Looks to expand
If space is indeed the final frontier, Marion County commissioners are boldly going where no commissioners have gone before, undertaking massive expansions of county space through a series of projects.
A week ago, even as the overflow tenants from planning and zoning were poised to move out of a building the county temporarily was renting, commissioners took ownership of the property, paying two-thirds more than the building’s assessed value to get it.
“The asking price was $60,000,” commission chairman David Mueller said Tuesday. “We looked up the appraised value. We negotiated a sale price between the two.”
The 1,200-square-foot concrete block building, built in 1975 on a 7,447-square-foot lot at 203 S. 3rd St., is valued at $29,800 and has been rented to the county by Panzer Chiropractic Clinic for $600 a month for nearly five years — ever since the county abandoned the Bowron Building and moved planning and zoning to the building.
Planning and zoning now is set to move across the street into courthouse annex offices vacated by K-State Extension after it bought a former ShawMar Oil building at 1116 E. Main St.
Despite the current occupants leaving, commissioners said buying the building after spending an estimated $36,200 on rent for it was a smart move.
“First off, the proximity to the courthouse for future needs,” Mueller said in listing the reasons. “In the short term, we’re looking for a place for the processing of digitizing records.”
The county attorney’s office is “packed to the ceiling with register of deeds records,” he said.
“As soon as planning and zoning moves out, we can immediately move those records in that space,” he said.
He added that conditions of the attorney’s office were “absolutely unacceptable.”
Asked why commissioners didn’t buy the building five years ago and save on rent, Mueller’s response was: “You’ve got a different commission.”
Commissioners also voted Monday to spend $21,000 — 2½ times what employees had said were priority items — to remodel the space planning and zoning and emergency medical services will be moving into.
Included will be priority items of electrical upgrades, two new doors, and an interior window, plus exterior windows that employees didn’t list among priorities and new carpeting that they listed as optional.
Emergency medical services director Travis Parmley, whose department already occupies part of the building, presented the request and characterized the $7,737 in carpeting as important even if employees did not make it a priority.
“If it was in my house, it would be replaced,” he said, “but we’re dealing with taxpayer money. I don’t want to overspend, but we want it to look nice.”
Exterior windows were added after commissioners pointed out that energy savings might offset the additional $3,318 to $5,500 cost.
One way the county will attempt to save is by painting the annex using county workers. A contractor bid $10,600 to do the job, but commissioners think they can get by spending just $500 for paint and having county workers do the painting.
Commissioners also spent time Monday talking about other expansive projects, including a storage building that commissioner Randy Dallke long has lusted after.
“It’s never going to get done unless we do it,” Dallke said.
Among the items he envisions for an 80-by-90-foot metal building south of the sheriff’s office is a place to house emergency trailers the county received mainly after submitting grant requests.
Dallke’s vision for the building is indeed expansive.
“Right now, it wouldn’t be a public building,” he said. “But at some point, the county may seek to add a drive-through.”
Commissioner David Crofoot suggested making the building 24 feet high, with two stories.
Ballpark estimates of the cost of a single-story building are around $750,000. Commissioners emphasized that any planning should be done in close consultation with Sheriff Jeff Soyez.
Commissioners also heard an update on their search of a new location for the county shops.
They were told very early discussions had taken place about locations in Marion’s Batt Industrial Park and on privately owned land just east of there.
Commissioners Kent Becker and Jonah Gehring, whose districts include portions of Hillsboro, were quick to add that Hillsboro would be eager to cooperate with any county effort to locate the shops there, “just as they did with the EMS facility.”