Pottawatomie County Commissioners decided Monday to forego seeking a grant through the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund to make improvements to the vacant courthouse at Westmoreland.
Commissioner Greg Riat’s motion to seek the grant — with a deadline of Nov. 1 looming — fell ultimately to unanimous defeat.
“It would be a start in maintaining the courthouse,” Riat said, suggesting the grant (up to $90,000 annually) be used to replace courthouse windows. “We’re always talking about grants. What a shame to let this one go by.”
Commissioner Pat Weixelman, however, said unforeseen costs could drive the price considerably higher, forcing the county to kick in additional funds.
“If you’re going to apply for something, you’d better start with the foundation,” Weixelman said.
Commission Chair Dee McKee, long opposed to rehabilitating the structure, said it was time to send out RFPs (Requests For Proposals) seeking potential buyers for the courthouse.
“I never see it being functional for our space needs,” she said.
In the end, Counselor John Watt convinced the commission that a determination of the courthouse’s future should preclude any thoughts of rehabilitation or maintenance.
“You need to determine what your needs are and how that building may or may not fit those needs,” Watt said. “You’ve never done that.”
In other business Monday:
• Leslie Campbell, health director, said the county could expect some form of vaccine for the coronavirus by January, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
As of Monday, the county had 259 total cases of the virus, with 46 active cases — the most since March. The county’s first COVID-19 cluster (more than five cases) also was identified last week in an assisted living facility, she said.
Campbell also said the health department is planning drive-through flu clinics this fall at the Wamego Recreation Complex, St. Marys Elementary and Onaga High School parking lots, and on Olsburg’s Main Street.
• The commission approved the five-year update of the county’s Solid Waste Management Plan as presented by Sanitarian Scott Schwinn.
• The commission approved a proposal to partially self-insure its health insurance program to help avoid large annual premium increases.
The county’s most recent premium was $2.045 million. The renewal premium fully insured would be $2.047 million, while the premium partially self-insured would be $1.986 million, and closer to $1.9 million with rebates, according to the carrier.
“We could make our insurance, with a little luck, level for years to come,” Riat said.
• The commission took no action on a petition with 200 signatures seeking the elimination of a mandate to wear masks in the St. Marys branch of the Pottawatomie-Wabaunsee Regional Library.
The petition was submitted to the library’s board of directors, and Riat, who represents St. Marys, said the issue was brought to his attention last week.
All three commissioners agreed that the decision whether or not to require masks in the library should be left to the library board.
“Just a little bit of respect for the other person would go a long way right now,” Weixelman said.
• Jennifer Merrow, emergency management director, and Jared Barnes, fire supervisors, gave monthly updates for their departments.
• The commission approved two minor amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan, following a one-year review by Stephan Metzger, county planner.
• The commission, due to change orders, approved amendments to infrastructure petitions to four housing subdivisions.
The amendments were made following public hearings.