LaHarpe touted for headquarters

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Harry Lee encouraged Allen County commissioners Tuesday morning to take a long look at LaHarpe Elementary School as a site for a 911 dispatch and emergency operations centers.
Lee, a LaHarpe city councilman, said the school was near the center of the county, could save taxpayers money over construction of a new structure and has “the best communications network in the county, probably in several counties.” Lee, who owns the telephone company in LaHarpe, has installed fiber optics, which serves the school.
“We’re considering LaHarpe, but we have to look at other options and balance them with LaHarpe,” Commission Chairman Dick Works said. “The school has good points and it’s still on the table.”
A downside, Works noted, is that the school is a 30-year-old metal building and that remodeling would be required for it to fit dispatch and emergency operations needs.
Tuesday afternoon commissioners toured Emprise Bank in Humboldt, where City Hall will be moved later this year when a new bank opens. Humboldt has proposed the basement as a site for 911 dispatch and emergency operations.
The basement contains 8,000 square feet in three rooms, including one that has been used for public gatherings and will be used for council meetings. An elevator will be installed to make the basement more accessible.

COMMISSIONERS joined USD 257 and Allen County Community College in support of Iola’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which will give 95 percent property tax abatements for six years to owners who make improvements of $5,000 or more to a structure or build anew. Abatements for the final four years will decline by 20 percent a year.
Approval came after Iola agreed to disqualify participants who didn’t pay taxes by deadline. Earlier, at the county’s behest, Iola put in place a hearing procedure for property outside the designated area, which includes all of Iola except new areas in the north part of the city.
The program will run three years, starting June 1.
Commissioners also renewed Allen County as an enterprise zone through a Kansas Department of Commerce program. Advantages are tax incentives and waiver of landfill fees for new businesses.
Money collected for county ambulance service totaled $257,572 through the end of June, commissioners were told. Jason Nelson, ambulance director, said that’s about $16,000 more than the same time as year ago.
“Transfers are down a little but emergency runs are up,” he said.
Pam Beasley, emergency services director, told commissioners she spent a week with 250 other Kansas responders at Crisis City, a 150-acre Homeland Security training facility near Salina.
“We dealt with disasters, including a derailed train and an explosion that collapsed a building,” Beasley said. “The facility opened April 1 and this was the first big event.”
Mike McDonald, who lives west of Iola, encouraged commissioners to ask the Kansas Department of Transportation to examine the intersection at 400 Street and U.S. 54. He recalled a fatal accident at the intersection, as well as many others. McDonald’s contention is that shoulder improvements would make the intersection safer.
He also told commissioners he thought more efforts should be made to make the county “greener,” by installing solar panels on the roof of the courthouse, drilling gas wells and curtailing fuel use by downsizing sheriff department patrol vehicles to smaller, more fuel-efficient pickup trucks.
Works pointed out that the county captured methane gas generated by organic waste at the landfill and used the gas to heat buildings.
Bill King, director of Public Works, told commissioners right of way acquisition for replacement of a bridge on old U.S. 169 near the Allen-Neosho counties line was under way and that installation of the liner for the new cell at the landfill would start soon.