The Leavenworth County Commission Thursday agreed to hire an architectural firm to develop a plan to tear down the old county jail.
The Leavenworth City Commission voted earlier this month to reverse a decision by the Leavenworth Preservation Commission to deny a demolition permit request to tear the structure down. The Preservation Commission denied the initial request on the grounds that tearing the jail down would negatively impact the environs of the historic Leavenworth County Courthouse across the street. They also cited the historical value of the building itself, a 1939 facility thought to be built as part of the Works Progress Administration and designed by famed Leavenworth architect Myron Feth.
The county was seeking the permit to build a new parking lot in the footprint of the old jail when an anticipated expansion of the Justice Center eventually takes place.
John Forslund, the county’s director of buildings and grounds, said work is expected to begin next week to remove the asbestos at the building. That work is expected to last two weeks. On Thursday Forslund asked the county commission for permission to execute a $24,000 contract with Treanor Architects for a three-part project — to develop a plan for the complete demolition of the jail, plus a new parking lot and a new path for fiber cable from the courthouse to the Justice Center.
“That was contingent on the approval by the city to issue a demolition permit,” he said of the contract.
Commissioner Clyde Graeber asked whether the commission had agreed to let buildings and grounds negotiate that contract in the first place.
“I know we discussed it, but I’m not sure in my mind, that we approved this,” he said.
Mike Spickelmier, director of county public works, said in October the commission agreed to move forward on the contract, though he reminded the commission that the motion at that time made the execution of that contract contingent on the city commission’s approval and that of the Justice Center’s building committee.
“We did get authorization to do exactly what we did,” he said.
The contract with Treanor will be a sole-source contract, Spickelmier said, because Treanor both has expertise in historical projects and because they performed the remodel of the courthouse. Spickelmier later said although the public works department will oversee the project, but Treanor will help should unforeseen situations arise.
“There’s asbestos, there’s lead, there’s black mold, there’s all kinds of things that make this more complicated than just going out there with a bulldozer and knocking it down,” he said.
County Administrator Pat Hurley said the commission will still bid for the contractor to actually perform the work. The commission approved the contract with Treanor.