Douglas County Commission to discuss downtown space needs, options

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

The Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., is pictured on March 13, 2019.

Douglas County commissioners at their Wednesday work session will discuss possibilities for a downtown master plan that would address some space issues.

The county hired the architecture firm Gould Evans to conduct a space needs study in 2017. The study found that the county’s downtown buildings are out of room and that current solutions are reactive, resulting in “less-than-ideal solutions.”

According to Gould Evans’ presentation in the meeting agenda, the county will need 16,000 additional square feet by 2027.

The firm presents some options that it has identified for shuffling of departments into different buildings, including the historic courthouse, where the bulk of county administration is currently located; the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, which houses the Lawrence Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Douglas County District Court, among others; and the former Public Works facility, 1242 Massachusetts St.

The presentation offers options to renovate or expand current buildings and also suggests some departments for relocation.

It does not mention the former Lawrence Municipal Court building, 1006 New Hampshire St., which the commission agreed in April to lease. However, county spokeswoman Karrey Britt told the Journal-World via email in June that positions that would be moving into that building included Criminal Justice Coordinator Robert Bieniecki, Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore, Sustainability and Food Systems Planner Helen Schnoes, Heritage Coordinator Jan Shupert-Arick, a new data analyst and Community Corrections and Community Service Work employees. She said the move was expected later this month and in August.

The commission does not take action during its work sessions. Any final decisions would come at a later meeting.

In other business:

• Commissioners will consider a request from the Santa Fe Trail Society to support a trail on the Ivan Boyd Prairie Preserve, which is in the southeast quadrant of U.S. Highway 56 and East 2000 Road.

Roger Boyd, who directs maintenance of the native prairie, is working with the trail society to develop a trail that would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a memo to the commission from Keith Browning, director of public works/county engineer.

According to Browning’s memo, Boyd is seeking approval to construct the trail on Douglas County property. He has also requested the help of the public works department to install a culvert and related fill in a drainage-way that the trail will cross, but that is the only involvement he will need from the department, the memo says.

The commission will meet for its 4 p.m. work session and 5:30 p.m. regular meeting Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Complete agenda materials are available at douglascountyks.org.

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