County ponders skylight repairs

Courthouse work may be $145,000

Expensive options await the Douglas County Commission for repairing a leaky skylight and water damage caused to a beam and trusses in the 105-year-old courthouse.

“If this was my house and I lived here, I’d take out that skylight,” Commissioner Jere McElhaney said during Monday’s commission meeting.

That probably isn’t possible because the courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. County documents show the skylight is an original feature of the building. Laws governing historic sites appear to prevent skylight replacement in this case, County Administrator Craig Weinaug said.

The cost for the repairs, including design and engineering, could be at least $145,000.

County leaders expect to meet with state historical representatives as early as today to discuss the skylight issue.

An inspection last month led to the discovery of the water damage in the attic. County leaders say there is no imminent danger of the roof collapsing but that repairs need to be made soon.

Bill Bell, county building and grounds director, said he wasn’t convinced the skylight was an original feature of the building. He said he has the original architectural drawings and will examine them.

In other business, commissioners expressed reluctance to continue funding the judge pro-tem position in district court. Peggy Kittel, who had held the position since it was formed eight years ago, was appointed by the governor to the district judge seat previously held by Kansas Attorney General Stephen Six.

District judge positions are funded by the state, but the Legislature has not appropriated funds for another Douglas County judicial position.

Administrative Judge Robert Fairchild said the pro-tem position is needed, noting that there were 6,000 hearings assigned to it last year.

Commissioners directed Fairchild to prepare a letter justifying the position.