Courthouse Debate Continues in Pott County

(Pott. County Commission Meeting, November 6, 2017) | The Manhattan Mercury

The Great Limestone Debate continued Monday at the weekly meeting of the Pottawatomie County Commission. Dru Clarke, rural St. George, presented information contrary to that presented last week by Ross Hill, Belvue, which contradicted information presented several weeks ago by Clarke. Clarke has been a vocal proponent of saving the Pottawatomie County Courthouse, arguing that aging limestone buildings, with proper care, can remain viable well into the future. Hill, on the other hand, has argued against investing money in an aging structure built of limestone which, he says, has questionable long-term stability. Hill last week cited a Topeka Capital Journal article entitled “Kansas State is Crumbling,” which, he said, was evidence of the instability of structure built with limestone quarried in this area. Clarke said Monday one of the buildings cited in the article was Nichols Gymnasium which burned in December of 1968, the limestone being compromised by intense heat and subsequent water from fire hoses. “Mr. Hill very artfully neglected to include that,” Clarke said. Nichols Gym has since been renovated and—along with other decades-old KSU limestone buildings such as Ahearn Fieldhouse and Kedzie Hall—is still in use today, Clarke said. Clarke also took issue with Hill’s assertion that residents new to Pott County have no ties nor interest in its history. “That really chapped my hide,” she said, noting that historic landmarks were always of interest to her former students on field trips around the country. “Kids will take an interest in history if they’re exposed to it,” she said. Clarke presented a list of 14 Pott County structures on the National Register of Historic Places, many of which qualified for federal tax credits for renovation. “The courthouse should be on here,” she said of the list. The debate over preservation of the Pott County Courthouse—the second oldest in Kansas—(Note: in continuous service) began several months ago when a study said replacing the 1884 courthouse with a new consolidated office building was the most cost-effective means of meeting the county’s long-range facilities needs. The commission has taken no action regarding the study.