OSWEGO — Labette County commissioners agreed Monday to spend over $20,000 for design of a project to beef up security at the courthouse.
“We’ve talked about this a long time. I think it’s time to pull the trigger and get this moving,” Commission Chairman Doug Allen of Parsons said.
The commissioners agreed to enter into a contract with Design Group Architects, Ltd., Bolivar, Missouri, for design of a security system throughout the building.
Allen said he walked through the building with Design Group Architects about a month ago along with department heads, who gave their input on security needs for their offices.
Allen said a lot of people think in rural America very little security is needed, but that’s not the case. He said the commissioners have an obligation to county workers and the public to try to ensure their safety at the courthouse.
“It’s a balance between very little security, which we have now, and Fort Knox because you still want it to be user friendly,” Allen said.
Terry Hardman of Parsons is associated with Design Group Architects, but Ed Kurtz’s office will handle much of the design work. Both attended Monday’s meeting. Design Group Architects will handle planning for the project from schematic drawings through the construction phase and then will come back 11 months after project completion to determine if anything needs to be addressed before the one-year warranty expires, Kurtz said.
Cost of the architectural work was set at $22,401, but the county will get a 10% discount because commissioners agreed to plan for four areas of the courthouse at once — the offices of the treasurer, clerk, appraiser and register of deeds — instead of separately.
The county also will have to pay for drawings and measurements of the courthouse as it is now. If drawings of the building are available, the cost will be $1,865 for Design Group Architects to ensure everything is current, but if the drawings can’t be found the county will have to pay $4,235 to create them.
Much of the security system will be common throughout the offices, but the treasurer’s office requires more specific needs that will cost a little more to design, Kurtz said.
Allen said the system may include smart locks that can be unlocked with employee fobs. Commissioner Lonie Addis said eventually all of the county’s buildings will get a security upgrade. The county barn in Altamont may be difficult because of the amount of machinery kept there and the number of workers going in and out.
Although the engineering firm will design all of the courthouse security in one project, the construction could be done in steps.
Field appraiser pay
Also Monday the commissioners agreed to raise the entry pay for a field appraiser position from $11.01 an hour to $12.34, an increase of three levels on the county pay scale.
Appraiser DeLinda White said the change was necessary so that she can try to attract a quality candidate for the position left open when an employee accepted a new job at the county barn. She also requested raises for employees already in her office, but the commissioners want to wait until budget preparation time to consider those.
“I want to be able to get staff in here that’s competent and want to stay,” White said.
When employees leave her office, they take a lot of knowledge and information with them. Workers in her office require more training than others because of the nature of the job, and White said she doesn’t want to waste county money by paying for training required by the state on a worker who won’t stay in the job. The worker leaving her office recently completed a weeklong class, requiring the county to pay for her hotel stay and food along with the course fee.
White said she probably will catch flak from other employees in her office when they find the pay for the field appraiser job is being raised while theirs will stay the same, but Commissioner Fred Vail said they can apply for the job.
Allen said the problem that the county is encountering, along with other government entities, is that with a good economy, there are plenty of good jobs. He said the Parsons Police Department recently lost three or four officers because Old Dominion Freight Lines offered higher pay. White said she understands the problem, but Walmart will hire people with no qualifications for $11 an hour while some of her employees are barely making more than that.
She said the commissioners should keep in mind the specialized training her office requires.
“Believe me, I sympathize, but I think we need to look at it in the context of the budget because I think everyone is going to have the same issue,” Allen said.
In other business the commissioners:
— Planned to send a letter to fifth-grader Jager Quirin thanking him for his cleanup project at Labette Creek. “I just really like to see that spirit,” Allen said. “It’s not that often when you get that kind of civic mindedness,” Addis added.
— Heard a request from Labette County Conservation District manager Joyce Kramer and treasurer Mike Froebe for a county allocation of $22,500 for the next budget year. The request is unchanged from this year. The commissioners will consider the request during budget preparation.
— Approved use of county equipment and workers on Fridays and Saturdays for chip and seal and road grading in Mound Valley and Altamont, along with other work in Altamont. Mound Valley wants to chip and seal about 25 blocks and mill about four blocks. County workers will do some mowing in Altamont near four lagoons and the Louis P. Gartner Recreation Area/Idle Hour Lake, chip and seal some roads and fill potholes on a gravel road. Brad Myers of Altamont also requested the county blade a couple of blocks on south Huston before Sept. 9, when a circus plans to come to town. Commissioners approved all of the work. The cities will have to pay the county workers and for all of the material.
— Heard from Jim Zaleski, city of Parsons economic development director, about a project that would widen North 16th Street (U.S. 59) in Parsons to four lanes and make many other improvements from the Labette Creek bridge to the north city limit. The city is applying for a federal grant for $22 million for the work and is seeking matching funds from KDOT to make the application more appealing, bringing the project total to around $25 million.
— Heard from Kansas Department of Transportation District 4 Engineer Wayne Gudmonson that bids for construction of the roundabout at U.S. 59 and U.S. 160 will be received in July. A bid should be approved in August, but the bulk of the work will be done in 2020.