BY KAREN LA PIERRE
One year from now, county government will look far different than they do today.
In May 2013, Ellis County voters approved a 0.5 percent sales tax for construction of an EMS/rural fire building, renovation of the Ellis County Courthouse, the Ellis County Jail and the Law Enforcement Center, and other county buildings.
Because it's a countywide tax, the money is automatically divided between all of the incorporated cities in the county. The county's share was 42 percent, the share for the city of Hays48 percent and Ellis, Victoria and Schoenchen shared 10 percent.
The city of Hays agreed to give its share to the county to pay off the cost of the improvements more quickly. So, the county is receiving 90 percent of revenue from the sales tax.
The sales tax will end in five years, although part of money raised will go to pay for interim costs. The city of Hays had a 0.5 percent sales tax that expired in March 2013, money that paid for construction of Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex.
County administrative offices will move during the first part of January into the old Commerce Bank building at 718 Main. Those moving include county clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, county administrator's office, environmental services and IT.
The administrative offices at the courthouse will be closed to the public Jan. 2 to 5 for moving computers and relocating personnel.
That change will be permanent.
The interim judicial center is at 3000 New Way Drive in the former N.E.W. building. They will be there for nearly a year. The Hays Police Department, Ellis County Sheriff's office, Ellis County attorney's office and most of the Ellis County court systems will be at the interim judicial center.
When they move back to the courthouse, the Hays Police Department will have its own entrance, and the sheriff's office will share an entrance with the courthouse -- the only entryway into the courthouse.
That doorway, on the south side of the courthouse, will lead to a waiting area and the location of the courthouse security detail and metal detector leading into the courthouse.
Doorways on the west and north side of the building will become exit-only. The police department will gain space for five offices, an interview room and a conference room. Plus, the remodel will add additional security.
"This is going to turn into a courthouse," said Greg Sund, county administrator, about the renovations. "The courthouse will be dedicated to all court functions."
A new courtroom will be added as a part of the project.
One reason named for a new Law Enforcement Center was because of a lack of room for inmates. There was room to house 30 inmates, and the county currently has need for room for 50 to 60 inmates.
Overflow inmates have been housed in surrounding communities, with jailers driving inmates back and forth for court appearances and trials, Sund said.
To fill those needs, the new jail will have 72 beds.
The county is also remodeling the county offices at 601 Main, which houses the Extension office and health department.
In addition, the project allows for construction of a new EMS/rural fire building at 22nd and General Hays Road.
That all-metal building costs $3.24 million.