Housing boom in Pottawatomie County

By The Mercury

Housing construction in Pottawatomie County is booming.

In monthly updates Monday, three department heads told county commissioners that housing-related activity in their offices is has taken off in the past month.

“Things are not slowing down at all. They’re really moving,” said Betty Abitz, register of deeds, who reported 120 mortgages with a total indebtedness of more than $15.5 million filed with her office during May.

Those mortgages included 43 with a value of between $100,000 and $200,000; 23 between $200,000 and $300,000; one at $400,000 and another at $800,000.

Building permits issued in the county last month doubled the number issued in May of 2012, according to Gregg Webster, zoning administrator.

Webster’s office issued 36 building permits valued at more than $4.6 million last month, compared to 18 permits valued at about $1.5 million during the same period last year.

“There’s interest in all the subdivisions, even the rural ones,” Webster told commissioners.

That trend is reflected in year-to-date figures, as well. Since January, Webster’s office has issued 52 building permits, compared to 27 issued for the same five-month period last year.

“The rest of the year will depend on the situation with Rural Water District 1,” Webster said. The water district, which serves Blue Township––the fastest growing part of the county––is currently in negotiations with the city of Manhattan for purchasing additional water to serve the area.

Scott Schwinn, county sanitarian, echoed the upbeat housing numbers, saying he issued eight sewer permits in Blue Township during May. For the year, he has issued 39 sewer permits, three times the number issued for the same period last year.

“That place is really going,” Schwinn said of construction in the southwest portion of the county. “You can’t drive anywhere without seeing some kind of construction.

“It’s all on the south end,” Schwinn said of building activity in the county. “Ninety-five percent of it is within three miles of U.S. Highway 24.”

In other business Monday:

• Abitz told commissioners she would request an additional employee in her proposed budget for 2013, due to increased office activity.

Through the first five months of 2013, her office has processed 215 more documents and taken in $35,000 more revenue than the same period in 2012.

The additional employee, if approved, will be funded primarily by the tech fund in the register of deeds office, Abitz said.

• The commission authorized Tim Eisenbarth, noxious weed director, to solicit bids for a new skid loader for his department, including a bid for a machine with a heavier capacity to handle large cardboard bales in the recycling program.

• Adopted a resolution authorizing Jim Jenkins, assistant public works director, to seek a $12,000 grant through the Kansas Department of Transportation for the Safe Routes to School program.

If approved, the grant would fund an initial study for installing sidewalks and bike paths near Flint Hills Christian School east of Manhattan.

• Leu Lowrey, public works director, said the Kansas Division of Water Resources has approved an additional appropriation of about six million gallons of usage for the Timber Creek Water District.

Last year, during the height of the drought, the water district exceeded its allocation for the first time by about 4.5 million gallons, Lowrey said. With adequate rain and cooler weather so far this spring, the district has already reduced its usage by that amount.

“That’s good news for that water district,” Lowrey said. “Right now I don’t foresee that there will be a problem in that district.”

• John Watt, county counselor, said he is gearing up for another tax foreclosure sale this year and would soon have recommendations for the commission on how to proceed.

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