If the First Christian Church building was historic, it should have been included in the Downtown Historic District when it was established, Riley County Commissioners wrote in a letter to the state.

Commissioners John Ford and Greg McKinley this week voted to send an amended letter to the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review ahead of an Aug. 7 hearing on the potential historic status of the 112-year-old church building. Commissioner Kathryn Focke voted against mailing the letter. She previously told The Mercury she supports giving the church historic designation.

The amended letter, drafted by county counselor Clancy Holeman, includes language questioning why the building was not included in the Downtown Manhattan Historic District when the district was formed in 1982.

“The First Christian Church was conspicuously absent from the boundaries of that Historic District, as that District’s nomination was submitted,” the letter reads. “And yet the First Christian Church nearly abutted the proposed District’s boundary. This raises a legitimate question why the District’s comprehensive nomination form did not include the First Christian Church, if it were truly a property of significant historical value.”

The former church building at 115 Courthouse Plaza is not listed on the local, state or national historic registers.

If the building is deemed historic, county officials would be limited in what they could do with the structure and require permission from the review board before making any changes to the building.

At the county commission meeting July 15, Ford and McKinley voted in favor of having county public works director John Ellerman investigate “all possible options” for the demolition of the former church building, including potentially demolishing it before the Aug. 7 hearing. The bid process for securing a contractor for the project is ongoing. Commissioners voted 2-1 in May to seek bids for demolishing the building.

Weapon lights

and holsters

The board also voted in favor of allowing the Riley County Police Department to use federal grant money to buy weapon lights and handgun holsters for officers. RCPD director Dennis Butler told commissioners his department plans to use the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant to purchase tactical weapon lights, and new holsters to accommodate pistols with lights attached.

The total grant amount is $24,567; Butler said the final cost of the tactical lights and holsters is about $21,000. The Edward Byrne grant allocates funding to jurisdictions based on a formula of population and crime rate. Butler told the board the purchase stems from data from the U.S. Department of Justice that indicates about 90% of police shootings occur in low-light conditions.

“The weapon-mounted lights will allow RCPD to quickly assess potential threats and allow officers to keep their hands on their firearms, instead of taking a hand away to operate a separate flashlight,” Butler said.