Commissioners Don’t Endorse Courthouse Listing

(Pott. County Commission Meeting, November 13, 2017) | The Smoke Signal

County Commissioners Monday opposed listing the Pottawatomie County Courthouse on the National Register of Historic Places, saying the move could “tie their hands” in deciding the future of the structure. The nomination to the National Register of the courthouse and the old stone jail at Westmoreland will be considered this Saturday, November 18, by the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review, according to a letter to commissioners dated October 12, from Jennie Chinn and Patrick Zollner, historic preservation officers with the Kansas State Historical Society. The nomination was submitted in August by Dorothy Campbell, Westmoreland, and Brenda Spencer, owner of Spencer Preservation, rural Wamego, according to the letter. Commissioner Dee McKee’s motion to oppose listing the courthouse and jail on the National Register was approved unanimously. McKee said she based her motion on studies of cost and functionality of the courthouse, as well as a county resolution adopted 57 years ago saying the courthouse was too expensive to repair and should be demolished and replaced. It was unclear Monday how a listing on the National Register would impact the county’s future plans regarding the courthouse, the second oldest in Kansas and built in 1884. Email queries to the deputy state historic preservation officer (Zollner) remained unanswered as of Monday afternoon. In his letter to commissioners, however, Zollner said listing on the National Register “does not mean that limitations will be placed on the property by the federal government. The federal government will not attach restrictive covenants on the property or seek to acquire them.” “Listing of this property provides recognition of the community’s historic importance and assures protective review of federal projects that might adversely affect the character of the historic property,” the letter stated. Properties listed on the National Register are automatically listed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places and may qualify for state tax credits and the Heritage Trust Fund grant program, according to the letter. The debate over preservation of the courthouse began several months ago when a study concluded that replacing the structure with a new consolidated office building was the most cost-effectives means of meeting the county’s long-range facilities needs. The commission has taken no action regarding the study or the future of the courthouse. Consideration of the nomination of the courthouse and jail to the National Register of Historic Places will be held at 9 a.m. this Saturday in the Kansas Museum of Natural History, 6425 SW 6th Ave., Topeka.