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Archive for Thursday, November 23, 1995

GOVERNMENTS VIE FOR LAND

November 23, 1995

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Douglas County isn't the only looker that a potential jail site has attracted.

A wooded tract of land northwest of the Oak Hill and Mount Calvary cemeteries might be a good site for either a jail or a park, depending on which branch of local government one represents.

Douglas County Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney says the 30.55-acre site, which is south of the Santa Fe railroad crossing on 11th Street, west of the city of Lawrence maintenance shop and east of Brook Creek Park, is tentatively his leading choice for a jail site.

When McElhaney said earlier this week that the tract was one of the first to be placed on the list of jail sites being considered, officials in city hall took note. It's the largest of 10 sites the county has found to look at so far.

``We have looked at the site for warehousing for future use as a park,'' said City Manager Mike Wildgen.

However, the city is not claiming dibs on the property.

``I'm not telling the county to back off, no,'' Wildgen said.

``No offer has been made,'' he said. ``They should evaluate it as if it was a possible jail site notwithstanding the city's interest in it.''

This week, county commissioners began looking for possible alternatives to placing the jail on the edge of South Park, a proposal that drew fire from the community. In two weeks, commissioners will begin to whittle down a list of potential sites and choose several for serious consideration.

McElhaney said he likes the site because woods on the south end of the tract provide a buffer for the Brook Creek neighborhood and the location isn't too far from the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

``It's going to be very hard, I think, for us to find another suitable 10 acres that's going to be accessible to utilities and not close to a neighborhood,'' McElhaney said.

However, the site is anything but attractive to County Commissioner Jim Chappell, who says building a jail next to the Oak Hill and Mount Calvary cemeteries is in bad taste and that the jail project would foreclose any possibility for cemetery expansion in the future.

``It's too close to the cemetery, and I don't like it,'' Chappell said.

Commissioner Mark Buhler said he's reserving judgment until the list is complete and the sites have been evaluated.

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