More questions than answers
By TIM HORAN
The ball started rolling for a justice center in Dickinson County.
During the commissioners’ comments portion of the regular meeting of the Dickinson County Commission, Commissioner Craig Chamberlin said it was time to look at the current facilities: sheriff’s office, jail and courts.
While more questions were raised than answers given, the commission instructed County Manager Brad Homman to start working with the parties involved to draft a plan.
“We are going to be looking at our jail, our court services, and things like that and where we need to be in five or 10 years down the road,” Chamberlin said. “Do we need to build a new facility? Can we remodel the existing facilities that we have? Would the City of Abilene want to partner with us? I’m looking at probably a mil levy: 2 mil that would be dedicated to the project.”
Another issue if a new facility is to be built: finding a location, he said.
“We haven’t had any former discussion on it,” Commissioner Lynn Peterson said, adding that dialogue with the City of Abilene, Police Chief Mark Heimer, Sheriff Gareth Hoffman and the judges is a start.
“We don’t want to venture off and start doing something and find out later that some of their needs could be met,” he said. “There might be something that can be done if there is an interest on their part. I know some of the judges have raised concerns. They have some things they want us to look at, as well as the sheriff’s office.
“Once we can assess the situation then we can come up with a plan” he said.
Chamberlin said courthouse security has become a big issue.
“I think we all have to address what we do with the safety issue,” Commissioner LaVerne Myers said.
Myers said the commission has “a little money set aside from the last few years but it’s not near what it will take to do what we need to do.”
“When we took our tour of the jail, we couldn’t be sure if the doors were locked,” Chamberlin said. “You have to check them. You think they are locked and they are not.”
“I get a sense of what you are trying to do here, Craig, but put something in motion and step up,” Peterson said. “We’ve talked about it in general terms enough. We need to be more specific.”
“We need to decide if we want to do it (build) and how we want to do it,” Chamberlin said.
Myers said the justice center in Pottawatomie County took 13 years.
“They had to raise money for that project ahead of time which makes a lot of sense to me,” Myers said. “Ever since I’ve been on the board we’ve talked about having to do something upstairs as far as security.”
“If we can have it done in eight to 10 years,” Chamberlin said.
Homman said all parties could start brainstorming about options.
“Anything we do with one is going to affect the other,” he said of the parties involved.
“Once it hits the papers, there will be some people going to be asking how are you going to pay for it, what amount are you talking, where is the location and when? We have a lot on our plate right now,” Peterson said.
In his report to the commission, Homman said County Engineer John Gough met with officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and learned that the county will receive $65,000 in federal funds to work on bridges to protect the Topeka shiner which is an endangered species
“That will help pay for bridge projects or culverts to maintain the natural habitat,” Homman. “It is my understanding that is full funding and not a match.”
About 30 percent of the southern half of the county is a habitat for the Topeka shiner.
The Topeka shiner is a small minnow less than three inches in total length.
The overlay project on Dickinson County roads will start on June 17. Homman said Kaw Valley Engineering will start south of Woodbine.
The fence viewing was postponed again to 9 a.m. June 11 due to over 3 inches of rain that fell in the area Wednesday night.
In other action the commission:
• approved the consent agenda which included the minutes of the May 23 work session and meeting, $146,252.23 in expenditures and $825.38 in abatements;
• approved an emergency vehicle permit for the Solomon fire chief;
• purchased a printer, copier, scanner for $8,262.