County commissioners hear about growth potential, land development possibilities

Michael Blackford
Pratt Tribune
Heather Morgan serves as the Economic Development Consultant for Pratt County.

At the August 2 Pratt County Commission meeting, Economic Development Consultant Heather Morgan challenged the commissioners to think about county growth over the next three to five years or further into the future.

“There are companies looking for towns like Pratt to expand into but may want help with existing buildings or tracts of land to build on,” Morgan said.

Morgan reminded the commissioners to direct any inquiries regarding the old nursing home building to her. She said she would be able to help companies find all available economic development funds.

The commissioners, in response to Morgan’s comments, discussed county-owned land that is available for development. There is land along K61 and frontage along US54/400 by the new public safety building. There was disagreement between Tom Jones and Dwight Adams over the size of the lots and County Counselor Tyson Eisenhauer stepped in to end the dispute.

“I will look up the specific information on the lots and forward the information to Heather,” Eisenhauer said.

According to recent financial statements, the Pratt County budget is about $500k over what it needs to be and in response to each department head being asked to submit a revised budget, Pratt County Sheriff Jimmy White said he would be able to cut $27K from his department budget, as well as an additional jailer position out of the sheriff department budget.

No other budget head responses were shared from the meeting.

For information only, the commissioners heard an update from Darryl Lavender, CEO Pratt Regional Medical Center, about the status of the new urgent care center on First Street.

Lavender said the urgent care location should be able to open soon. They have most of the staff already hired. It will be open all seven days of the week and is not intended to replace your family physician or the emergency room.

“It will serve that area of care that is more care than your physician can offer in his office but not so severe or life threatening to need the ER," Lavender said. "The cost will be less than the ER but more than an office visit.”

Lavender also reported that PRMC is doing well financially year to date. Revenue is below projections, but fewer expenses have offset the lost revenue. Lavender announced the SBA payroll protection loan money of over $4M is going to be 100% forgiven.

“We expected only 80-85% would be forgiven so this will help offset some of the lower income received," Lavender said.

Kelly McMurphy, Landmark Architect, reported to the commissioners that renovations on the Pratt County Law Enforcement Center are almost complete.

“The jail windows are in and all the doors are installed. All that is left is the little details to finish the doors and windows.” McMurphy said.

He told the commissioners Sheriff White had asked about changing the jail window screens to Lexan plastic instead. The screens are no longer necessary since the space is heated and cooled and the windows do not open. The screens get dirty from inmates throwing food and other stuff against them and the jailers have to clean them out because of the odor. Changing to Lexan would take care of that and the cost would be about $7200 extra.

“It is disgusting for the jailer to have to clean the screens because of the things that the inmates throw into them and it is difficult to do because they were not designed to be taken off regularly," said commissioner Shriver. "This means they get cleaned only about once a year.”

The commissioners voted in favor of replacing the screens. Landmark Architects will be informed so they can submit a change order for signatures.

Shriver informed those present that he has received complaints that county employees are not following the county smoking policy. He asked the clerk to send a note to all department heads requesting they remind their employees about the smoking policy which directs that there is to be no smoking or smokeless tobacco in any county property, building and vehicles. Smoking is not to happen within 15 feet of any door of county property.