On Tuesday after a second public hearing was held, City Commissioners approved an ordinance to reannex roughly 506 acres owned by St. Gregory's University and the Benedictine Fathers of Sacred Heart Mission, Inc.
On Tuesday after a second public hearing was held, City Commissioners approved an ordinance to reannex roughly 506 acres owned by St. Gregory’s University and the Benedictine Fathers of Sacred Heart Mission, Inc. The first hearing was held at the Dec. 18, 2017, Shawnee City Commission meeting. No one came forward to speak in favor of or against the item at either hearing. In a vote to reannex, city commissioners approved the measure, marking five in favor, none against and an abstention by Shawnee City Commissioner Lesa Shaw. Shawnee City Commissioner Ben Salter was not present at the meeting.
The annexation regarded land previously detached by the City of Shawnee Jan. 17, 2017, at the request of St. Gregory's University to be eligible for a $12.5 million USDA loan.
Despite months of working to meet eligibility requirements, St. Gregory's University failed to secure the loan and suspended classes in December.
Since its detachment from the city is no longer necessary, in November the city began the process of bringing the property back into the fold.
Shawnee Mayor Richard Finley said when the city allowed St. Gregory's to deannex last year, a contract — which contained various provisions — was negotiated.
“These are all a matter of public record,” he said, “but they were essentially designed to allow us to reap any fruit which might come from economic development of the property which is unrelated to its educational functions.”
He said with SGU's closing, the city had the legal authority to re-annex them.
Though leaders remained mindful of the city's best interests, Finley said they also are supportive of efforts made by their longtime neighbor.
“We want to be cooperative in assisting St Gregory’s in nearly any way we can, but we must be prudent in the exercise of our responsibilities to the citizens of Shawnee,” he said. “So far as I know, this is not a contentious action.”
As part of the effort to get approved, St. Gregory's in January 2017 asked the City of Shawnee to detach the school from the city, making it possible for the longtime fixture of the community to receive help from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN) in the form of a USDA grant application.
The detachment of 520 acres owned by St. Gregory’s University and the Benedictine Fathers of Sacred Heart Mission, Inc., from the city became effective immediately so the school could become a rural area — one of the conditions for securing the loan.
Later, the USDA determined that St. Gregory's, in fact, had not met requirements, as the school was not considered rural at the time of the last U.S. Census — in 2010 — news that shocked St. Gregory's President Michael Scaperlanda.
The $12.5 million loan was denied.
As a condition to the initial detachment request, if the school's loan efforts were not successful, it would trigger a reversal by the city.
In November City Commissioners unanimously voted to set in motion the process toward reannexing St. Gregory's property.
Finley said in December that St. Gregory's has been looking at options to remedy the school's closing.