Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cost issues could seal old jail’s fate

May 30, 2007

— Plans to use the old county jail to store county records stalled Thursday.

The Leavenworth County Commission has considered gutting the dilapidated old jail, which is just north of the Leavenworth Justice Center, to house documents for various agencies.

Dan Rowe of Treanor Architects, a Topeka-based firm, estimated repairs to the old jail would have cost $780,000. Building a metal structure nearby solely to hold documents would cost $720,000 and building an addition to the Justice Center would take a $900,000 expenditure, Rowe said.

He estimated the demolition of the old jail at $110,000.

Commissioners also considered shipping dead files for Leavenworth County District Court, county clerk, county attorney and other user groups to the salt mines in Hutchinson, but, ultimately, reached a decision to use the basement of the Justice Center and the Abernathy Building in downtown Leavenworth (both of which are currently being utilized for storage space) as temporary storage and to seek out private industries that might sell or lease a building for a permanent home to the records.

Unless plans change again, the board's consensus was that the old jail should be razed.

Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said the commission's decision might have been different if the old jail was thought to have exceptional historical value.

"It's an old WPA building that really wasn't made to last this long," he said.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber said the old jail project has been "like a tar baby that we (the commission) have got our arms wrapped around and can't let go of."

Commissioners, however, still must find a way to make records easily accessible to the agencies that use them regularly.

"Our records clerk makes multiple trips to the basement (of the Justice Center) on a regular basis," said Steve Crossland, District Court administrator.

Crossland told commissioners the Kansas Supreme Court mandates that certain hard copies of legal records be kept for a specified length of time, ranging from five to 50 years.

Looking for a long-term solution, Tellefson suggested scanning documents to a digital format whenever possible. It's something the courts already do, although not at the pace Tellefson would like to see in the future.

"We're one of the few districts in the state that's doing any scanning at all right now," Crossland said. "And thanks to your (the commission's) help, we're coming along well with that."

A full-scale scanning of county records of the nature that Tellefson suggested would take a lot more manpower and technology than what the county currently possesses. Information systems director Larry Malbrough estimated a "ballpark figure" of $20,000 for a new server and adequate drive space and said high-end batch scanners would cost between $8,000 and $10,000 apiece on top of that.

Cost to pay a staff to actually scan in documents also must be considered. And that's not mentioning the software and resources needed to index, back up and retrieve the digital information being stored, Malbrough said.

Then there are costs associated with leasing or possibly buying a building as well.

According to Tellefson, however, anything under the cost of the alternatives would save the county money.

"As I see it, $500,000 is our break-even point," he said. "We have to do something here."

One cost that has already been assumed is $45,000 in architectural fees already paid to Treanor in a feasibility study for the old jail.

Commissioner Dean Oroke said he thought after spending that money, the commission was going to go ahead with storage in the old jail.

"It seems like we've been after this one and a half or two years, and thing's keep changing," he said. "I don't know what the solution is."

Tellefson said the expenditure to Treanor was worthwhile in determining whether the commission should proceed.

In the end, all three commissioners agreed with his viewpoint. They decided to go out for official bids to demolish the old jail and to look for a more economical building to use.

County Clerk Linda Scheer estimated that 3,000 square feet was needed in all for storage. The clerk's office currently uses 1,200 square feet in the Abernathy Building, and the District Court, which has utilized about 1,000 square feet in the Justice Center's basement while it awaits renovation, is requesting 1,500 square feet of its own.

In other business Thurs-day, commissioners:

  • Revised a resolution adopted earlier last week that issued a moratorium on new commercial and residential development along County Road 1 leading to the planned interchange with Interstate 70.

The current resolution prohibits all building permits, subdivision development, entrance permits, special use permits and rezonings for an area one and a half miles east and west of County Rd 1, -- a mile south of Kansas Highway 32 and a mile north of Honey Creek Road.

  • Scheduled a staff level meeting with Water District No. 1 of Johnson County for 3 p.m. June 7.

The meeting will include at least one county commissioner, Leavenworth County Counselor David Van Parys, a representative from the city of Lansing and representatives from WaterOne.

  • Unanimously approved a motion to enter into a contract for $55,000 with Ochsner, Hare & Hare, a planning consulting firm from Kansas City, Mo., to update the county's comprehensive land-use plan. The Comprehensive Planning Committee selected Ochsner's bid out of 10 others.
  • Heard a monthly report from the Public Works Department. Among other projects, director Bill Green discussed utility relocation on 147th Street from McIntyre Road to Dempsey Road, road improvements on Fairmount Road between County Road 5 and 175th Street and overloaded sewer lines in the Cedar Lakes subdivision near Basehor.

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