Douglas County Commission to consider debt financing for behavioral health center

photo by: Contributed photo/Treanor HL

This rendering shows Douglas County's planned behavioral health crisis center, which would be part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County, located at 1000 W. Second St., near the corner of Maine and West Second streets. The facility is expected to be constructed by the end of 2021.

Douglas County could take on debt to cover $8.8 million of the construction costs for a new behavioral health crisis center.

The County Commission on Wednesday will consider authorizing the sale of general obligation bonds for the project, which would establish a 20,000-square-foot facility that would provide behavioral health crisis services. Last week, the commissioners approved a $10.4 million total project cost for the construction, outfitting the facility with equipment and other costs.

Once constructed, the facility will be part of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County — located at 1000 W. Second St., near the corner of Maine and West Second streets — which will provide three housing and treatment facilities for Douglas County residents dealing with behavioral health issues. Construction projects for the other two portions of the campus, named “Transitions” and “The Cottages,” are expected to be completed next month, the Journal-World has reported.

County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said in a memo to the commissioners that debt financing would only be needed to cover $8.8 million of the $10.4 million cost for the crisis center. She said the county generally does not use debt financing to cover outfitting facilities with furniture, fixtures and equipment or covering the planned contingency funding for such projects, all of which were included in the crisis center’s total project cost.

However, some of the $8.8 million includes some construction and professional services costs from the Transitions and Cottages portions of the campus. Plinsky told the commission last week that those costs would be included in the debt financing.

On Tuesday, Plinsky told the Journal-World that the county intends to seek a 20-year debt plan. She said she won’t know the county’s annual costs of the debt financing, which will include an interest rate, until the bonds are sold sometime next month. However, without including the interest rate or other additional costs, $8.8 million spread over 20 years would cost about $440,000 annually.

Plinsky previously told the Journal-World that the county would pay off the debt by using a portion of the revenue generated by the mental health quarter-cent sales tax, which county voters approved in 2018. The county estimates the sales tax will generate about $4.7 million for the 2021 budget, which is slightly below the original estimate of $4.9 million. The slight drop was established to account for a possible decrease in revenue caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Once the facility is up and running, Plinsky previously said the county will also have operational costs to cover, but she did not yet have an estimated annual total for that cost. But she said she believes the costs will be within the available annual sales tax revenue.

In other business, the commissioners will consider entering an agreement with the City of Eudora to establish an urban growth area surrounding its city limits.

The urban growth area would be used similarly to how the City of Lawrence and the county use an urban growth area surrounding Lawrence, which is an area in which the city and county prefer development to occur in the hopes that it would make Lawrence’s growth more efficient.

The Eudora urban growth area would include three tiers. The first, Tier 1, includes what is currently Eudora’s city limits. The second, Tier 2, includes areas directly adjacent to city limits that the city considers to be areas that would be annexed in the near future. Both of those tiers would allow for development under urban or suburban standards.

Finally, the third tier, known as urban reserve, includes pockets of land in the western and southeastern areas adjacent to Tier 2, including land that is not considered for annexation in the Eudora’s current comprehensive plan but could be someday in the future. That tier would allow for development under rural standards, while also planning for future urban growth.

photo by: Document screenshot/Douglas County Commission

This map shows a proposed urban growth area that would surround the City of Eudora.

The commissioners will also consider awarding an amended conditional use permit to Pine Landscape Center, which is located at 1783 East 1500 Road. The business wants to expand the permit’s footprint to the western side of the property, which would be used to create a new customer service area for the purposes of reducing traffic issues.

The County Commission will convene Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for its regular business meeting. The meeting will be open to the walk-in public at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., but a link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 924-0555-7639.

Full audio from the meeting will continue to be posted on the county’s website, as usual. The meeting’s full agenda may also be found on the county’s website.

Related coverage:

• Nov. 10, 2019 — Construction of behavioral health campus set to begin, but price tag for Douglas County may grow

• Feb. 16, 2020 — Health leaders provide updated facility design for planned Douglas County behavioral health crisis center

• March 27, 2020 — Douglas County crisis center receives $750K in state budget

• Oct. 7, 2020 — Construction of Douglas County behavioral health crisis center expected to cost $8 million

• Oct. 13, 2020 — Douglas County Commission to consider authorizing financial plan for proposed behavioral health crisis center

• Oct. 14, 2020 — Douglas County Commission approves financial plan for behavioral health crisis center project

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