By TIM HORAN
Merging the fair and extension offices into one was the topic of discussion at a joint meeting of officials for the Central Kansas Free Fair and the K-State Research and Extension offices last Wednesday.
Last year, the Dickinson County Commission requested that a plan combining the offices into one at Sterl Hall be reviewed.
County Administrator Brad Homman reported on the meeting last week during the commission’s regular meeting on Thursday.
“It was very productive and very positive,” Homman said. “We spent about an hour discussing options and potential options and what to do with efficiency in mind.
“We looked at what would be required to maintain the same office space, of what they each had now put into a combined situation,” Homman reported. “We looked at current cost of office space. In a perfect world, if funding was available, we figured it would probably take around $500,000 to put a modest addition on. Costs are high: roughly $100 to $125 a square foot. We know we are going to have bathrooms and those types of facilities which increase costs.
“The subject of where the funding was going to come from came up and obviously,” he added. “I don’t have an answer for that. If we were able to get someone in the building to rent that certainly would help.”
He said the two boards agreed that it is a good concept but “it’s not a good time to try to come up with a half million dollars.”
“If we were to go another step: where would the money come from? And I don’t have an answer for that,” he said. “It seems like money is always the hiccup.”
Chairman LaVerne Myers pressed the issue further by asking if there was ever any discussion of remodeling Sterl Hall to accommodate the joint office without adding on.
“We did discuss that briefly,’ Homman said. “The ideas came that, whether we look at remodeling the current offices, which obviously aren’t big enough to house both, it just wouldn’t be an option. The extension office figures they have 3,000 square feet now. The only way to make it feasible would be to add on to the building one way or the other. “
Homann said the groups discussed sharing resources and employees.
Myers pressed on.
“My original idea was to remodel Sterl Hall,” he said. “When you are looking at square footage, I think both places could get by with less footage if it was arranged right. I see a lot of wasted space.
“My idea was to take some area out of the big room in the northwest corner,” he continued. “Some of that area now is just storage. Those two offices combined as one, I feel like you don’t need as much square footage. That is the only way it can be feasible to remodel: do something inside.”
Homman said remodeling Sterl Hall was discussed.
“When they do have an auction or a gun show or whatever, every square foot that they can pack in there is critical,” he reported. “The fair board hated to see us reduce that any because it is the biggest facility in Abilene and in the county for use for those things. It does get pretty crowded when they have a good-sized auction or gun show. I see why they would hate to reduce the size.”
No further action was taken.