Douglas County Commission to discuss funding possibilities for transitional, supportive housing project

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

The west side of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., is pictured on Sept. 23, 2021.

Earlier this year, the Douglas County Commission allocated nearly $21 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to more than a dozen projects. On Wednesday, commissioners will be talking about a request that didn’t make the cut.

At a work session Wednesday, the commission is set to hear from DCCCA, a nonprofit organization that provides a number of social and community safety net services, about a proposal to expand transitional, supportive housing on the nonprofit’s First Step at Lake View residential drug and alcohol treatment campus. DCCCA submitted the $800,000 request toward the total cost of building 10 transitional housing units for women in recovery from substance abuse during the ARPA allocation process in June.

During those deliberations, DCCCA’s proposal was one that commissioners were especially interested in. But county leaders also thought the project might be suited for funding via the county’s quarter-cent behavioral health sales tax instead, freeing up more ARPA money for other projects. That’s ultimately the direction county leaders took, opting to fund 14 other projects.

In part, Wednesday’s work session will serve as an opportunity to assess the feasibility of exploring alternate funding from Douglas County, like the sales tax, to support the request.

A supportive housing needs assessment completed earlier this year estimated that up to 38 additional units of supportive housing are needed in Douglas County in substance-use treatment settings. This project would represent about a quarter of that need.

The commission doesn’t take any action during work sessions, so any discussion will be for informational purposes only.

In other business, the commission will:

• During its regular business meeting, consider authorizing county staff to negotiate a $73,250 professional design services contract for projects reviewing and updating the Douglas County master plan and remodeling the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

The commission authorized staff to solicit a request for proposals for the projects in August and received one response from Lawrence-based architectural design firm TreanorHL. Phase one would consist of the master plan update, and a timeline included with this week’s agenda estimates that would take about four months to complete. Then, the commission could approve commencing with the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center remodel based on TreanorHL’s findings in phase one.

• Consider a conditional use permit for event center or public assembly use at 1558 North 600 Road in unincorporated Douglas County.

The request was submitted by Alan and Beth Michels; the subject property, about four miles north of Baldwin City, is also the location of their primary residence. The structure that would be used as an event center, a barn that has been converted into a recreational area, has been modified by the applicants over time for their personal use.

Because of water damage in the courthouse’s commission meeting room, Wednesday’s work session and meeting will instead take place at the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St. The work session will begin at 4 p.m. in the Division 4 courtroom, followed by the business meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Division 2 courtroom. Normal Judicial and Law Enforcement Center security protocols will be followed, and members of the public will be screened at a checkpoint upon entry to the building. The meeting will also be available by Zoom. For meeting information, visit the county’s website: dgcoks.org/commissionmeetings.

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