Jail update

Construction on the new Dickinson County Jail was 60 percent complete at the end of October as county officials look toward phase 2 of the project that involves the renovation of the 64-year-old courthouse.

Bids for phase 2 were due Oct. 29. County Administrator Brad Homman said on Thursday that he's hopeful construction officials can bring bid recommendations to county commissioners as soon as this week.

Dickinson County voters approved a $13.5 million bond issue in August 2018 to build a new jail and renovate the existing courthouse. The total project budget was set at $15 million which included $2 million the county already had on hand raised through a two-mill levy established in 2013 to fund a building project.

Once the new jail is completed, inmates will move into the new facility and sheriff’s department staff will occupy the administrative offices in the new construction. Other courthouse offices will move to temporary locations at the Abilene Civic Center, Sterl Hall and other areas where space is available while courthouse renovations are underway.

Recently, staff from Goldberg Group Architects planned to be at the courthouse to re-examine furniture, fixtures and equipment planned for the renovation to determine what actually is needed.

“We’re not sure everything from the initial meetings (during the planning stage) is going to be required,” Homman said during a recent county commission meeting.

“We’re going to go through it and parse that out so we can reach out for a cost on that,” he added.

In other courthouse building news, a fire alarm was activated Sunday, Oct. 25 in the jail area when a HVAC motor began smoking. While the smoke was not noticeable in the jail, a sensor picked it up. The motor was replaced the next day.

“We had quite a presence with the fire department and fire trucks here," Homman said.

Concrete vs asphalt

Homman said a change order will be submitted for concrete parking lots at the courthouse rather than using four-inches of asphalt over compacted gravel that was originally planned.

With concerns that the asphalt would not be a long term solution, Homman said he asked Loyd Builders to examine a couple options. One, make the asphalt thicker (6 inches) at a cost of $2,600; or two, spend $3,600 to scrap the asphalt and add six-inches of concrete.

Homman said the six inches of asphalt would last about 10 years while the six inches of concrete would last 40 years.

"Our recommendation is we want something that will be a long-term solution for our money at this point," Homman said. 

Over the years, staff has often wondered why things were done the way they were at the courthouse.

"We scratch our head and wonder why in the world they did that," Homman said. "I try to eliminate as many of those things as I can. I don't want it to be 'Why would they do something stupid like put asphalt in there?' It's a long term solution. We want it to last a long time."

The $3,600 will come out of the jail project contingency fund.

Also on jail construction news, some masons are now on site and are laying block, working on the elevator shaft. Plumbing is being installed on the back side of the cells, painters are working on the last coat of paint inside the jail and electricians are doing what they can while waiting for the roof to be built over the administrative side of the jail. Outside, sidewalks are going in on the east side along with the gravel base for the parking lots.

COVID survivor

Homman told commissioners he had a call from Abilene resident Bob Arnberger expressing his support for Dr. Brian Holmes, the county health officer.

Arnberger was a frequent visitor to commission meetings in 2017 when he led the petition drive that brought the county’s first attempt to build a Justice Center to a vote where it was defeated. That defeat resulted in the scaled down jail/renovation project (currently under construction) which was approved by voters in August 2018.

“Bob wanted to relate to you that initially he was a person not in favor of masks, but he had spent a period of the last three weeks, two stints in the hospital with COVID,” Homman said. “His comment was he just about died. He would have loved to talk to you and express his appreciation and support of Dr. Holmes, but he is on oxygen at home and can’t get out of the house yet because of his condition.

“He said it had been life altering to him. In his words, Dr. Holmes saved his life,” Homman added.

Sales tax collections

Homman reported that sales tax collections received in August were up nearly $17,000 over July. August collections came in at $128,074.32, approximately $24,000 more than in August 2019.

The current total for the year is $1,155,828.47. Homman said if September and October collections follow the same trend it might possibly put the county's annual revenue over the projected $1.3 million.

Rock Springs Ranch update

Commissioners approved a resolution of support for Geary County for a project that would remove and replace a number of cabins at Rock Springs Ranch, the 4-H facility located in both Geary and Dickinson counties. 

"They (the Kansas 4-H Foundation) have quite a sum of money built-up from donors that want to enhance some of the buildings and the cabins out there," Homman said, explaining the renovations are about an $11 or $12 million project.

Geary County had agreed to work with the Kansas 4-H Foundation and Gilmore & Bell, a Wichita bonding company, to obtain industrial revenue bonds that will be used to purchase sales-tax exempt building materials.

The resolution indicates Dickinson County supports the project.

Other

The canvass of the General Election will be held at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13 in the commission room.

• A meeting recently was held regarding the update of the county flood plain maps which has been going on for several years. Affected areas are in Chapman, Abilene, Solomon and Enterprise. Homman said he believes the updates will be ready for final approval with state and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Officials) in 2021.

• Heard from Commissioner Craig Chamberlin about an issue on Nail Road and a situation regarding Enterprise and the North Central Regional Planning Commission.

• Heard from Commissioner Ron Roller who thanked the public and communities for working with the county on the COVID situation. He knows it's a "tough time" and asked people to "hang in there. I promise you we'll get through it."

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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