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County Commission Begins Budget Process

Karen Shade - April 26, 2016 5:55 pm

saline county logo

Saline County Commissioners studied budgetary matters while several department directors prepared for potential bad weather.

Road Issues

County Counselor Mike Montoya briefed Commissioners on a conversation Montoya had with a representative of Union Pacific railroads.  UP owns the railroad crossing on East Country Club Drive, near Scoular elevator.  The work completed last year has a “one year guarantee”.  Beyond that, Montoya said UP was committed to “maintaining it as it needs to be maintained”.  Montoya said UP does not currently plan to make a permanent fix.  A UP employee is supposed to check this crossing weekly.

At Open Forum, a concerned citizen spoke about problematic road conditions at Water Well Road and Lightville Road.  Another discussion focused on the adequacy of ditches.

Road and Bridge Director Gary Nash spoke to Commissioners about the process to be used in sending out requests for bids on repairing/replacing segments of the electrical section, the exhaust system, and both the “overhead” and “man” doors at the R&B shop.  At least 190 individuals have registered as “contractors” in Saline County but significantly fewer have the bonding and licensing required by the County.  Last week, Commissioners learned that no bids had been submitted to do the desired work.  As a result, the County is proceeding with plans to bid specific projects and perhaps act as its own “general contractor”.

2017 Budget

Commissioners continued work on the 2017 budget.  Previously, they set the baseline for the 2017 budget to parallel what was budgeted for 2016.  Today, they heard “appeals” for additional money.

  • The County Attorney requested an additional $30,000 for appellate work.
  • Legal Services asked for additional copiers and interpreter hours.
  • The Sheriff’s Office requested an additional $37,533 for staff overtime, as well as $138,966 for inmate medical expenses, $344,000 for contract housing (of inmates outside of the county) and additional monies for the contracted food service.
  • Community Corrections asked for $9,200 to cover the cost of attorneys at Drug Court.
  • Road and Bridge requested funds for additional gravel.

Commissioners also considered requests for the following Capital Improvement Plans:

  • The County Attorney requested additional office space, on the third floor.
  • The Courts requested an additional courtroom.
  • The County Clerk is looking to replace voting machines acquired in 2002. Don Merriman said he has looked at different systems and he would be glad to schedule a study session for the Commissioners and public to learn more.
  • Road and Bridge Shop improvements. For a couple of years, the Commission specifically banked money for a new shop and deferred some road projects; given the condition of the roads and perhaps the impending improvements to the shop, some questioned whether the County would need to continue to divert $800,000/year to this fund.
  • GIS asked for both a plotter and pictometry (aerial imaging).


Jail Challenges

Undersheriff Roger Soldan and Lieutenant Sean Kochanowski updated the Commissioners on two recent plumbing issues in the jail.  Problems with a sewer line under the “booking area” will likely cost $15,000; this is separate from another request in the 2017 budget to replace a different section of the sewer line “in the old jail”.  Additionally, leaking water has forced the jail to house eight inmates outside of the county, bringing the current number of inmates housed outside of the county to 99.  On average, 152-165 inmates are housed on-site.

Commissioners also heard a request to convert $8,000 appropriated in the 2016 budget for a commercial mixer at the jail to additional tasers; last year, the Commission declined to budget for a $20,500 mixer.  Commissioner Monte Shadwick said he would help jail staff locate a mixer for $8,000.

In a related matter, County Administrator Rita Deister is negotiating with the City on what the City pays to house its inmates in the County’s jail.  In 2013, it cost $43.50/day to house an inmate, while in 2015, the cost was $48.30/day.

Marquette Recreation District Proposed

Scott Johnson and Ron Larson spoke to Commissioners on behalf of using “home rule” to allow multiple counties to declare the boundaries of a fire district to also serve dual purpose for a recreation district in the Marquette area.  Part of this proposed district is in Saline County.  Lyons did something similar in the 70s.  Both are circulating petitions in favor of this project.

A recreation district could be created along school district boundaries, but Larson and Johnson said that this would not give taxpayers as much control of decisions to increase the mil levy.  The project would have to be approved by the McPherson County Commission in order to proceed.



  • Presented two $1,000 renewable scholarships to Westley Jennings and Kyle Suhr from the Oliver Haag Scholarship fund.
  • Proclaimed May as Older Americans Month.
  • Re-appointed Leslie Berndt and Tom Rickstrew to serve three-year terms on the Planning Commission.
  • Re-appointed Janice Morris, Kirk Cusick, Tom Rickstrew and Kevin Watts to serve three-year terms on the Board of Zoning.
  • Approved the bid to replace a bridge on Water Well Road, 0.4 miles west of Powers Road by King Construction, for $596,374.
  • Approved the bid of $1,756,809 from APAC to do hot-mix patching, leveling, surface coverage, and profile milling for specific, designated projects.
  • Realized a savings of approximately $20/unit by going out to bid for 16 Desktop PC replacements, beyond the State’s contract price.
  • Signed an amendment to the FY15 Juvenile Justice Block Grant.

Commissioners will meet Wednesday, April 27 at 8:30 to continue work on the budget.

Commissioner Dave Smith was absent.

Greg Stephens

April 26, 2016 at 8:58 pm

Thanks for the reporting Karen.

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