County Commission to consider contract for interim county administrator, increasing fairgrounds rental fees

photo by: Chris Conde

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will consider appointing Assistant County Administrator Sarah Plinsky as interim county administrator while commissioners conduct a search to replace retiring County Administrator Craig Weinaug.

With approval of the contract, Plinsky, who has served as assistant county administrator for eight years, will assume duties as county administrator on Dec. 15, the day after Weinaug retires. County Commissioner Chair Nancy Thellman said no decisions on a county administrator search would be made until Patrick Kelly replaced Commissioner Mike Gaughan on the County Commission on Jan. 2. Kelly, a Democrat, was elected Nov. 6 to the commission. Gaughan, also a Democrat, announced in June that he would not seek re-election.

“We’ll let Patrick come on board and get his feet under him and then make a decision on a search for a new administrator,” Thellman said. “In the meantime, we are lucky to have Sarah, who is more than capable of holding down the fort.”

The contract that commissioners will consider will pay Plinksy at a rate based on a $169,400 annual salary during her time as interim administrator. It also assures her return to her $126,400-a-year assistant county administrator position unless she is hired for the county’s top job.

Plinsky was unavailable for comment Tuesday. When asked about her interest in the county administrator position after Weinaug announced his retirement in August, Plinsky said she was focused on her current work with the county.

Commissioners on Wednesday also will consider adopting a new rental fee schedule for the Douglas County Fairgrounds that reduces the number of nonprofit agencies provided free use of the fairgrounds and facilities.

During 2019 budget deliberations in July, commissioners asked staff to review the fairground rental fees and the policy of providing nonprofit agencies with state 501(c)(3) tax certification rent-free use of the fairground with the goal of raising $30,000 more annually.

In a report provided to commissioners in advance of the meeting, Jill Jolicoeur, assistant to the county administrator, proposes a new fee schedule that raises hourly and daily rates on facilities.

Jolicoeur writes that the proposed fee schedule still will allow county nonprofit youth groups free use of the fairgrounds. However, nonprofits with state 501(c)(3) certification will now be asked to rent the grounds or facilities at a rate discounted 50 percent from the standard charge.

County administrative staff found that the new fairgrounds rental fees were competitive with those of other counties in the area, Jolicoeur writes. The fee changes, which are to become effective Jan. 1, will not be applied to those with existing reservations at the fairgrounds.

In other business, the County Commission will:

• Discuss the process and consequences of the consolidation of the city of Lawrence and Douglas County governments with Kevin Kelley, executive director of the Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center. As a business owner in Kansas City, Kan., Kelley was one of the founders of a grassroots movement that led to the unification of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County governments. The Lawrence City Commission has asked the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration to review city and county unification. County commissioners have downplayed the idea.

• Consider approving a contract not to exceed $180,000 with DCCCA to develop a strategic plan for the prevention of substance abuse, suicide and mental health crisis and the convening in 2019 of an opioid summit. In a memo to commissioners, Bob Tryanski, county director of behavioral health projects, said DCCCA would engage all the county’s behavioral health partners and county school districts in the yearlong strategic planning process.

Commissioners will meet at 4 and 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. They will discuss the fairgrounds rental fees and unified government idea at 4 p.m. The county administrator contract and the behavioral health projects are on the agenda for 6 p.m., the time the county reserves for items of particular interest to the public. To view the complete agenda, visit


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