At Monday’s Ford County Commission meeting, the commission heard discussion about the planned demolition of the old officers’ barracks at Fort Dodge.
The building is currently under the authority of the Kansas Soldiers’ Home at Fort Dodge, which is under the authority of the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs.
Kent Stehlik, president of the Ford County Historical Society, asked for the Ford County Commission to write a letter supporting the society’s effort to prevent the building’s demolition.
“We have a real concern (with the planned demolition) because Fort Dodge was here before there was a Ford County, before there was a Dodge City,” Stehlik said. “It’s a tourist attraction, it’s a one-of-a-kind institution and we wanted to make you aware of that situation.”
Stehlik said the historical society wants to partner with the veterans organization to prevent both the building scheduled for demolition and any further ones at Fort Dodge from the same fate in the future. Stehlik said the society has had Kansas Senator Bud Estes and representatives from U.S. Senator Jerry Moran’s office talk with the group.
Currently, the demolition has been scheduled for Sept. 1, 2018 Stehlik said.
“Really we need time,” Stehlik said. “A Sept. 1st deadline is not gonna give us enough time to study the situation and to have a solution.”
Stehlik said his team will probably need until the end of the year to find a solution. The foundation appears to be the most critical part, which could require the building be lifted to repair.
The society has had a lot of interest in the issue, with over 8,000 people showing their interest on Facebook, Stehlik said. Some have even offered money.
“People have asked if they can contribute money,” Stehlik said. “Of course we don’t know what we’re asking for, so we’re not gonna do that but the interest is there. In the future if we did get to the point where we know what it’s gonna take to save this building, then we could do things like that.”
The site is also not officially labeled as a historic landmark.
“Fort Dodge is like an island unto itself because it’s not controlled by other things that you would think would be controlling it,” Stehlik said.
Many in attendance at the meeting left after Stehlik had finished speaking.
Some, however, stopped just outside the door to the commission chambers as Kansas Soldiers’ Home Superintendent David Smith took to the microphone during some of the remaining time allocated to the issue during the “Open Public Comment” section of the meeting.
The Kansas Soldier’s Home offers services including restorative care, both physical and occupational therapy, psychological services, nursing and other services as well, according to the Home’s website. There are also 60 cottages at the facility, including a 26-bed special care unit for dementia.
“I just want to clarify a lot of misinformation and a lot of rumors that are surrounding the issue that comes before you right now,” Smith said. “The only building that’s slated for demolition that could be construed of any historical value is the officer’s quarters that they just described. There’s no more buildings that are slated for demolition at all other than buildings that were erected in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and after.”
The building slated for demolition, Smith said, “is in a very dilapidated state.”
“It poses a hazard to visitors, residents and staff members,” Smith said. “This is part of a capital improvement project to increase the quality of care that we provide our residents at Fort Dodge.”
At its core, the Home is a medical facility, Smith said.
“While we are at a location that is rich in history and historical value, at our core we are a medical facility, and unfortunately that building does not serve any purpose towards the accomplishment of our mission of providing health care,” Smith said. “We are not on a mission to destroy that (building), that’s not our whole purpose here, but it’s nothing new. This project has been in the works since 2015.”
It has been briefed before the Kansas Legislature, before the Joint Committee on State Building Construction, since fiscal year 2015 and every year since 2015, Smith said.
“We put all of our resources into meeting our mission statement and providing the health care that we need to provide for our residents,” Smith said. “We also invest in some of the historical buildings including Pershing Barracks, the Custer House, Nimitz Hall, a lot of the original structures. There’s a lot of misinformation and rumors that are surrounding the projects that are going on at Fort Dodge and I would welcome anybody that wants to come and take a look at the building. You’re welcome to come out, I’ll personally walk you through the facility, I’ll show you the capital improvement plans, I’ll show you the documentation, I’ll show you long-range plans.”
The Ford County Sheriff’s Department updated the commission on a recent request for bids to repair the EOC Air Unit at the Ford County Detention Center.
The lone bid for the project was received from Weber Refrigeration Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. said Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr. The commission approved the acceptance of the $49,198 bid.
The commission adopted a resolution appointing Rex Beemer as the Emergency Management Coordinator for Ford County.
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