This isn't an old treaty dispute; it is an abuse of modern law that has happened in my lifetime.

Last month, Barrett confirmed a draft of the potential lawsuit was delivered to the county commissioners.

“The Citizen Potawatomi Nation gave a draft pleading to the Pottawatomie County commissioners to remind them of our legal interest in the Mission Hill property,” Barrett said. “We have not filed a lawsuit, and it is our intent to continue to work with all parties to reach a resolution. However, Pottawatomie County was given this property under the mandatory legal requirement that it would be used by the County exclusively for a public purpose, as required by Federal Law. The County has not used the property only for a public purpose in many years, as affirmed by the Department of Interior in 2012. Per the federal statute, if the land is no longer used for a public purpose then it reverts back to the original owner -- the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.”

A timeline released by the county commissioners office indicates in 1959 that the land was given to Pottawatomie County from the Secretary of Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

In May of 1967, the land was leased to the Pottawatomie County Health Authority (PCHA) for 25 years.

In August of 1994, the lease was amended and term was extended to 2027 with an option to renew for an additional 25 years.

The lease was amended in July 2004 , returning a portion of the land to PCHA and was then leased to Cornerstone.

In January of 2002, PCHA leased the land and buildings to what became Unity Health Center through December 2027.

In July 2004, PCHA entered a 5-year lease with Solara with two 5-year terms for renewal. They are currently operating on a month to month basis with a desire to negotiate a longer term.