County discusses use of space at Cushing building

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

When they met this week, Leavenworth County commissioners discussed how much space in the former Saint Luke's Cushing Hospital building should be set aside for for-profit companies.

Before making such a determination, commissioners want County Administrator Mark Loughry to visit with local nonprofit agencies regarding the amount of space they would need if they move into the building.

Saint Luke's Cushing Hospital in Leavenworth closed last year and the building was donated to the county government.

Commissioners already plan to move the county's Council on Aging to the first floor of the building. The county has hired an architectural firm for design work for remodeling a portion of the building for the Council on Aging.

The Council on Aging currently operates in a building that is not owned by the county.

The County Commission also has entered into an agreement with Signature Behavioral Hospital Operations, which will operate a for-profit psychiatric hospital in the Cushing building.

Signature Behavioral Hospital Operations will use a portion of the first floor and the entire third floor of the Cushing building for an inpatient and outpatient psychiatric hospital. The agreement also gives the company the right of first refusal for leasing the building's fourth floor.

The company will pay to remodel the space it occupies in the building.

Signature Behavioral Hospital Operations' parent company is CenterPointe Behavioral Health System, Brentwood, Tennessee.

Commissioners previously discussed making space at the Cushing building available to nonprofit organizations.

Loughry said Wednesday that he has reached out to nonprofit organizations that receive annual funding from the county.

"They have expressed varying levels of interest," he said.

Loughry said his discussions with the organizations have been preliminary.

One of the organizations, The Guidance Center, has requested space at the Cushing building for a crisis stabilization center for mental health services.

Loughry said The Guidance Center officials are interested in space in the area of the old emergency room entrance on the first floor of the former hospital.

Loughry said The Guidance Center has received grant money from the state to pay for remodeling and ongoing operations.

The Guidance Center also is requesting additional funding from the Leavenworth County government and other counties in the region to help fund the crisis stabilization center.

Loughry said this would not leave much space on the first floor. Space on the second floor is available.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz suggested some of the remaining space on the first floor could be used by the Kansas State University Research and Extension Office for Leavenworth County.

She suggested the Council on Aging and Extension Office may be able to utilize some shared space.

Loughry said the idea of making space available to nonprofit organizations is intended to help these agencies reduce their expenses by not having to pay for rent or utilities.

Loughry said he has suggested to these agencies that the county may reduce its level of funding in exchange for rent-free space at the former hospital building.

"I have had that conversation," he said.

Loughry said some of the local nonprofit organizations may not be able to pay for remodeling space in the former Cushing building.

"Are we willing to pick up the expense of that?" he said.

Commissioner Mike Stieben said he believes the entities should pay for remodeling costs or at least enter into a cost share with the county. He suggested an exception could be made for the Extension Office.

Loughry asked commissioners if they want to carve out any space in the building for for-profit companies.

Culbertson suggested 50% of the building's space should be rented to for-profit companies.

Culbertson said his goal is to create no additional cost for taxpayers. He said the only way to do this is to charge rent.

Stieben said he does not think commissioners can make a decision about how much space should be designated for for-profit entities without first talking to nonprofit organizations about their space needs.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith also said more information is needed about the space needs of the nonprofit organizations.

"I think we need a number," he said.

Loughry said he can meet with representatives of the nonprofit organizations.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Voted down a nomination for the Leavenworth County Planning Commission put forth by Commissioner Stieben. The vote was 2-3 with Stieben and Commissioner Jeff Culbertson voting in favor of the appointment.

Commissioners who voted against the appointment did not comment on their objections to the nominee.

• Approved a request to rezone land located at 16985 Evans Road from a rural residential district with a minimum lot size requirement of 2.5 acres to a rural residential district with a minimum requirement of one-acre lots.

The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Vicky Kaaz voting against the motion.

Commissioners also voted to authorize planning staff to initiate a rezoning process for an adjacent subdivision. The vote was 5-0.

• Voted to divide $50,000 among seven museums and historical societies that requested funding from the county.

Each year, the County Commission budgets $50,000 to provide funding for museums and historical societies in the county.