July 31, 2014

Repairs to King Louie Building approved

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
County commissioners narrowly approved a $415,000-plus contract for roofing work on the King Louie building.
The county-owned building, located in Overland Park, was purchased in 2011 for $3.6 million and will eventually house the Johnson County Historical Museum. The building could also house additional county functions eventually, but further uses have not yet been determined. At the time of purchase, commissioners also approved $1.6 million for repairs to stabilize the building. That funding will not make the building ready for occupancy, but it would prevent further deterioration. To date, the commission has awarded $915,000 for other repairs including asbestos abatement, demolition of some partitions and finishes and partial roof replacement.
Commissioner Steve Klika said he would like to take a step back on those expenditures. Klika was elected to the council in 2012 and did not vote on the controversial decision to purchase the dilapidated building that used to be a bowling alley and ice skating rink.
“From my standpoint, I just need a better understanding of where we’re going to go with this facility,” Klika told commissioners during a Feb. 28 meeting.
When he was campaigning last fall, Klika was surprised by the number of constituents who raised concerns about the purchase and future use of the building. He worried that the repair money could be allocated for other services.
“I believe we as commissioners have the responsibility of setting some priorities,” he said.
Marilyn Bell, a purchasing agent for the county, told commissioners the roofing repairs will likely cost more if the current bids were allowed to expire on April 1.
“We will pay significantly more if we go out for a bid a second time,” she said.
Commissioner Michael Ashcraft also expressed concerns about funding the roof repairs.
“What I struggle with is being boxed in to short term decisions,” he said.
County Chair Ed Eilert said these are necessary repairs for a building the county already owns, and facility manager Joe Waters said there are a variety of services that could be housed in the space once it’s ready for occupation.
Waters offered a graphic that suggested the museum would be housed on the majority of the lower level. The graphic showed some lower-level space that could be used for other services. Upstairs, the proposed graphic showed space that could be used by the Enterprise Center, a non-profit organization subsidized by the county to assist entrepreneurs as well as additional space that could be used for other unnamed services. The center currently leases space, and the county assists in funding the lease.
“The plan hasn’t been fully flushed out as to this space,” Commissioner Ed Eilert said.
“Most of the repairs are moving towards completion. All that remains to be done is this piece.”
Ashcraft said he likes the idea of utilizing county space instead of leasing, however, he suggested that with recent layoffs and cutbacks, the county has existing space available that could be considered.
“We have space available if we think differently about how we use our space,” he said.
Klika, Ashcraft and Commissioner John Toplikar voted against funding the repairs. The trio was overruled by chair Eilert, and commissioners Peterson, Jim Allen and Jason Osterhaus who voted to fund the roofing repairs.
In other business, commissioners:
• approved an agreement with the city of Gardner allowing the county to provide temporary building code-related services including plan review, code inspection and code interpretation services to the city.
• approved the appointed of Ben Hodge as the sixth district representative to the Mental Health Governing Board through Dec. 31, 2015.
• approved the appointment of James Griffith as the sixth district representative to the Transportation Council through Dec. 11, 2015.
• approved a resolution to appoint Karin Brownlee as a community leader representative to the Criminal Justice Advisory Council through Oct. 4, 2014.

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