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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Committee offers recommendations for parking issue

  • With a dispute having arisen regarding parking at the Justice Center, a building committee has come up with recommendations to forward to the Leavenworth city and county governments.
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  • With a dispute having arisen regarding parking at the Justice Center, a building committee has come up with recommendations to forward to the Leavenworth city and county governments.
    The recommendations were voted on Tuesday afternoon during a special meeting of the committee.
    At issue was whether parking spaces would be set aside for the Leavenworth Police Department in a new lot that's being constructed at the county's expense.
    The Justice Center building committee, which includes representatives from the city and county, is recommending that 15 spots be designated for the Police Department.
    The building committee also looked at possible design changes to the lot which already is under construction on the north side of the Justice Center. The building committee approved a recommendation that cost estimates be requested for proposed changes.
    The Justice Center houses the Leavenworth Police Department, Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office, Leavenworth County District Court and other entities.
    The county is having the new parking lot constructed on the site of the old Leavenworth County Jail, which recently was demolished. As currently designed, the new lot would have 38 parking spaces, two of which would be for handicap parking.
    Leavenworth County commissioners have said the new lot was intended for public parking. Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens requested 16 spaces in the new lot, arguing the police have been parking in the area around the old jail since moving into the Justice Center in 2000.
    A 1999 agreement between the city and county regarding the operation of the Justice Center states the county will provide adequate parking spaces for the Police Department's fleet.
    The building committee includes one member of the Leavenworth County Commission, a member of the Leavenworth City Commission, the sheriff, Leavenworth police chief, one person appointed by the city and one person appointed by the county. Judge David King, chief judge for the First Judicial District, serves as the committee's chairman.
    King said Tuesday he believes the parking situation is more complicated than anyone had earlier contemplated.
    The new lot will be located off of Third Street. But as currently designed, people would access the lot by turning onto the Justice Center property off of Second Street and driving through an existing parking area.
    King said this design would take members of the public through what was intended to be a secure parking area. He said this will further confuse, degrade the idea that the existing parking area is secure.
    He said one way to solve this is to provide access to the new lot from Third Street.
    County commissioners have discussed the idea of adding a Third Street entrance to the design of the new lot but no action has been taken.
    Page 2 of 3 - King also said projections for new parking may not have taken into account the Police Department's substantial use of the area around the old jail.
    "I just don't think anybody thought about that," he said.
    The judge said the police "have parked behind the jail since we moved into this building."
    King said he counted 13 law enforcement vehicles parked behind the old jail in an image provided by John Forslund, the county's director of buildings and grounds. The aerial image, which was taken before the old jail was demolished, was part of a parking study for the areas around the Justice Center and Courthouse.
    King said he had looked at an image on the Google Earth website, and there appeared to be 14 or 15 law enforcement vehicles parked behind the old jail in that picture.
    City Commissioner Larry Dedeke, who is a member of the building committee, proposed a new design for the lot that would add a Third Street entrance and exit. It also would include new angled spaces just outside the lot which would provide additional parking for the Police Department.
    "You would not have any PD cars in your (new) lot," he said.
    Forslund, who doesn't serve on the committee but attended Tuesday's meeting, said he was seeing Dedeke's proposal for the first time but thought it had merit.
    He said such changes would require more design work, and crews are running out of construction days before winter weather arrives.
    County Commissioner Clyde Graeber, who serves on the building committee, suggested such changes could add between $100,000 and $125,000 to the project.
    At one point, Don Navinsky, who was appointed to the committee by the county, questioned whether the county government has turned over the old jail property for Justice Center use. He suggested the building committee may have no authority over the site.
    King said the committee, which was set up by the 1999 agreement, has the responsibility of resolving disputes involving the Justice Center. He said the committee doesn't have any authority to spend money and can't order the County Commission or City Commission to spend money.
    He said the committee only can offer what it sees as solutions. It's then up to the governing bodies to act.
    Kitchens, who also serves on the building committee, later said he was puzzled as to "how we got here." The police chief said he'd told county officials in March that the police would still need to park in the area of the old jail and there seemed to be no opposition at that time.
    Graeber said he doesn't believe county commissioners object to the police parking in the new lot. The issue was how many spots would be designated for the police.
    Page 3 of 3 - Graeber later noted that the 1999 agreement indicates a formula used for sharing expenses related to the Justice Center building also applies to parking areas.
    King said if everyone uses the new lot, it would be subject to the cost allocation.
    King said he believes the Police Department should have what it had before in terms of parking. He said the department previously used around 15 spaces behind the old jail.
    Navinsky made a motion to designate 13 new spaces for the Police Department. The initial vote was a tie at 3-3. King said he generally doesn't vote but cast a tie-breaking vote against the motion.
    Dedeke then made a motion to designate 15 spaces for the Police Department. The motion passed with a 4-2 vote with Navinsky and Graeber voting against it.
    Dedeke then made a motion asking that cost estimates be obtained for the design changes he recommended.
    "I would like to see those figures," he said.
    The motion passed 6-0. Graeber initially did not cast a vote but then said he would vote for the motion.
    "It's all got to come to the County Commission anyway," he said.
    King said he will prepare a written report about the committee's recommendations that will be sent to the County Commission and City Commission. He said members of the committee will make themselves available to meet with the governing bodies if requested.
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