Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Pottawatomie County Courthouse's Fate Unclear

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Pottawatomie County Courthouse's Fate Unclear

Article excerpt

The Pottawatomie County Commission likely won't make a decision on the fate of a more than 130-year-old courthouse until sometime next year, the commission chairman said after a public meeting where advocates for preserving the building touted its historic value to Westmoreland.

Chairman Pat Weixelman, whose commission district includes Westmoreland, said the commission remains open to all options regarding the courthouse, which has stood partially vacant since most county functions moved to the Justice Center. A public hearing on the courthouse Tuesday was informative, but the commission likely won't make a decision until "four to six months down the road at the earliest," he said.

Members of a group hoping the county preserves the building walked away "disappointed," said Ruby Zabel.

"There were very few answers," she said. "I don't think they're really listening to us."

The future of the old courthouse, built in 1884, came into question earlier this summer after a comprehensive study recommended demolishing the building and rebuilding it as the cheapest way to meet the counties office space needs. Bringing the building up to modern standards would cost about $1 million more, about $3.6 million total, according to Manhattan-based BG Consultants.

An investment of about $1.9 million would be needed to improve the building's general condition, BG's study said. An additional $1.7 million would be needed to modernize the building. The firm recommended razing the building at a cost of $70,000 and replacing it with a similar-sized building at a cost of about $2.3 million.

Commissioner Dee McKee told The Capital-Journal earlier this week the commission likely wouldn't sell the building to a private party interested in restoring it.

The building presents a challenge to the county, which splits most of its office functions between the Justice Center and a former school, Weixelman said. To modernize the building, the county would need to invest in new electrical, IT and HVAC systems and install an elevator. …

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