Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sheriff says office needs more space

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 11/6/2013

Tight quarters have left the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Franklin County Attorney’s Office looking for a new home.

The sheriff’s and county attorney’s offices are hoping to move to a vacant space at 226 S. Beech St., Ottawa, Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff, said Wednesday.

Tight quarters have left the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Franklin County Attorney’s Office looking for a new home.

The sheriff’s and county attorney’s offices are hoping to move to a vacant space at 226 S. Beech St., Ottawa, Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff, said Wednesday.

The building previously was the Neosho County Community College campus, but was purchased by Franklin County in 2011 when the county was planning for its new juvenile detention center, according to Herald archives.

“This was the anticipated use [of the building] to address space needs, but has taken a little longer to get there,” Lisa Johnson, county administrator and counselor, said Wednesday at the Franklin County Board of Commissioners meeting. “But this is in line with original discussions of the building when it was purchased.”

Commissioners received a presentation Wednesday morning from Dan Rowe of Treanor Architects, Kansas City, Mo., illustrating a preliminary layout of the vacant building that would house the sheriff’s office, county attorney’s office and juvenile services.

Richards, Stephen Hunting, Franklin County attorney, and Ethel Wallace, juvenile services director, have all had meetings with Treanor Architects to give input on the layout and design of the building, Johnson said.

To keep costs low, much of the current building’s layout would be used in the interior redesign, Rowe said during his presentation.

“We tried to utilize the existing plan as much as possible and what’s already there as best we can,” Rowe said. “This is a fairly simple layout and is very preliminary, based on a couple discussions. I would imagine there’s probably another layout that needs to go along with it to be able to explore in more detail as to how the workings of the sheriff’s office should function, so I wouldn’t say this is the final plan.”

The reasoning behind wanting to use the vacant space for the sheriff’s office was plentiful, Richards said, as current conditions at 305 S. Main St., Ottawa, are not ideal and not efficient, Richards said.

“We previously had four different areas where we were storing evidence and property,” he said. “This is an option that would allow us to have one single evidence room, which would be a whole lot easier for us. We have records stored in three separate locations right now. Those are not all in our current facility, but we have them on two different floors, plus records stored in an off-site facility as well.”

Public access is another problem the sheriff’s office now is facing, Richards said. Anyone needing to get to the sheriff’s office must jump through a few hoops to get there, he added.

“Right now [the sheriff’s office] is on the third floor, so anyone who has to come to the sheriff’s office has to come up to the third floor,” he said. “This location would be much more accessible to the public as they could enter right in at ground level and would be coming into a more modern, state-of-the-art facility, as opposed to coming and going through three sets of doors and up an elevator and into a small lobby. It’s not welcoming to the public and not convenient, especially for some of the more elderly people in our community.”

The county board of commissioners agreed to move forward with the plans to renovate the vacant space, with the next step being to consider issuing a resolution of debt, Johnson said. If the resolution passes, there will be a 30-day protest period for the bonds being issued, she added. The estimated amount of the project is $2,412,500.

The space currently occupied by the sheriff’s office wouldn’t be left vacant if the office moves to the new area, Richards said.

“We have other offices the can occupy that space,” he said. “It’s not just the sheriff’s and county attorney’s office hurting for space — the district court is, too.”

The timing of the renovation depends on how quickly the process for issuing bonds and a resolution goes, Rowe said.

“Once you indicate that the project will go forward, architectural designs will be drawn up,” Rowe said.

Rowe estimated it would take the architect one to two months to work out the design, with input from the sheriff, county attorney and county commissioners.

“The construction documents will also then take about two to three months, then four to six months to get to a bid-type situation,” Rowe said. “Then 30 to 60 days of bids, and in six to eight months you could begin construction. I’d imagine the construction time period would be similar, between six and eight months. All together, between 12 and 16 months from the time that you approve it.”

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