County moves forward with renovation plans




A long-considered plan to renovate the Exhibition Building at the Finney County fairgrounds took a step forward Tuesday after the county commission asked the project’s architect to prepare documents in advance of seeking bids.

“We’ve been talking about this now for close to five years,” Commissioner Dave Jones said. “At some point, we need to make a decision.”

Blaine Davis, the project’s architect, told the commission it will take a few weeks to prepare bid documents for the project. Once they are ready, the commission will have a better idea of costs associated with the project, and they can decide whether to bid it as one large project, or as a base bid with several alternates.

According to October’s estimate, the renovation would cost about $707,000, generally split evenly between interior and exterior improvements. On the outside, work would include improving the south vestibule and canopy, the east vestibule and table/chair storage, doors and hardware and painting. Interior work includes an insulation retrofit of roof and walls, catering kitchen improvements and painting, mechanical unit heaters and lighting.

County Administrator Randy Partington believes enough money is available in the budget for the project from reserve funds and county sales tax.

The county has about $339,000 saved in a capital reserve fund from previous budget years that were meant for building maintenance, he said. Additional funding could come from the county’s sales tax. The county collects about $850,000 per year in sales tax and spends about $800,000 per year on road projects and building maintenance.

Partington said the county ended 2012 with a cash balance of $509,000 in the sales tax fund and the proposed 2013 budget includes more than $1 million in budget authority.

Commissioner Cliff Mayo expressed concern about the building’s ventilation system, which isn’t currently in the proposed project. The current system is loud and doesn’t do a good job of taking hot air out of the building in the summer.

Mayo said there may be additional options to consider to make the building more useable.

“We want to make sure what we put out for bid is what we really want to do,” Mayo said. “I’d rather spend a little more right now. ... rather than leaving ourselves so short that we can’t use it for anything.”

Other than improvements to the kitchen, Davis said the project currently doesn’t really expand the building or its use, it mostly addresses cosmetic and maintenance-type issues.

Other commissioners are ready to start the project.

“We’ve kicked this thing around for quite awhile. I think we need to go ahead and get it out for bid and then look at options for maybe splitting some of it out if needed,” Commissioner Roman Halbur said.

Jones suggested the county could bid the projects as interior and exterior improvements. When the numbers come in, the commission could decide whether something could be taken out of the exterior plan to do something else with the interior, like improving the ventilation system.

One thing the county won’t need to worry about is the building’s roof. In November, the commission postponed putting the project out for bids due to concerns about the roof.

But a recent inspection found the 37-year-old roof is in good condition and should be serviceable for quite awhile. Inspectors observed some minimal hail damage and indicated the skylights are still serviceable with little degradation from ultraviolet light.

“I was pleasantly surprised at how good it looked,” Davis said. “It doesn’t show any signs of rust or seams opening up. Everything about it looked good. We’re safe to spend some money under that roof.”

In other business Tuesday:

• Commissioners offered no opposition to the creation of a Rural Housing Incentive District for proposed 48-unit apartment complex located on property between Campus Drive and Garden City High School north of the Nazarene Church.

John Foudray, with real estate development company Regions LLC, said the project is planned in phases, with the first phase to include two, 24-unit apartment buildings. Depending on market conditions and demand, future phases would include building additional apartments and possibly some single-family homes.

“These will be very nice apartment buildings similar to anything we would build in Kansas City or Johnson County,” Foudray said. “Good quality floor plans, some stone on the outside with 50-year Timberline roofs. Inside the units we’ll have nice cabinets, washer and dryer, anything you’d want to see in quality built houses.”

• Commissioners authorized the chairman to sign an application for fiscal year 2014 Juvenile Justice block grant funds for the county’s Youth Services program.

• Commissioners adopted a resolution opposed to listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting public input before making a final listing determination by Sept. 30.

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