Given that the Harvey County Courthouse is now 50-plus years old, there is a growing list of needs within the building.

While some of that was addressed in a project that targeted improvements to energy efficiency back in 2014, staff is seeking to take the next steps — bringing a request for qualifications for architectural services before the county commission at its meeting on Tuesday.

Services being sought out include a space needing assessment, facility assessment and remodel design — with the goal of making internal and external cosmetic/aesthetic improvements, addressing safety and security concerns, and better utilizing the current courthouse space (with consolidation needed in some departments — like getting driver's license services into the treasurer's office).

"Really, the scope of work will be determined once a firm would be selected by the commission, but it includes looking at our space needs. We have a lot of space within this facility that is not utilized to the extent that it could be because we're operating a building that was built with how departments functioned 50 years ago, not how they function today," said County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber. "The goal would be for them to create a design, plans and specifications for improvements to the facility."

Prior to seeking out this study, there have been departmental shifts to address the issues in question, but those departments are now to the point where additional space is needed, according to Swartzendruber. Additionally, the courthouse restrooms are in need of updates, more parking is needed, etc.

Currently, the proposed timeline for the project is to get proposals back to the commission by Sept. 24, with a final selection to be made by Oct. 15 and design plans to be completed by April 2020. Swartzendruber noted the contract would also be handled a little differently — with the commission and administration negotiating a contract with the bidder that is ultimately selected.

Safety and security concerns drew some specific interest from commissioners, with Randy Hague asking if now is the time to address that so that the governing body is not kicking themselves if such requests get brought back up in three years.

That item is something addressed in the requested study — with Swartzendruber stating there are clear measures the administration would like to implement. However, there are a number of other needs that have also been identified, whether needing more space for an additional employee in the county attorney's office or a potential remodel of the courtrooms.

"Ultimately, it's going to come down to priorities and funding," Swartzendruber said.

Given the numerous potential renovations tied to this project, Swartzendruber pointed out that the work would not have to be done all at once and having a remodel plan would at least give the county a place to start. Commissioner Ron Krehbiel asked, then, if what is included in the courthouse project should be put to a public vote — though staff noted there are too many unknowns tied to the project currently to make such a recommendation.

As money has been set aside for the requested studies the last two years, what was clear to the commission is that it is time to move forward in seeking some potential answers targeting overall improvements to the courthouse — approving the request for qualifications.

"We've been putting off stuff that should've been done a number of years ago, like carpeting, until we had something like this," Hague said.

"I think this is just the next step," said commission chair Chip Westfall. "We are a 50-year-old-plus building and we have different needs today."

In other business, the county commission:

Set Oct. 13 as the date for the annual employee picnic, to be held at Camp Hawk.
Learned of the county's work submitting a letter of intent to place sirens at East and West Park in attempt to receive funding through a hazard mitigation grant (tied to flooding from last fall).
Received a report on the South Central Kansas Economic Development District's microloan program, which hasn't been utilized for several years — with it being noted that those unused funds need to be returned to the state.
Deferred a work session reviewing recommended zoning regulations for commercial renewable energy projects.
Heard an update on countywide recycling, with Waste Connections meeting with local representatives and haulers last week. The company gave local entities 45 days to educate/help improve sanitation levels (aiming for 10% or less contamination in the loads it collects from the Harvey County recycling center). Swartzendruber recommended giving cities time to address the issue before the commission takes any further action.
Was updated on two local emergency incidents, including a train derailment in Walton early Sunday and the effects of an earthquake in Burrton on Friday. The sheriff's office is continuing to provide on-site security in response to the train derailment while BNSF is bringing in a contractor to clean up the debris, which emergency management director Gary Denny predicts will continue for the next couple of weeks. Denny also stated that while the Burrton schools and offices were evacuated following Friday's earthquake, the high school has been reoccupied — though central offices remain closed. Communications director Don Gruver noted dispatch received a number of overflow calls following that incident, as well.
Received word that the exteriors of the cabins at Camp Hawk have been completed, with staff now waiting for electricity to be run to the buildings.
Learned that approximately 2,500 of the 14,000 ballots sent out for the USD 373 bond election have been returned, with all ballots due by noon Sept. 3.