By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Kay County went to the polls for a special election Oct. 8, and voiced their approval for a planned annex to the Kay County Courthouse and extension office, paving the way for a streamlining of the district court system and county operations.
The measure passed with 1,400 votes, while 854 voted against the project. In Newkirk, voters headed to the Newkirk Public Library, where it passed 157 – 47.
The project has been in the works for several years, and has been on the ballot previously, although 2019 is the first time it passed. The measure calls for a one-half of 1 percent sales tax for 13 years to fund the project
The Kay County Courthouse was constructed in 1925-1926, and while at that time it had more than enough room for all offices to operate, as the population increased through the years, it became more difficult to operate smoothly, leading to several renovations for more space.
The annex seeks to alleviate those problems, moving all county offices, including county clerk, treasurer, assessor and election board, into the new building, and reserving the Courthouse strictly for court system operation.
This will be especially beneficial to the court clerk’s office, which is currently spread out across three offices.
“We’re all going to be in one office, so we’ll all be able to do a lot more cross training,” said Court Clerk Marilee Thornton. “I think the security of the Courthouse is going to improve immensely.”
Currently, the first floor of the Courthouse contains offices for the county clerk, treasurer and assessor, while court the clerk and two courtrooms are on the second floor. With the current plan, the court clerk’s office will be housed on the first floor, and two new courtrooms and judges’ chambers will be added. This will not only make court proceedings easier, but the other county offices will be easier to access with the annex, as it will be one floor, and those visiting the office won’t have to worry about stairs or elevators.
Storage space will also be improved, as many offices, including the Extension office, election board and others are having to find space for their records and documents.
“This’ll be a good benefit for the election board, because we’ll have all our materials in one area. We’ll have the voter documents, ballots, voter registration, all our supplies, in one office,” said Election board secretary Cheryl Howard. “It’ll run smoother for the voters too, when they are doing in-person voting. There’ll be only one floor, and they won’t have to climb stairs when the new building is complete.”
There are many other areas addressed in the project, which also includes a new roof and an update of the heating and cooling system.
“The roof’s going to be close to $2 and a half million because of the tile. You have to go back to the original style to keep the historical value,” said District Two Commissioner Jason Shanks.
The Extension office will have their old building adjacent to the Courthouse and annex.
“We’re excited about the new space we’re going to have, the new meeting space specifically. We’ll be able to hold our meetings in a building you don’t have to book to do the meeting,” said Extension educator Shannon Mallory. “There should be a teaching-style kitchen for us to use for programs.”