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County to House Inmates in Washington County

KSAL StaffFebruary 15, 2017

Saline County Commissioners gave Sheriff Roger Soldan permission to begin housing jail inmates at Washington County’s jail.  Soldan noted that the jail population remains high, with 280 inmates as of Tuesday.  The Saline County Jail’s capacity is under 200 beds. Jails in Dickinson, Clay and Ellsworth Counties house inmates for the county, but are full.  Washington County has six available beds and charges $35/day.  Soldan said Geary County is charging $65/day to house inmates in their jail.  The State Department of Corrections is paying $45/day to house its prisoners in southwestern Kansas jails.

There was brief discussion about putting the former Saline County Juvenile Detention Center back into use to house low-risk adults.  Soldan said doing so would be impractical, given that it would take at least five individuals to staff that facility.

Commissioner Robert Vidricksen said, “Something has to be done.  A major step has to be taken, somewhere along the line.”

Purchasing Policy Updated

Commissioners voted to update the dollar figures involved when county staff purchase materials and services.

  • Competitive sealed bids will continue to be used when the purchase value exceeds $15,000. No changes in this dollar value was made.
  • When the purchase value is greater than $10,000 but not greater than $15,000, the County Administrator can approve these decisions.
  • Purchases of $10,000 or less may be made at the department head level; at this level, “cost comparisons are encouraged, not required”. Staff often document “verbal” quotes on a written form that may be reviewed.

The “Purchasing/Lease Agreement” policy can be located at www.saline.org, under Human Resources, at section 40.32.

Commissioners spent 50 minutes in a study session titled “bid process”.  Finance Coordinator Nancy Bassett explained that the Administrative Resource Center staff and department heads work with a “standards and specifications” policy they use to write bids generically, to allow the greatest number of vendors to respond.  She sends “invitations to bid” to those who have previously bid on a like item in recent years, to those who ask to be placed on a “bidder’s list”, and she posts the ITBs on the county’s website.  The county is required to publish a public notice; it uses the Salina Journal at an average cost of $65-70 for each ITB.  Bassett said four “plan holder rooms” monitor the internet bids and forward information to their clients.  There was some speculation that the Farmington, KY company that was “low bidder” on a R&B excavator learned of the ITB through one of these “plan holder rooms”.

Bassett and at least one other individual open the bids at the appointed time.  The public can attend bid openings.

Shadwick said that in the two previous years, there was public controversy when the Commission did not follow bid policies.  The merits and risks of including a “buy local” provision were briefly discussed.  Regarding the lack of bids that have been received on some items, Bassett received feedback that some vendors believe “they won’t make any money on government projects”.  Commissioner Rodger Sparks disagreed; in his previous job, he routinely bid on government contracts.

Commissioner Mike White moved to take action on the matter in the study session.  Human Resources Director Marilyn Leamer had previously supplied the Commissioners with copies of the existing policy in a January 17 study session.  However, the policy had not been made available to the public in the board’s electronic agenda packet nor at the study session.  Sparks voted no to White’s motion, as he wanted to bring the matter to a public vote at a future commission meeting; this part of the meeting is aired on ACCESS TV.  Sparks later clarified he was in agreement with the proposed dollar value changes.  White said that the matter was “in house”; the purchasing policy is located in the county’s personnel policies.

Planning Commission Update

Planning and Zoning Director David Neal said that he recently received additional “expressions of interest” forms from Joe Hay and Duane Flarerty, who are willing to serve on the Planning Commission.  Following last week’s meeting, Neal learned that two planning commissioners terms will expire in 2018, not 2017–as he had previously told Commissioners.  He also spoke of the possibility of re-instating Mike Trow.  Neal proposed waiting one more week before the Board of County Commissioners takes formal action, in case additional “expressions of interest” forms are received.

The 2017 BOCC might reverse a decision from a prior BOCC that set term limits for those serving on the County’s Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.  Vidricksen said that the BOCC “ultimately controls terms” when they make decisions to reappoint standing members; he said “if you have qualified people, leave them there”.  Shadwick said that he’d voted for term limits but acknowledged that challenges in filling vacancies might cause him to reconsider.

