Kingman sheriff running out of space

Kingman County Sheriff Randy Hill is tired of the paperwork.

Documents fill cardboard boxes around his office and cram several filing cabinets. Paperwork on one desk is stacked at least 2 feet high.

"Any place we have an inch, we use it," he said of the more than 30 years' worth of files that pack Kingman County's small law enforcement center.

That means even the space beneath a bathroom sink.

More than 20 people work out of the small office next to the courthouse, Hill said. Law enforcement, which includes Hill's deputies and Kingman city police, has outgrown the center built in 1959 as the command unit for a handful of deputies and the two-bedroom residence of the sheriff and his family.

Now, Hill and Kingman County commissioners are looking into what it would take to build a new law enforcement center — something with better security, more space and up-to-date technology.

For instance, Hill said, suspects are taken in through the front door — the same area where victims might be sitting. The 911 dispatch center is housed in the basement, which is in a flood zone.

It takes six air conditioners to cool the center, including the extensive computers and technology needed to run dispatch and other programs, he said. The jail can house up to 13 people, but sometimes, especially in the summer when thousands flock to Cheney Reservoir, its population increases. Then prisoners are taken to nearby county jails.

The National Institute of Corrections conducted a study last fall telling Hill and others what they already knew — the antiquated structure doesn't meet safety and Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Hill said the auditor told him "you basically have a worn-out building and you've outgrown it."

County Commissioner Carol Voran said the plan is to attend a National Institute of Corrections program in August that will help leaders plan for a new facility. That will include where to build and possibly the cost.

Then, hopefully by fall, she said, the commissioners can put the issue to public vote.

A bill in the Kansas House would allow the county to recommend up to a 1-cent sales tax, with the proceeds going to the county instead of being split with municipalities, said Rep. Pat Maloney, D-Kingman.

Maloney, who said the bill's passage is expected, said funding from the tax would also go to road projects.

"The cost of road maintenance has skyrocketed, and we need to do some definite improvements on some of our roads," Voran said.

Steve Brunkan, a financial economist for the Kansas Department of Revenue, said the county could collect roughly $850,000 a year if voters approve the tax.

Randall Allen, executive director with the Kansas Association of Counties, said what the county is doing is nothing out of the ordinary. Officials in several counties have built or are considering building new facilities and have asked the Legislature to direct funding to the counties.

"A lot of the jails were constructed 50 to 75 years ago, and they are at the end of useful life," Allen said. "Technology has changed, standards have changed, surveillance of inmates has changed."