Eventful Saline County Commission Meeting
KSAL Staff - September 1, 2015 4:25 pm
Concerns about the separation of church and state began an eventful Saline County Commission meeting Tuesday.
At the September 1st Saline County Commission’s Open Forum, Commissioners unanimously approved replacing the existing Lapsley Road Bridge and authorized Road and Bridge to proceed with repairing seven additional miles of county roads.
Lapsley Road Bridge
The existing Lapsley Road Bridge was constructed in 1962 and crosses over an unnamed tributary of the Smoky Hill River. The Commission approved awarding a $391,368 contract to King Construction Company, Inc. to begin construction on or after October 1, with a proposed completion date of February 15, 2016.
Contrary to what appeared in the Request for Action, Neil Cable, County Engineer, said the existing bridge will close; King Construction may use the existing bridge to build the new structure. Commissioners asked Bernie Johnson, who owns land on both ends of the new bridge about the impact of closing of the road. Johnson said “most people had been told” of the plans. He said that in the past, two cement trucks had flipped over as they approached the existing bridge.
Steven Johnson, farmer and Legislator, said that “there will be inconveniences” and that Sunny Side Pumpkin Patch will be most affected; though there is an alternative route. Because King Construction has agreed to push back the original start date, from September 15 to October 1, it was thought that this will help with wheat planting and the start of fall harvest.
According to Neil Cable, the bridge’s 24 foot width, low load capacity (i.e., 10 tons) and poor road approach alignments present problems and safety issues for farmers moving large agricultural equipment. Additional challenges occur when vehicles approach the bridge from opposite directions at the same time. The bridge will be built with unencumbered funds from Fund 125, Road and Bridge’s Special Bridge Construction (2 mil) Account for Bridge and Culvert Construction.
Additional Repairs on County Roads to be Made
The Commission approved extending the 2015 contract to provide hot-mix patching, leveling and surface course and profile milling and additional asphalt work on:
• The southernmost six miles of Gypsum Valley Road
• The easternmost one mile of Country Club Road
• Approximately 300 feet of the north and south approached to the Donmyer Road bridge over the Smoky Hill River.
The work will be done by ADPAC-Kansas Inc. Shears Division and will cost $690,565. R&B has $198,907 remaining in its budget. The County will take $500,000 from a R&B maintenance account to fund repairs in the existing R&B Maintenance Division Building; these funds will be repaid in 2016 from monies the Commission has set aside in 2016’s budget for gravel road upgrades.
During the study session Gary Nash, new R&B Director, provided Commissioners with an overview of costs to pave, repair and chip seal roads. He described costs associated with replacing and repairing roads on a seven or nine year cycle. In recent years, the County budget process focused on maintaining spending at previous years’ levels. But, the cost of asphalt and other supplies can vary greatly with the price of crude oil. Because oil prices are lower, this factors in favorably to allow the County to do additional work.
The study session discussion turned to why certain sections of road were in rough shape. As customized grain and salt haulers, among others, get paid by the tonnage for what is hauled, there can be little incentive for them to obey posted weight limits. The Sheriff’s Office has authority to pull over and weigh vehicles, but it was unclear if they had the required scales to do so. County Administrator Rita Deister suggested having the Sheriff meet with interested parties to discuss alternatives.
Nash assumed his new duties a week ago. In that time, he has traveled many of the roads and has seen many of the actual structures. He has begun familiarizing himself with operating procedures and current issues.
When Commissioner John Price asked Nash about the new roof on the R&B Maintenance Facility, Nash commented that a few leaks remain. Nash said that he had looked at previous plans to replace the building and concluded that those plans seems to reflect a “Taj Mahal” type structure. He said there were cheaper ways to accomplish the same goals. Commissioner Price said that the prior commission had “come to the conclusion to repair and not replace” the existing structure. Nash replied that based on what he’d seen so far, that he’d like to have the Commission reconsider and act to replace the structure.
Health Department Works to Promote Smoking Cessation During Pregnancy
Sherri LaFollette, who administers the Maternal Child Health grants at the Health Department, sent a written communication through County Administrator Rita Deister. LaFollette sought the Commission’s direction about seeking additional funding to support a smoking cessation program during pregnancy. The consensus was four to one to proceed, with Commission John Price speaking against proceeding.
