Fair Helicopter Rides Still in Holding Pattern
Karen Shade - August 2, 2017 6:19 am
Last week’s Saline County Commission discussion about the possibility of offering helicopter rides during next week’s Tri-Rivers Fair created a lot of buzz. Last week, the Commission lacked information to grant or deny approval to a special use permit. At Tuesday’s meeting, County Counselor Mike Montoya said he had yet to see the insurance and endorsement information he’d requested from Assurance Partners.
The Commission took no action as they “didn’t have the proper information to get this off the ground”. Acting Chairman Robert Vidricksen stopped short of “pulling the plug”; he said he was reluctant to “do anything until“ the Commission “got more information”.
Montoya said that the Kansas State Fair receives 20% of the receipts from the helicopter rides that occur during its fair, but the proposed agreement for the Tri-Rivers Fair allowed for only a “minimum vendor fee”, with no percentage specified. Montoya said he didn’t know if the County’s existing insurance was adequate or if there would be additional costs for insurance. He asked whether the potential income was worth the benefits and risks of the helicopter flights. He said that animals in an unfamiliar fair environment may not respond well to the sound of helicopters. He added that people will be coming and going and the helicopter rides would take up parking spaces and possibly could impact traffic flow.
Commissioner Rodger Sparks said, “Here it is a week before the fair and we’re still up in the air”. Commissioner Mike White remembered the old adage that “a failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”.
2018 County Budget
Deister distributed a Saline County 2018 Budget Overview; a copy of which should be on the County’s new web page at www.saline.org.
Total revenues of $45,491,835 for the 2018 budget represent a 0.77% increase from 2017’s $45,141,819; the biggest increase is $577,554 for “special road construction”, a new revenue in 2018. Ad Valorem (property) taxes are projected to provide $21,541,604 in revenue in 2018, a 2.2% increase from 2017’s $21,063,647.
The Sheriff’s Office will receive the greatest spending authority increase in 2018.
· The Administration/Patrol branch will receive a $63,825 increase, up from 2017’s $2,765,321 to 2018’s $2,829,146.
· The Jail branch will be funded by an additional $1,087,230, up from 2017’s $4,060,088 to 2018’s $5,147,318. Much of this 26.8% increase is needed to continue to house 100+ inmates/day in jails in other counties, as well as inmate medical expenses.
· As part of the Equipment Improvement Plan, the Sheriff’s Office will receive $250,000.
· As part of the Technology Improvement Plan, at least $41,400 in improvements will benefit the Sheriff’s Office.
· As a result of a State legislature’s imposed tax lid, a $31,933 expense for evidence was transferred from the General Courthouse to the Sheriff’s Office.
Expenditures for “public safety”, including the County Attorney, Sheriff/Jail, District Court, Emergency Management, Juvenile Center, EMS and Drug Court account for 24.9% of all expenditures.
The 2018 budget provides for a 3% salary increase for all county staff. The Commission also absorbed all of a 6% increase in health insurance premiums. During the public forum, Joan Ratzliff raised concerns that the present commission had ignored last year’s Archer salary survey that found that across the board, Saline County employees earned $1.13/hour less than their peers. Vidricksen said the current commission is “doing their best to make up the ground”.
The 2018 budget funds two new positions, one with Computer Technology and one for an Assistant Administrator / Finance Director.
Total expenditures for the general fund are projected to increase by 5.1%, from 2017’s $19,489,744 to 2018’s $20,481,413. Expenditures for “special funds” (like Road and Bridge, Public Health and employee benefits) will drop by 5.9% from $23,283,365 in 2017 to $21,914,475 in 2018. The County will spend $786,000 in equipment improvements, $215,310 in technology improvements, $577,554 in road improvements, and $1,155,108 in a special bridge fund. The Commission’s dedication of one mil to road improvements is new in 2018.
New County Website
The new Saline County website was publicly unveiled. Those going to www.saline.org will notice a change within a day. Vidricksen commended Laurent Humphrey, Data Base Administrator and Neal for the work they accomplished. The new website used improve software and has special icons to take viewers to the most searched features, such as “parcel searches and tax searches”. Neal said the new website will make it easier for different departments to keep their webpages updated.
In other business, the Commission:
· Appointed Jeff Turner to serve on the Board of Trustees for Rural Fire District #5.
· Heard Livestock and Expo Center Director Rick Lamer saw that the Expo Center’s building were used 112 times during the past three months. The Dexter Cattle Show signed a contract to return to the Expo Center next year. The Master Gardeners held a show, in lieu of garden tours, and plan to do this again next year.
· Received reports from the Tri-Rivers Fair Board that the demolition derbies, rodeo and related events at the Tri-Rivers Stadium bring in over $150,000 in receipts to the fair each year. (During discussions with the City over the future of the lease for the EXPO Center property, some had suggested that the arena could be torn down, as it is often only used during the fair.)
· Heard a brief update on White’s, Deister’s and Lamer’s recent trip to Ardmore, Oklahoma to see the Hardy Murphy Arena. The Expo Center’s Ag Hall is a smaller version of the Hardy Murphy Arena. The committee will make a full report to the Board of County Commissioners.
· Approved changes to the by-laws of the Committee to Reduce the Jail Population. The maximum number of members has increased to 12. Term limits have been removed. Commissioners also appointed the following to the committee: Community Correction’s Director Annie Grevas, County Attorney Ellen Mitchell, Catholic Charities Director Michelle Martin, businessman Richard Beus, mental health professional Glenna Phillips, 28th District Court Administrator Todd Heitschmidt, public defender Jeff Adams, Salina Prosecutor Christine Trocheck, Salina Police Department Captain Mike Sweeny, Sheriff’s Office Major Brent Melander, and County Commission Chairman Monte Shadwick.
The Commission met for 20 minutes in executive session on “non-elected personnel”. Chairman Monte Shadwick was absent.
Next Tuesday, on August 8th, the Commission will:
· Conduct a public hearing regarding the 2018 budget and may vote to adopt it.
· Receive a draft floor plan from DMA Architects for the remodel of the Road and Bridge’s office area. Deister learned that a “remodel of the existing addition to the original building” “would cost over $216 a square foot”. However, “replacing the addition beyond the original concrete walls will allow for an additional 1600 square feet of office space”, could be accomplished for $200 a square foot, and “could be completed quicker than trying to patch” the existing space.
Commissioners vowed to attend the Tri-Rivers Fair next week and urged the public to do the same.