Extension asked to move
The Jackson County Commissioners are asking Meadowlark Extension District #7 to move its local office out of the Jackson County Courthouse due to space limitations, it has been reported.
The commissioners sent a letter to David Key, Meadowlark Extension District director, on March 9 notifying him that the extension office space in the Courthouse will need to be relocated by May 1. The district also has offices in Nemaha and Jefferson counties.
In the letter, the commissioners agreed to pay rent for a new office for the extension district until June 30, 2016 when its agreement for office space with the county expires.
The commissioners are proposing that the extension office area, which is located on the first floor of the Courthouse, be used as a meeting space for county events, safety meetings, tax roll season and appraiser meetings.
When the Courthouse was originally built, that office space was reserved for those types of gatherings, it was noted.
The commission chambers would also be moved from the second floor to the current extension office to allow more space for election machines, especially if lawmakers pass a bill to move all elections to November. If the bill is passed, County Clerk Kathy Mick said that instead of two machines programmed for advanced voting for elections, 14 would need to be programmed.
“Looking at the letter, it appears you need the space, and we understand that it’s your right to utilize that space how you see fit,” Key told commissioners Monday. “We just need a little time to process this as a board. We probably need more time than the May 1 date that you offered to coordinate a move.”
Besides Key, others present at the meeting included Nancy Nelson, district agent; Jody Holthaus, district agent; Cara Robinson, 4-H program manager; Jeri and Corky Albright, Bruce Yonke and Carolyn Kennedy.
Key said that he conducted an inventory of the current extension office and noted that there is about $90,000 in office equipment – computers and electronics – that will have to be moved plus items in storage.
“That’s going to be a burden to get that done in less than 40 business days,” Key said.
The commissioners said they would be willing to work with the district on clearing out the office and would allow the district some more time to move.
Office space at the Lofts at Fifth Avenue on the north side of the Square was suggested by the commissioners as potential new space for the extension district. Key and local extension agents viewed the space with Commissioner Janet Zwonitzer last week.
“It’s not handicap accessible, and we need something that is comparable in size so we can meet the needs of the public that come in,” Key said. “We also need accessible storage.”
Zwonitzer said the commissioners are willing to continue to help look for office space options for the district if district members want their assistance.
“We’re not trying to be ugly about this. We want to try to help you find space that would work,” Zwonitzer said. “We’re not going to kick you to the curb, and we’ll help you with the rent. We definitely want to work together.”
Nelson said the extension office could move out of the space this spring or summer if the new space is move-in ready and available now.
Holthaus questioned if the county could use the senior center, the new fair building or the sheriff’s office conference room for meetings and training.
It was noted space is limited at the sheriff’s office and training sessions longer than three or four hours would disrupt food service at the senior center.
The county originally signed an agreement with the extension district in March 27, 2006, which is when the extension district was originally formed.
Prior to becoming a district, the organization was known as the extension office and had occupied the office in the Courthouse for more than 40 years, according to Jackson County Clerk Kathy Mick.
The extension district has not paid rent to the county since occupying the office.
Key said that the extension district council was to meet Tuesday evening to discuss future office space and will keep the commissioners informed.
Henrietta Area, Jeri Albright, Bruce Yonke and Carolyn Kennedy serve as the Jackson County representatives on the Meadowlark Extension District #7 council.