In KDHE’s Vital Statistics 2013 Report, Saline County ranked as having one of the highest rates for all pregnant women who smoke at any time during their pregnancies. Across the State, 12.5% of pregnant women smoke at any time during their pregnancies while in Saline County, the rate is 19.3%.
Participants in the Health Department’s Becoming a Mom / WIC / Healthy Start Home Services are given an opportunity to enroll in Quitline and the Baby and Me Tobacco Free program. Those who follow through on a referral to Quitline receive a $25 voucher for diapers. If they, and any significant other who resides in the home, continue with the program and abstain from smoking, they receive an additional $25 voucher per month for diapers. Compliance is measured when the participant and significant other come to the office and breathe into a device that measures carbon monoxide levels. If the device shows that they’ve smoked, they don’t receive a voucher. They are not automatically dropped from the program; staff then reassess readiness to quit. Since the program continues for a twelve month period after the child is born, LaFollette sought direction from the Commission about seeking additional funding to pay for vouchers. The Commission requires HD staff to seek their approval before they can apply for grants; if such funding is awarded, the Commission then must approve the grant.
Expo Center Lease
The Count’s lease on the Expo Center is set to expire in 2019. Given the City has discussed plans for its Bi-Centennial Center that may or may not include the Expo Center, the County is seeking formal knowledge of the City’s plan.
Commissioner Luci Larson commented that horse shows and other Expo Center events bring in significant revenues to the community. There has also been cooperative use as some of the Expo Center sites and equipment are rented to the City for events at the Bi-Centennial Center. While there has been some discussion about the appearance of some of the buildings, Chairman Monte Shadwick said that the uncertainty over the lease does not allow the County to spend taxpayer dollars to make desired repairs. A letter will be drafted in hopes of prompting additional City/County discussions.
Other Administrative Update Items
• Rita Deister reported that sales tax revenues for August are up. In August 2014, the County’s sales tax revenues were $389,337. In August 2015, they were $$398,074.
• Deister said that year-to-date spending for the Sheriff’s Office is at 69.3% of the 2015 budget, when the goal is for spending to be at 66% benchmark. She printed off additional spending details for the Commissioners to review.
• Deister reported that the Health Department is making “great progress” after staff attended training on billing. They received a check for $14,466 based on additional billing completed as a result of the training, that included techniques for billing a variety of insurance providers.
• OCCK asked to be able to provide updates on their programs every other month, along with other department summaries during the Open Forum.
• The Commission will continue with plans to host a Legislative Lunch before area Legislators go back into session.
• The Commission approved spending $1,998 to purchase two replacement laptop computers for the Sheriff’s Office.
• Ray Hruska addressed the Commission about difficulties he is having getting both the agenda and supporting documentation from the Soil Conservation Service meetings. He brought their attention to disconnects in the BOCC’s agenda. He asked that since the Soil Conservation Service receives funding from the County that the County use its influence to have Soil Conservation Service follow the same processes used by the County to supply agendas and supporting documentation. Deister responded that the County had no authority over the Soil Conservation Services. Hruska also expressed difficulty in getting the agenda and supporting documents from the city of Assaria as well.
Concerns about the separation of church and state continues to be a focus of citizen input during the ACCESS televised Open Forums.
• Pat Harrington commented on Commissioner Dave Smith’s recent practice of sharing a quote from a founding father in the Open Forum. Harrington noted that Smith’s selection of quotes referenced “God and government”. Stating “God doesn’t belong in this Chamber”, Harrington drew a prompt rebuttal from Price who said “Yes, He does”. After an escalating exchange, Chairman Shadwick called “point of order”. Commissioner Smith was ready to share another quote with the group; Shadwick asked that Smith do this as part of the announcements at the end of the meeting.
• Morgan Alred shared a verse from Timothy about “women being in submission”. He asked if government reflected the same thinking that was stated in this Biblical passage. A woman commented that one “could not put God in politics”. Price replied that “people came to America for their religious freedom” to which she replied “not your religion”. Price responded that “murder is murder”. She replied that “there is no reason for religion to be mixed with politics”; women “don’t have the right to get the kind of birth control they want because” of others “religious beliefs”.
• Chairman Shadwick referred to a section of the Kansas County Commissioners Association’s Code of Ethics that relates to Commissioners behaving with decorum. He asked that this apply to those in attendance as well.
Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News