County Commission agenda includes presentations on jail and courthouse upgrades and a report that BP Wind Energy has refiled its request to build a wind farm.

Pratt County commissioners listened to a proposal for jail improvements and courthouse security upgrades at their regular meeting on Monday that could cost approximately $1 million.

"We know we need to do something," Chairman Joe Reynolds said. "You've given us something to think about."

HMN Architects, Overland Park, specializes in institutional occupancies, according to Shawn Harding, who presented a plan to add 14 feet to the south side of the jail and reconfigure space inside to improve security and streamline operations. He described the jail as well maintained but dated in layout and materials, the kitchen as small and outdated, and in some areas, officers have their backs to prisoners.

He noted that jail staff are sentenced for longer periods in that building than the people they detain, and working conditions need to be efficient and safe for them.

New walls would be made of hardened concrete, and he urged commissioners not to skimp or substitute for materials that are proven to be secure.

Harding estimated the project between $650,000 and $800,000 with an approximate construction time of less than a year. Completing the project in phases could increase the overall time and cost.

Sheriff Vernon Chinn said he had already talked with the Police Department about sharing some space during the construction.

Harding estimated the cost to secure three ground-level entrances to the courthouse at $200,000 to $250,000, by making one entrance for employees only, to be accessed by a card which could be "killed" if the employee leaves the job, and installing casework with metal detectors that courthouse visitors would walk through, with an adjacent station for an officer at the north and west doors.

Commissioners approved the purchase of a 1995 aerial fire truck at a net price of $196,500, with $31,000 allowed for the county's 1979 truck. Jon's Mid America Fire Apparatus, Rogersville, Mo., will deliver the newer truck and remove the older one. The truck carries a 90-day warranty on internal components of the engine, transmission, rear-end, and pump against major failures.

Mark McManaman, county emergency services director, said he had the money in his equipment reserve fund, and that he would pay $80,000 up front and put the rest on a lease-purchase agreement.

Environmental services director Robert Torres received approval for two employees at the recycling center to attend a hazardous waste meeting. He noted that Food and Drug Administration literature urges people to contact their local trash and recycling facility for information about safe disposal of medicines.

Marsha Giggy, mayor of Iuka, reported on that city's plans for implementing its own recycling program. Nisly Brothers, with whom Iuka has contracted, asked her to get documentation from the county that they can go ahead with the program.

"We're a forward-thinking small community," Giggy said. "We need to go green, but a lot of our senior citizens can't haul their recycling to Pratt. It will benefit Iuka, and I don't see it will harm your county program."

The Iuka City Council passed a charter ordinance, exempting them from state regulations that give counties authority over solid waste.

"We didn't really want it to happen, so we shouldn't have to agree," Reynolds commented, and County Counselor Robert Schmisseur agreed, "the county doesn't have jurisdiction; we don't need to approve or disapprove."

Karl Pierce, director for business development, with BP Wind Energy, reported that he had filed an application for a special use permit to build a wind energy project in the southeast part of the county.

After several hearings during the winter and early spring, BP withdrew its application, citing an ordinance that the company said was not favorable to development.

The ordinance has been rewritten so a potential developer can complete required studies in stages, instead of all being done up front.

Pierce said he has signed contracts with 85 landowners, and maps are available at the office of Tim Branscom, zoning director, showing where the company can and cannot build.

The Planning and Zoning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposal Aug. 19.