Deister also informed Commissioners of her plan to have Neal take on additional roles as “web master” and “grant locator”.  She said department heads would continue to be responsible for writing grants but added “finding grants can be a full-time job”.  Commissioner Jim Weese spoke of an upcoming Kansas Association of Counties workshop on grants.

Notices of Valuation

County Appraiser Sean Robertson said his office had printed “change of valuation” notices that will be mailed on February 24th.  By statute, he is prohibited from discussing those changes until the notices are mailed.  These notices involve 27,000 parcels and a pdf file of 55,000 pages.

A change in how the State Department of Revenue defines “new buildings” will include remodels and additions.  This figure is said to have doubled this year.  Deister said that this was “good news; it is money” Commissioners could spend.

Box Structures Out at Road and Bridge

Road Superintendent Darren Fishel and County Engineer Neil Cable briefed Commissioners about a pond on the Road and Bridge property.  In three separate places, where vehicles cross the pond’s drainage field, the corrugated pipe culvert systems have significantly deteriorated.  Fishel and Cable verbally recommended replacing two of those culverts with box structures.

Cable said that Reece Construction builds many of the County’s box structures.  In this case, county staff could do the excavating, backfilling and paving for the two structures.  Reece Construction submitted a letter dated February 8th outlining it could build the structures for $86,690.  Fishel said the structures would be paid for out of a “rainy day fund” that was later identified as “fund 127”.  At the end of the year, the BOCC has historically approved that any unspent monies in specified departmental funds be carried over into the next fiscal year.  Fishel said that this R&B fund currently had over $1,000,000 in it.

Vidricksen noted that the Commission just approved plans to build a new fire station in Assaria when the rural fire district did not fully follow bidding processes.  He also cited a renewal to lease farm lands (for properties associated with the late Oliver Hagg) was not put out to bid.  Others cited plans to purchase a used sheep’s foot roller and the R&B shop remodel as other possible deviation from bid procedures.

Cable speculated that if the project was put out to bid, it might cost the county more and would require at least two months to complete the bid process.  Deister asked Cable and Fishel if this was an emergency.  There was consensus that this matter could wait a week; Vidricksen said he would bring the matter to the attention of the Salina Airport Authority tomorrow.

Cable said that most airport authorities are not overly fond of having water bodies near their landing strips as these can attract geese.  Cable and Fishel both commented that since the pond is stocked, some individuals do come out and fish at the structure.  Cable described the pond as a “retention pond” and not a “detention pond”; since it is usually filled with water, in a significant rain, it would not take much moisture to cause water overflow the pond.  Cable and Fishel have both seen flood waters come up, and into, various R&B shops and buildings in the past.  This prompted additional discussions about draining the pond that might have been installed in the 1980s.

Commissioners unanimously approved the placement of four directional signs for the New Airport Industrial Center in the right-of-ways of four county roads.

Budget Overview

At commissioners’ request, Deister spent 70 minutes outlining the budget process as well as the hundreds of regular funds and special funds that make up the budget.  She said in a “peaceful year”, the Commission might address the budget in five sessions.  This year’s “tax lid” and other actions by the State Legislature may change that.

The possibility of giving the Sheriff’s Office its own budget fund, like Road & Bridge and the Health Department, generated the most discussion.  The Sheriff’s Office is currently included in the “general fund”.  Deister said that County Counselor Mike Montoya and the auditor have advised that this is not permitted; others thought that sheriffs’ offices in other counties might have their own budget funds.  Weese and Shadwick speculated that both the Sheriff and the public might like the accountability that having a separate fund would provide.

Commissioners formally met from 9:00 AM until 12:50 PM.  There was no public forum.  There were three executive sessions.  One executive session included Mitch Robinson, Salina Community Economic Development Director; Eric Brown, Salina Area Chamber of Commerce; Tim Rogers, Salina Airport Authority, and at least two individuals who may be affiliated with K-State Polytechnic.  The agenda identified that the session involved a “confidential data exemption”.

Next week, Sparks and Deister plan to attend a meeting in Topeka instead of the regularly scheduled Saline County Commissioners meeting.

Copyright © Rocking M Media, 2017. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Rocking M Media’s express consent.

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