County proposes sale of jail
The Johnson County commissioners met for a regularly scheduled meeting Monday in which the commissioners discussed a proposal to sell off or negotiate a long-term lease for the long-retired county jail that sits just off the square in downtown Vienna.
The proposal was born out of the commissioner’s previous meeting in which Johnson County business owner, Mitchell R. Garrett of Shawnee Survey & Consulting, headquartered in Vienna, asked of the county’s intentions for the building. Garrett suggested a historical renovation of the building that would then serve as office space for Shawnee Survey’s growing business.
At Monday’s meeting the commissioners discussed at length the requirements of the county to put such a building up for auction and/or for sale and the logistics in relocating the building’s contents. The commissioners agreed if the county could “get out from under it,” the county would save money in the long run. No amount was suggested for the sale of the building as the commissioners discussed the need of allowing interested parties to conduct building inspections.
The commissioners requested a memo to be sent to all departments notifying them to create a plan to vacate their department’s possessions from within the building. An update and continuation of an action plan for the sale of the building was to be placed on the agenda for the commissioner’s next meeting.
The commissioners were to hear from Julie Trover about a tax abatement request for a new business called the White Buffalo Lodge, but Trover discovered she needed to fill out the forms for the request first and only handed out her business proposal to the commissioners without any discussion.
Trover is looking to create “an Old West restaurant and lodge” near the junction of Interstate 24 and State Route 146.
“I’ve kind of already done [this type of business before] on a private basis, this will be open to the public,” Trover said before the meeting.
Trover said the architecture would include an “Old West theme” and the first phase would be the creation of the restaurant with the lodge to follow.
“A destination carrying a late 1800s theme throughout the property and architecture,” Trover included as a description in her business plan she provided to the commissioners. “A 5,536 square foot restaurant styled as an old time saloon with a 6,400’, 20-room Old West hotel. Three separate dining areas in the restaurant seating 250 people; the main section opening up from the primary entrance and featuring a stone and brick fireplace. Upon passing through the entryway, guests will be greeted by a host or hostess and will perceive an array of items typically associated with the Wild West genre as they are taken to one of the sections in which to dine.”
Trover said she enjoyed putting together a similar themed lodge and facility and that its success was inspiration to build a new one.
“It’s worked out really nice and I’d just like to share [the same type of business] with everybody,” Trover said.
The commissioners had no unfinished business on the agenda and after the discussion of the jail sale they quickly moved through the agenda’s new business. The board unanimously agreed to a cooperative agreement with the City of Vienna and Chamber of Commerce to help fund the staffing of the Depot in the amount of $2,200. The cooperative agreement is to help encourage tourism in Johnson County as thousands of visitors stop at Vienna Park each year where the Depot is located. The commissioners discussed the creation of a Johnson County visitor’s guide to help the community grow its in-county tourism.
A precinct consolidation resolution for Grantsburg I & II passed allowing the consolidation of the voting precincts for Grantsburg. Johnson County Clerk/Recorder and Election Authority Robin Harper-Whitehead said the consolidation would allow the county to save on election expenses in a precinct in which the voters are already traveling to the same location to cast their ballots.
The commissioners also re-appointed David Hogue as the Johnson County Housing Authority.
After approving highway and county bills in the amounts of $45,889.53 and $41,049.86 respectively, commissioner Ernie Henshaw said to remove any possible arguments over a conflict of interest; he stepped down as president of Johnson County 2000, but would continue to remain as a representative from the county board on that panel.
The next regularly scheduled Johnson County Commissioner’s meeting is scheduled for July 1 with a start time of 3:30 p.m.