Although Riley County and the City of Manhattan have different space needs, it was good to see representatives of the two governments Thursday kicking around potential solutions to their respective problems.
Among the center points of their discussion was possible collaboration on a new courthouse in or near downtown, ideally — and in contrast to the Riley County Courthouse — with a single public entrance. That, as County Commissioner Dave Lewis pointed out, would ease the financial costs of complying with the new state law pertaining to security measures at public buildings.
Commissioner Lewis’s point is well taken, particularly given the expensive security mandates the Kansas Legislature has issued to local governments that don’t want Kansans with permits to carry concealed weapons to carry them into more public buildings.
Courthouse security isn’t the county’s only building need. Commissioners want considerable additional office space to serve the county’s growing needs for a generation. Acquiring that space seems increasingly likely because of the County Commission’s support for a building commission that would help overcome funding obstacles.
City Commissioner Wynn Butler was accommodating. He observed that the two governing bodies already are underusing several present structures. A new courthouse, he said, could be built at one of those sites and the county could occupy space in some of the underused buildings or in space vacated in the present courthouse after the new courthouse is in use.
The notion of moving the Riley County Historical Museum into the present courthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has obvious appeal, but it shouldn’t occur at the expense of the county’s other space needs.
It’s important to note, as Commissioner Butler indicated, that city and county space needs are not identical. Still, there would seem to be enough overlap for the two bodies to continue exploring possibilities that could address at least some of their respective needs as economically as possible. For although their needs differ, both commissions answer to voters who should expect prudence.
The two governing entities, which have sometimes seemed worlds apart despite being just seven blocks apart geographically, deserve credit for considering the other’s needs and for being open to mutual solutions.
We’d like to encourage more of it.