Commissioners get keys to new justice center

By The Mercury

Pottawatomie County commissioners Monday received the keys — dozens of them — to the county’s newly completed justice center Monday.

Tricia Fruendt of SMH Consultants, the county’s construction liaison, delivered a “certificate of substantial completion” and keys to every entrance, office door, cabinet, elevator, jail cell, fire extinguisher and electrical access panel in the 63,000-square-foot facility. The keys were labeled and numbered to correspond with a color-coded map provided by Fruendt.

At the recommendation of Sheriff Greg Riat, commissioners designated detective Gerald Schmidt as custodian of the “great grand master key”––a key that will open any lock in the $14 million facility, even sensitive areas where evidence and court documents are stored.

As evidence custodian for the sheriff’s department, Schmidt is responsible for documenting and preserving the history and purity of evidence used in court cases.

The “great grand master key” will be stored in a sealed envelope in a secure room in the jail portion of the justice center with around-the-clock camera surveillance.

“It sounds like you guys have given this some thought and you’ve got it figured out, so I’d say go ahead and proceed,” said Commission Chairman Pat Weixelman.

Other keys to the facility will be distributed by the sheriff’s department to the appropriate stakeholders in the justice center.

In another matters related to the justice center, commissioners:

• Approved an expenditure of $8,557 for professional assistance in transferring files and setting up the new filing system for the district court clerk’s office.

With the large volume of files to transfer, the task would be overwhelming for the court clerk, according to Fruendt.

“This is what these people do,” Fruendt said. “I think it would be a huge benefit to her…to get it set up the way she wants it within a week.”

• Authorized Fruendt and the HVAC subcontractor to propose an acoustical solution to noisy heat pumps above the new offices of the district court clerk and magistrate judge.

The heat pumps––located above the false ceiling––were the only two in the facility not accompanied with a “sound package” in the original design.

“It is loud, I’m not going to deny it,” Fruendt told commissioners.

The sheriff’s department began its move into the new facility Monday, and court and county attorney personnel are scheduled to relocate Tuesday, September 3.

In other business Monday, the commission:

• Approved a schedule proposed by Public Works Director Leu Lowrey for reduction of the annual maintenance fee charged to 71 lots in the Brook Ridge Subdivision just north of Louisville.

The fee was established for maintenance of the county-owned sewer system which serves the subdivision.

Approval of the schedule reduces the annual fee by one-third––from $43.32 to $28.88 per lot. Further reductions will be implemented as more sewer connections are added.

• Asked Riat to inform Ed Hamilton, the county’s animal control officer, that he should not engage in trapping stray cats in cities and releasing them in rural areas of the county.

“I don’t want him picking up cats and dumping them in the county as long as he’s affiliated with the county,” said Commissioner Stan Hartwich.

A letter in local newspapers last week said Hamilton had been hired to trap stray cats. Those cats are causing a nuisance near the Wamego Pizza Hut.

• Approved a request by Clint Stueve, director of The Columbian Theatre, Wamego, to use county right-of-way to extend the “Yellow Brick Road” sidewalk past the Wamego Senior Center.

The sidewalk, one phase of the “Vision Oz” project of the Wamego Convention and Visitors Bureau, currently runs between two downtown buildings, east to the alleyway. Funds have been raised to extend the sidewalk between the senior center and The Friendship House, Stueve said. Ultimately, the “Yellow Brick Road” will be extended east into Wamego City Park.

The commission authorized use of the right-of-way as long as there is no cost or maintenance responsibility to the county.

• Proclaimed September as “Recovery Month” in Pott County, as requested by Audrey Schremmer, board member of Pawnee Mental Health.

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