County news

Keeping the air conditioning running at the Dickinson County Courthouse has been an ongoing struggle for years.

One chiller “gave up the ghost” on June 5, County Administrator Brad Homman told commissioners last week, resulting in the closure of several offices June 8, including the treasurer, county clerk and administrative offices.

Other areas of the courthouse that have their own air conditioning remained open.

The chiller failed when bolts holding the blower fans broke, allowing the blades to drop into the condenser, damaging it to the point that all refrigerant leaked out.

“Only one of the two sides (of the chiller) works,” Homman reminded commissioners. “We didn’t repair the other side because it was cost prohibitive.”

A portable unit was leased from Foley Tractor and it was up and running by the afternoon of June 8; however, the next morning the offices were still hot because the circuit board burned up.

“It was no fault of ours or the service people who hooked it up. It was a defective board,” Homman said.

A new circuit board was sent out and installed and by late Tuesday, June 9, the chiller was finally cooling water, although the offices were not “comfortable” until about Thursday.

The saga of the courthouse chillers has been ongoing for years, along with stories of other failing infrastructure in the 64-year-old courthouse. The failing infrastructure was one of the reasons put forth for the courthouse renovation project, scheduled to begin in November after the new jail is ready for occupancy.

“We knew it (chiller) was being held together by shoelaces and duct tape,” Homman said jokingly, explaining staff knew it needed replaced. “We were hoping it would make it through the summer but it didn’t.”

The replacement unit lease is around $5,000 a month, which Homman noted is considerably cheaper than spending around $100,000 to replace a unit that will only be used four to five months at the most.

Temporary quarters

Homman said he met with elected officials and department heads that will occupy the Abilene Civic Center while the courthouse is closed for renovations. He had IT/GIS Director Sherry Massey and her staff inventory devices used by the offices and create a schematic showing how those offices will be set up. Tape was then placed on the floor to mark out the areas.

“I said ‘Imagine in your mind where your tables and dividers are going to be.’ This will be your office from November 15 until we get done with the renovation,” Homman related.

The county will use Sterl Hall to house Dickinson County District Court, which needs room for offices, two courtrooms, court services and community corrections.

Homman’s administrative offices will move temporarily into whatever area might be available, perhaps in the sheriff’s department in the new construction, out with environmental services or anywhere that might be available.


• The Dickinson County Health Department last week reported the county had its first COVID-19 related death June 9, but it is unknown if the coronavirus was the cause of death.

The 67-year-old male had a number of underlying health conditions.

Homman told commissioners he asked County Health Department Director John Hultgren if the person died due to the virus or other health problems.

“He said there’s no way of knowing if COVID killed the person, but since he tested positive, it is attributed as a COVID death,” Homman explained.

Currently, Dickinson County still has only six positive cases of COVID-19.

• The commission heard the road department had tried out its new asphalt machine on a portion of Washington Street in Abilene, which the county maintains. Next up, they were going start work on 1700 Avenue at the Saline County line moving east to Kansas Highway 15 and then go back.

Contact Kathy Hageman at

Contact Tim Horan at

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