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Commissioners upset about angle architect takes

10/15/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Ellis County commissioners want answers.

In Monday's regular meeting at the Ellis County Courthouse, commissioners expressed displeasure concerning the recent revelation the architect's design for the new EMS/rural fire building on 22nd Street doesn't meet city code.

"It isn't our job to know, I don't think, for what we're paying him," Chairman Dean Haselhorst said of the architectural firm for the project, Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architecture, Wichita. "He should know the code a lot better than three commissioners."

"That's why he's paid to be an architect, to know the codes," Commissioner Barbara Wasinger said.

"Especially for as long a time as he's had to work on this," Haselhorst said. "This shouldn't happen all of a sudden."

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund outlined options of how to proceed. Among them were getting either a change in city zoning or a variance.

"My recommendation would be to go with the zoning change rather than a variance," said Sund, who already met with city officials concerning the issue and had another meeting planned with them today.

The building design is not in compliance with city code because of a shadow restriction for developments next to a residential zone.

The building will abut a multi-family housing zone to the north. Under this restriction, Sund said in his memo to commissioners, the angle from the highest point of the EMS/rural fire building within 150 feet of the neighboring property cannot exceed a 22.5 degree angle. Under current design, the building would result in a 38.2 degree angle.

"When we talk to the architect about this hiccup, what is their response?" Commissioner Swede Holmgren asked. "I am averse to giving that architect one more damn dime until they come in and talk to us why this was screwed up."

The building is part of a $14.3 million project approved by voters in May.

"I am not at this point interested in hammering the architect, but I want somebody from this architectural firm to explain to the county commissioners how and why this happened," Holmgren said. "I don't need a name, but I want to know why this was missed."

In other business:

* Commissioners approved changing the meeting time from 6:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, the first three weeks of each month, starting in January. This will allow county counselor Bill Jeter -- who also is the legal representative for Hays USD 489, which meets at 6:30 p.m. Mondays -- to attend county meetings. Commissioners also will contact Jeter about his fee. He hasn't had a fee increase since 2002, and the county has the option to compensate his firm at an hourly rate or through an all-inclusive retainer.

* Commissioners expressed their displeasure about more issues with an ongoing project to update county radios.

* Commissioners have a fence-viewing scheduled this week to resolve a dispute between property owners in the county.

* Commissioners approved paying the employer's share to employees' Health Savings Accounts at the beginning of the year for 2014.

* Commissioners discussed the Buckeye Wind Project and are scheduled to meet with Dennis Davidson, the county's counselor for wind-related issues, at next week's meeting. In his memo, Sund said he had verified Southwest Power Pool had submitted an interconnection agreement for the Buckeye Wind Project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.