County Commission defers action on proposed plan for $45M worth of Expocentre improvements

This photo shows a proposed design for Kansas Expocentre improvements in a plan being considered by the Shawnee County Commission. (File photo/The Capital-Journal)

Shawnee County commissioners indicated Thursday that they could support taking a balanced approach to implementing a master plan for $45 million worth of Kansas Expocentre renovations instead of focusing on any one specific area in terms of arena improvements, equine improvements and deferred maintenance.

 

But other issues regarding a proposed master plan for Expocentre improvements remained unresolved as Commissioners Kevin Cook, Shelly Buhler and Bob Archer voted 3-0 to defer action on that document until their Feb. 1 meeting while asking the county’s architect for the project to provide them further alternatives.

Archer said his intent was for commissioners on Feb. 1 to “make a decision, or not leave the building.”

Commissioners previously discussed the plan on Dec. 11 and Dec. 20 with Chuck Smith, a partner in Topeka-based HTK Architects PA, the architect for the project.

The 118-page document can be found on Page 76 of the Dec. 11 commission meeting agenda packet. It recommends various moves that include building a new covered arena just south of the Expocentre’s Domer Arena and building a new stall barn, also described as a “multipurpose facility,” just south of Landon Arena.

Buhler and Cook said Thursday that they supported the plan’s recommendation that the county take a balanced approach to Expocentre improvements.

Archer, who’d noted that the study estimated annual county subsidies for the Expocentre would amount to $619,000 under the “balanced approach” compared to $316,000 under the “arena emphasis,” suggested he could nevertheless be willing to support the balanced approach, saying it “contributes better to the community.”

Smith told commissioners that, in response to concerns that had been expressed, HTK was looking at reducing the number of stalls in the proposed stall barn from 500 to about 340 to achieve an estimated cost savings of $1.4 million, which would be used to make that structure an enclosed building. He indicated those changes would be among plans HTK provides commissioners later this month.

Commissioners also asked HTK to provide them options regarding building location. Archer had said last month that he disliked the current plan’s visual image of having the stall barn next to Landon Arena.

Archer said Thursday that a local veterinarian had shared concerns that after six months, the multipurpose building would smell like horse urine and stall bedding. Expocentre general manager Kellen Seitz responded that the Expocentre could employ chemicals and take other steps to prevent that.

Commissioners also:

— Voted 3-0 to also postpone action on whether to approve arrangements for the county to create benefit districts to carry out projects to construct streets and sewer lines in the general area of N.W. 53rd Terrace and Beaumont Court. Commission chairman Cook asked that the item be pulled because county bond counsel Bob Perry, who had arranged for it to be placed on the agenda, was absent from Thursday’s meeting because of illness.

— Heard Seitz say an announcement would be made Jan. 22 about an upcoming concert at the Expocentre, for which a contract was recently signed.

— Met behind closed doors in executive session to discuss the potential acquisition of property and to receive legal advice about a potential claim involving the county’s department of corrections.

— Heard Tom Vlach, director of the public works and solid waste departments, say the county’s solid waste crews had decided — despite Thursday’s inclement weather — to go out and pick refuse and recycling that day.

— Heard Vlach say the solid waste department was hoping to hear from any businesses in the general vicinity of the Wal-Mart at 1501 S.W. Wanamaker Road that would be willing to allow recycling containers for public drop-off to be placed on their property. Vlach can be reached at (785) 233-4774. He said that Wal-Mart had repurposed the area on its property where the county formerly kept recycling containers for public dropoff.

— Heard Sheriff Herman Jones encourage motorists to be mindful of Thursday’s weather conditions and to wear a coat, make sure they have plenty of fuel, ensure their vehicles are properly equipped and give themselves plenty of time to arrive safely.

Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

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