By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
The prospect of sex, drug and violent offenders visiting the temporary home of 25 female Thomas More Prep-Marian students has forced Ellis County to reopen its search for office space.
"Predators" would have access to the Hadley Center if Law Enforcement Center administrative staff is placed inside Hadley during renovations to the courthouse, Ellis County Sheriff Ed Harbin said during an Ellis County Commission special meeting Wednesday. Certain criminals need to register for various offenses.
Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler agreed with Harbin.
Dave Van Doren, Hadley Center owner, said there are two sets of security doors between TMP's residence and the rest of the building. Despite his assurances of safety and approving it with the parties involved, commissioners wanted to communicate with officials from TMP and the Catholic Diocese of Salina.
Commission Chairwoman Barbara Wasinger said they were "playing a game of telephone" without reaching out to everyone.
"We're not going to talk about it with you until we talk to the diocese, we talk to the bishop, the diocese counsel and the principal," Wasinger said.
Kathy Taylor, TMP principal, said there are concerns about individuals with felonies or serious misdemeanors entering the facility.
Commissioners voted to begin lease negotiations with two alternate locations. The former Sears store, 2508 Vine, and former NEW Call Center, 3000 NEW Way, are the options.
Commissioner Dean Haselhorst said he received feedback criticizing the Sears possibility because it is near businesses in Centennial Plaza.
Haselhorst said, "I made that comment to one of them saying, 'You realize where the Courthouse is at -- 13th and Main. ... We have the same criminals there that we're going to have at the Sears building.' "
Other business on the agenda:
* Commissioners set 5 p.m. Aug. 18 as the public hearing for the proposed 2015 budget. The late date allows the budget to be published and the meeting to be advertised.
Ellis County Extension Board representatives visited commissioners and confirmed renovations to their 601 Main location would be paid for in its 2015 budget.
Wasinger said reducing the county budget's shortfall was difficult.
"It's been heart-wrenching," she said. "I've lost sleep trying to figure out how to trim $1.7 million. If you haven't tried to do that, I suggest you walk a mile in our shoes."
* A 15-minute executive session was held to discuss attorney-client privilege. No action was taken.