Justice center nearing completion

By The Mercury

With construction nearing completion, Pottawatomie County commissioners Monday began planning public tours of the new justice center at Westmoreland prior to its official opening.

The final contract day for work on the $14 million facility is Aug. 8, and commissioners hope to open the 63,000-square-foot facility to the public before occupancy begins Aug. 19.

“Really, a lot of people are wanting to tour that place and I think we owe them that opportunity,” said Commissioner Stan Hartwich.

Robert Reece, county administrator, said that Saturday, Aug. 10, may be a good day for public tours, and said he would work on details with Trisha Fruendt of SMH Consultants, the county’s construction liaison.

In her weekly progress update on the justice center, Fruendt told commissioners construction should complete by the Aug. 8 deadline.

“We’re pushing to the end, but we’re going to make it,” she said. “It’s coming together.”

The commission also approved two additional expenditures for the justice center––interior signage and painting of 24 metal cell bunks in the jail portion of the facility.

Commissioners approved a low bid of $21,894 from Schurle Signs for interior signage, leaving approximately $18,000 for exterior signage from the $40,000 budgeted.

The commission reluctantly approved $3,330 for painting cell bunks, which the architect and general contractor determined had not been included in original bid documents.

“How about if I do it for $2,000?” Commissioner Pat Weixelman quipped, noting that two $4 cans of Rustoleum should be adequate for each bed.

In other business Monday, the commission:

• Upheld a planning commission recommendation to deny a request to rezone a 3.7-acre tract west of Wamego along U.S. Highway 24 from ag-residential to commercial.

The rezoning request was made by Rick and Patti Johnson, who proposed to use the tract for storage units for boats and motor homes.

John Keller, county planner, told commissioners the primary objection to the proposal by area residents was lack of access from the highway, forcing entry through the Cedar Meadows Subdivision, just west of Salzer Road.

“The corridor plan calls for as much commercial as possible along Highway 24, but that presumes it has its own entrance,” Keller said. “There were a large number of negative comments (at the public hearing).”

• Asked Keller and Gregg Webster, zoning administrator, to begin investigating possible areas east of Manhattan to develop a business park for “spin-offs” from the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) planned for Manhattan.

Commissioners suggested that agricultural areas just east of the U.S. Highway 24 and Military Trail Road intersection might be suitable.

• Approved the low bid for a Bobcat skid loader for the Noxious Weed Department, as presented by Tim Eisenbarth, department director.

Eisenbarth had presented the bids the previous week, but commissioners expressed a concern about the adequacy of the Bobcat and asked Eisenbarth for further information.After testing the product, the noxious weed director said he was impressed with its lifting capacity and other features.

“It fills our needs and it saves the county money,” Eisenbarth said.

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