Archive for Thursday, October 19, 2006

Officials see need for new county annex

October 19, 2006

A population boom in southern Leavenworth County in recent years has triggered housing and business increases in Tonganoxie and Basehor.

That growth, in turn, signals the need for expanded county services in the southern part of the county, according to a county commissioner.

Commissioner Dean Oroke and other county officials say that Tonganoxie needs a new Leavenworth County annex building to handle those expanded services.

When and if a new building will be constructed, however, remains a question.

County Commissioner Dean Oroke said recently that services at the annex, at U.S. Highway 24-40 and Laming Road, are outgrowing the building.

The building, which according to county treasurer Janice Young was constructed in 1991, is home to satellite offices for the county treasurer's office, sheriff's office and Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Service. But Oroke said officials from other county departments also expressed a desire for representation in Tonganoxie.

"As we went through the budget process this year, the director of EMS, the Leavenworth County treasurer, the sheriff and the register of deeds all made statements in their budget hearing with us that they need to be part of the facility here in Tonganoxie," Oroke said. "The county treasurer's office down here has about outgrown the facility. There were times we've had people lined out the front door to be served.

"The EMS site is quite limited on the space they have."

If the county does increase its space in Tonganoxie, it likely won't be at the current site. The county wouldn't build an addition to the existing building, Oroke said. Rather, officials would look at acquiring land elsewhere in the city and building a new facility.

"That's my wishes," Oroke said. "It's something that's going to take the complete approval of the board and working with those departments that have made those requests. The more population, the demand for that service in this area continues to grow."

In the 2006 budget, $140,000 was earmarked in capital outlay for the "upgrade of a future municipal building here in Tonganoxie," Oroke said, noting no money was earmarked in the 2007 budget for the project.

"That would by no means be what the facility would cost or acquisition of ground, but that much was specifically earmarked to begin a capital outlay plan for that facility," he added.

And other projects are higher on the priority list.

In Leavenworth, conceptual designs on a new EMS station have been approved. The county is looking for land to relocate that office, which currently is on Cheyenne Street in Leavenworth.

Oroke said when that project is complete, the county will look to relocate personnel at an EMS station on Eisenhower Street in Leavenworth to a new site.

That would put a new Tonganoxie annex, with additional services, at No. 3 on the list.

EMS director Jamie Miller said he was encouraged by Oroke's efforts in evaluating the Tonganoxie site.

"I believe it's true and I'm glad he's looking toward that and I support him in that," Miller said.

But he said efforts should focus on the Leavenworth stations first.

Overall, Miller pointed out, the county's population growth appears to be affecting EMS' call volume.

"We have seen a steady increase throughout the whole county," Miller said. "I did statistics for the past couple years but we were analyzing that year, not comparing to years prior to that."

In fact, Miller said it's possible an EMS station might be needed in Tonganoxie and at another site in southern Leavenworth County.

As far as a new Tonganoxie site, Oroke said a timeline hasn't been set on a new annex.

"We've discussed it tentatively, but we have not made a decision to proceed on acquiring any ground or designing a building," Oroke said.

Sheriff Dave Zoellner reiterated Oroke's assessment that his department needs more office space concerning the Tonganoxie annex.

"The days of the bed and breakfast in the southern part of the county are over," Zoellner said. "It's all about the population growth. Obviously, they're trying to come up with some economic development down there (in Tonganoxie).

"And we're going to have to have a greater presence in that area to provide the law enforcement service for people moving into the southern part of the county."

At the existing annex, the sheriff's office has space in the basement -- an area where an officer on patrol may do reports and a small room for detectives if they need it to work on investigations. The basement also has a meeting space.

The bottom line, according to county officials, is that Tonganoxie needs to be on the radar for a new facility.

"Do I believe we're outgrowing the annex?" Miller said. "Yeah, we are, the sheriff's office, definitely on the treasurer's office.

"Eventually, do we need for two ambulances or one there and one somewhere else in the south part of the county? That's something we'll have to look for and plan for in the future."

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