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County considers $25 million growth plan

By Maura Wery

The Riley County Commission on Monday requested both more time and more information about a proposed 25-year growth plan for county government facilities.

Public works director Leon Hobson presented the plan, put together by the architectural firm of Bowman, Bowman and Novick, which included how the county government could get more space for their growth. The study determined that an additional 129,000 square feet of space would be needed by 2036.

It identified two ways the county could gain that additional space. One was a $25 million plan that included purchasing the First Christian Church property next to the current county buildings, demolishing the church and creating a new county office building to house all the departments currently in the office building along with a new, larger courtroom, the county attorney and court services. That plan envisions the existing county office building eventually being demolished and the sale of Plaza East.

The second option, priced at $17 million, would renovate the Plaza East building. Although the second option is cheaper than the first, Hobson noted that it would leave county government with a deficit of 10,000 square feet.

The commission’s reaction to the plan was mixed, mainly due to the fact that the study only focused on the county offices at Plaza East. Commissioners Bob Boyd, Ron Wells and Dave Lewis all wanted to contact other growing county offices, such as noxious weed and EMS, to talk about what their space needs would be and to see whether they would need to be incorporated. They also wanted a chance to speak with Barry Wilkerson and administrative district Judge Meryl Wilson about their concerns with splitting courts and court services between the new building and the current courthouse.

“We need to look at this area downtown and put it in perspective with the other departments,” Lewis said.

Another issue is the historic preservation of the area and how close the new building can be to the Riley County Courthouse, which is a historic building.

There was also talk of consolidation of city and county space needs. All three commissioners were open to the idea of talking with city officials about collaboration in that area.

“It’s definitely an idea worth pursuing,” Lewis said. Boyd also said that the idea of consolidation of office spaces would be making both governments “more efficient” in their daily business.

Even with their request for more information, commissioners seemed to be excited about the plan itself and the prospect of growth.

“It’s nice to talk about growth because we are one of the few counties who can,” Lewis said. Wells said the idea “bears studying because of the cost.”

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