County considers LaHarpe

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
Sheriff Tom Williams, right, explains how he thinks LaHarpe School could be used by the county during a Tuesday afternoon tour. Listening, from left, are County Counselor Alan Weber and commissioners Rob Francis and Gary McIntosh.

The LaHarpe Elementary School building could meet several needs of the county, county officials said during a casual tour of the building Tuesday afternoon. Commissioners Gary McIntosh and Rob Francis were enthusiastic about the building’s potential as an ambulance station and 911 dispatch center. “It’s a better building than anything we looked at in Iola,” Commissioner Dick Works said.
The building became available after USD 257 board members voted to close it in efforts to reduce a $300,000 state funding gap for the 2009-10 school year. Selling it isn’t out of the question, said Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools.
Neuenswander answered officials’ questions on the tour, but couldn’t say what the district might sell the building for “until I’ve talked to board members” at a planning meeting tonight.
Francis and McIntosh suggested installing doors in the west end of the school’s tile-floored gymnasium to allow it to house ambulances, noting there would still be ample room for a training area. Five classrooms, including one with a bathroom, and a sixth room previously used as a library would be more than adequate for living quarters, day room and other needs.
The building also has a kitchen and office area, which with one wall removed would work well as a dispatch center, Sheriff Tom Williams said, adding he could “think of 20 things we could use the building for.”
The school was built in 1977-78; the roof is less than five years old. Neuenswander said the building has fiber optics and Internet connections in every room.
“Our tech people say the LaHarpe School is technologically ahead of anything we have in Iola.”
Commissioners have plans later this month to select a contractor to design and build an ambulance station in Gas costing in the area of $200,000. If they decide to pursue the LaHarpe School, the Gas station apparently would be shelved a second time.