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Members Needed: Board Might Not Have Quorum

Karen Shade - February 7, 2017 4:38 pm

If the Saline County Commission doesn’t fill upcoming vacancies in its Planning Commission, the Planning Commission may not have the quorum it needs to meet in April.  The Board is composed of individuals who live in both the City and unincorporated areas of the County, but has a greater need for applicants who reside in unincorporated areas.  Interested individuals can go to the county’s website, www.saline.org, to submit an expression of interest form before Friday’s deadline.  This would give Commissioners an opportunity to fill vacancies for the March meeting.

Next week, Planning and Zoning Director David Neal will update the County Board of Commissioners on progress made.  He asked Commissioners about their feelings about removing term limits that had been enacted by the previous commission.  Chairman Monte Shadwick, the only current commissioner to have served under the previous board, said he voted to impose term limits as he wanted to give interested citizens an opportunity to serve.  He said he’d reconsider that decision, especially if the County wasn’t getting applicants.  Neal hinted that some of the previous Planning Commissioners, who’d been term limited, might be willing to return.

Commissioner Mike White asked Neal for Neal’s philosophy of preserving agricultural ground versus developing rural residential areas.  Neal said, “We’re doing a great job of agricultural preservation as no developments are being considered.”

Equipment Purchases Authorized

In a 3-2 vote, Commissioners approved the purchase of a John Deere excavator from Murphy Tractor.  Murphy Tractor’s bid had not been the lowest total cost bid received.  On January 3rd, Commissioners accepted an offer from low-bidder Kough Equipment to bring an excavator to Saline County and to allow staff to use it for a week.  According to Road and Bridge Superintendent Darren Fishel, he had spoken to a Kough representative last week who said the firm still had not yet equipped an excavator to send to Saline County.  Foley Equipment also submitted a bid for a Caterpillar excavator that did not include a “buy-back” option.  County Counselor Mike Montoya said that Commissioners could still consider Foley’s bid.  Commissioners Robert Vidricksen and Jim Weese voted against awarding the bid to Murphy Tractor; Vidricksen said he didn’t like “buy-back” options.  Foley’s total cost bid for a CAT320F of $214,432 was lowest, if the County planned to keep the excavator.  Murphy Tractor’s total cost bid for a John Deere 210GLC of $239,900 was offset by the bid $100,000 repurchase price, though the County is under no obligation to sell back the excavator.

In a 4-1 vote, Commissioners pre-authorized Road and Bridge to purchase a used self-propelled, compacting roller with sheep’s foot in an amount that could exceed $100,000.  Vidricksen voted against this decision.

In a unanimous vote, Commissioners agreed to replace a public safety nimble.  The County will contribute $15,712.50, along with $15,000 from the City, to purchase a nimble storage area network device.  This is part of an upgrade that will enable the dispatch center to get the Enhanced 911 system.

County Attorney Orientation

County Attorney Ellen Mitchell said her office consists of 18 staff, seven of whom are attorneys.  She contrasted the work her staff does with that of the Public Defender’s Office, which also has seven attorneys and defend half of the adult felony cases.  The County Attorney’s staff prosecute all of the adult felony cases, as well as all the juvenile cases, including children in need of care, forfeiture cases, and more.  The City has its own attorney to prosecute its own misdemeanors and traffic offenses; but the County handles an almost equal number; some repeat offenders must be tried under County statutes.

Mitchell noted that at one point, Saline County had 1,200 cases/year involving juveniles; this has been reduced to 450 current cases.  Mitchell said last year’s passage of juvenile justice reforms have yet to be implemented; she credited the dramatic reduction to thoughtful actions of those involved over the years.  As legislated, the new reform efforts may force her office to try more juveniles as adults.  She cautioned that the State didn’t have money to fund the reforms.  She said, “Some juveniles with very serious offenses should not be in the community.”

Additionally, her office handles over 1000 adult felony cases a year and over 350 adult misdemeanor cases each year.  She noted an increase in cases involving marijuana from individuals headed to and away from Colorado.  She told Commissioners the County was wise to invest in a Drug Court, but noted that while the County funds a defense attorney and a few other costs, the County has not funded the four hours one of her attorneys must devote weekly to the Drug Court process.  Mitchell noted that methamphetamines are the biggest problem in the county, saying that “most cases have a meth connection”.

The newly-elected Commissioners learned that the State may add one or two additional judges to the 28th Judicial District.  She spoke of efforts to “go paperless”.  She briefly described ideas that would allow for another court room and redistribute office space on the third floor.

When it comes to addressing jail overcrowding, she provided a brief history where the State originally housed more prisoners in its facilities, but moved to create sanction beds in county jails.  Those convicted of having a third “driving under the influence” violation now serve 90+ day sentences in the county jail, where they had previously gone to prison.  She suggested wiping away City beds in the jail and increasing the use of electronic monitoring or house arrest, which will have their own costs to implement.  She said that those who are in jail are there for a reason.  She wanted to address the misperception that people are there for frivolous reasons.  She described the community as being “defendant friendly”, noting the courts tend to give individuals probation when perhaps they shouldn’t.

Commissioners also:

  • Approved a plan for Rural Fire District #5 to sell seven “as is” self-contained breathing apparatuses to the Lindsborg Fire Department, for $1,000 each.
  • Discussed the requirement that boundaries of the County Commission districts be re-assessed every three years to insure that each district is composed of roughly the same number of residents.
  • Made plans to hear six right-of-way vacations requests.
  • Received an update on Rural Fire District #4; some businesses outside city limits pay taxes that are forwarded to the City in order for the City’s fire department to respond to calls on their property.
  • Received an orientation to the City-County Building Authority. Its eight employees generally follow the County’s personnel policies.  Plans for implementing “concealed carry” or “securing the building” will be important decisions the Authority will make in upcoming months.