In response to a request from the county’s Health Department and Emergency Medical Services staff, the Finney County Commission on Monday made a consensus decision to form a task force to discuss future, possibly joint facilities for the two agencies, which currently both require costly routine maintenance.

Health Department Director Colleen Drees and EMS Service Director Skylar Swords approached the commission to review repairs to each agency’s building.

The Health Department, 919 Zerr Road, needs to replace its consistently malfunctioning sewer system a d tend to power and internet connectivity issues and a flooding waiting room and basement, Drees said. The department also needs to add more space for services, storage and parking and update the nursing station, carpet and building exterior, the latter two of which would cost about $76,000, she said.

Swords said the EMS building faces about $60,000 in parking lot repairs to correct standing water issues and large potholes. The building saw frequent water and mold damage due to several leaks, erosion issues on the back sidewalk, and the bathrooms, classroom and front entrance are in need of an update, he said.

Before committing to the repairs, however, Drees and Swords suggested an alternative solution: a new, joint facility for both agencies that would save money on continued maintenance, allow dual use of conference, classroom and billing facilities and give both agencies space to grow.

Drees said she and Swords had looked into a possible location for sale off of a high-traffic intersection but did not give more details. Plans are preliminary, Swords said after the meeting. At the location, the agencies could build a new, three-story, approximately 45,000-square foot facility, Drees said.

Commissioners said they were in support of the idea, or at least open to the conversation. Commission Chairman Bill Clifford suggested looking into existing buildings, such as the former Sears building or a building near Garden City High School, or researching space at Garden City Community College and partnering with its nursing and EMS programs.

“I think there are a lot of directions we could go with some of our partners in town, but I don’t think there’s an appetite for bonding a new facility right now...” he said. “I certainly recognize the need, and I think all the commissioners do.”

Whatever option the county lands on, Commissioner Dave Jones said he agreed that the agencies need space to grow. In the meantime, Commissioner Lon Pishny said the county likely would have to pay for select, necessary repairs to the existing facilities so the locations could function in the interim.

“Even if we said ‘Let’s get out there and do this,’ it would be a couple years down the road. We don’t want these buildings falling down around us,” Pishny said.

Clifford suggested County Administrator Randy Partington assemble a task force, possibly with representatives of local partner groups, like LiveWell Finney County Health Coalition, St. Catherine Hospital and the City of Garden City, to discuss options for a new facility or facilities.

Partington said after the meeting that the task force possibly could hold its first meeting within the month, but it may be years before any new facility is opened since the county currently does not have a funding plan.

Regardless, Swords said after the meeting, the commission’s willingness to discuss the process further is encouraging.

“They see the need there, and we’re very aware of the tax burden it would incur and we want to make sure we’re cognizant of that and make sure … it’s something (the taxpayers) are willing to fund…” Swords said.

Commissioner Larry Jones was not present at the meeting.

In other business:

• The commission accepted the low bid, $521,196 from Compton Construction Services, for renovations at the Finney County Administrative Center and Juvenile Detention Center. A grant will fund the $306,767 JDC retrofit, and the BRMP sales tax will cover the $214,429 in administrative center renovation costs.

• The commission approved Clifford to sign an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation to treat noxious weeds on state highway rights of way in Finney County.

• The commission approved an application to rezone a 0.880-acre lot in the 1300 block of Lincoln Road in Finney County from a general commercial district to a rural residential district.

• In a 3-1 vote, where Commissioner Duane Drees voted nay, the commission approved a $16,925 bid from The Arnold Group to analyze and create a plan for the county’s compensation structure, with the goal to achieve more comprehensive pay equity.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.