Commissioners Hear Encouraging Lead Update

Health Department Director Jason Tiller briefed County Commissioners on partial results from recent screenings of residents for elevated blood lead levels.  Tiller said that with 92% of results in, only one of over 300 blood samples has tested positive for elevated levels of lead.  Tiller promised future updates as additional results become known.  On June 22 and June 23, over 300 residents answered a questionnaire and then provided a blood sample, as part of a community screening sponsored by the Kansas Department of Health and Environments at the Saline County Health Department.  State and local officials are continuing to work together to look for a possible cause for why 32 Saline County children were found to have elevated blood lead levels over a 15 month time frame.

Commissions Discuss Sheriff’s Office Revenues and Expenses

County Administrator Rita Deister presented Commissioners with figures from her records showing the level the County had funded the Sheriff’s Office.  Last week, Sheriff Glen Kochanowski had presented Commissioners with figures his office had generated.  Deister concluded that the County’s and the Sheriff’s figures “don’t exactly match”.  Discussion turned to whether the Sheriff’s Office could have its own fund and budgetary authority.  Deister said this is specifically prohibited by statute.  Money for the Sheriff’s Office goes into the general fund, and expenses are paid out of the general fund.  When the Sheriff’s Office generates revenue (from writing tickets, collecting fees for serving papers, or from seizures and forfeitures), that money goes into the general fund.  Referring to the Sheriff, Deister said “he has a fund reserve he can draw on”.

The State has imposed a “tax lid” that prohibits local taxing entities from being able to simply raise property taxes; the “lid” requires voters to approve property tax increases.  Deister said that while details on how to interpret the “tax lid” are stilling being worked out, it was her understanding that expenses related to law enforcement were exempt from the lid.

Continuing, Deister said “we have no incentive for anyone to spend less, given the budget process.”  Someone commented that “there ought to be a bonus if a department comes in under budget”.  Deister said that the only department that earns more revenue than it spends is the Registrar of Deeds.

The County Commission did not directly indicate how different departments might increase revenues or spend less.  In other regions, some governing entities expect law enforcement officers to raise revenue by writing a quota of tickets.  To be clear, the County Commission has not directed the Sheriff’s Office to take any actions, but citizens may want to know what issues surrounding the Sherriff’s Office and its budget are being discussed.

Counselor Offers Thoughts on Leasing Oil/Gas Rights on County Property

At two previous meetings, the Commission was approached about leasing the oil/gas rights on an Oliver Hagg property.  County Counselor Mike Montoya described the contract that had been submitted for consideration to be “vanilla” and noted Commissioners could make changes.  Montoya suggested, that if the Commission were to proceed with this, that the Commission:

  • Stipulate if oil will be stored on the property; he said that while active drilling sometimes occurs on neighboring properties, oil is sometimes stored at another site.
  • Stipulate if the County will permit “salt wells” on their property.
  • Determine if the County would compensate tenants for loss of surface (for roads, or storage tanks, etc.). Instead of allowing the leaser to determine where access would be permitted, the County may want to make those determinations.
  • Could stipulate that drilling must occur within the time span of a one year lease, with limited extensions.

Commissioner John Price said that if it were his personal property, he’d likely be interested in leasing any oil/gas rights, but since this “property belongs to many”, he’d have to “be more critical in reviewing” terms of any lease.  Commissioners were in consensus in asking Montoya to proceed with drafting language that would be acceptable for gathering competitive bids on this.  Commissioners will review the draft language before deciding to proceed.

Montoya informed Commissioners that money collected from a “tipping fee” could appropriately be used for proposed shoulder work on West Water Well Road.  He also updated Commissioners on distinctions between giving the “right of way” versus a “utility easement” as the City proceeds with doing utility work on Ohio, south of Schilling.

Commissioners also:

  • Voted to donate $750 to the community Christmas dinner, organized annually by Bill Fecas. This amount will come from contingency reserves.  Last night, the City Commission approved a sizable (possibly $3,500) donation and challenged the County to match it.
  • Reappointed Rick Beus and Michelle Martin to serve an additional three year term on the Committee for Reducing the Jail Population. This committee was established a year ago; two of the six members were initially appointed to serve a one year term; two more were appointed to a two year term and two more were appointed to serve a three year term.
  • Proclaimed July 18—22 as Crisis Intervention Team Week; some local law enforcement officers are receiving 40 hours of training on ways to interact with citizens in crisis, with the goal of not escalating difficult situations. Representatives of Central Kansas Mental Health Center and the Kansas Central Foundation are conducting part of the training; attendees will also travel to Larned State Hospital.
  • Awarded Reece Construction an overall contract of $614,614 to complete work on eleven reinforced concrete box drainage conveyance structures.
  • Approved, in a 5-0 vote, the purchase of 15 additional cameras, a 16 channel dvr and related software for use at the Jail, at a cost of $38,600.
  • Approved, in a 5-0 vote, the purchase for a sinology nas for $1,758 from CDWG and the purchase of servers for $10,102 from ISG to address data center hardware upgrades at the Health Department.
  • Heard Marilyn Leamer, Director of Human Resources, give her monthly update. The County will advertise for the fourth time to fill a position vacancy for an Assistant Appraiser; the County is seeking someone who has a strong background in appraising commercial properties.
  • Heard Brad Bowers, Director of Computer Technologies, report that wiring of the City-County Building for the new phone system should be completed in early Fall, as anticipated. Commissioners will have an option to have phone messages that go through the Commission’s office number then be automatically forwarded to other phones or to be sent as possible e-mails or texts.  Considerations regarding the Kansas Open Records Act requirements were discussed.  Commissioner Luci Larson said constituents primarily contact her using her home or work phone numbers.
  • Heard a request to reappoint Amanda Michaelis and Gwenda Philbrook to the Health Advisory ouncil; both were appointed initially to serve a one year term, with the possibility of renewing that term for three more years.
  • Studied increasing the rate charged by home health for nurses and therapists; if approved, the rates would increase from $140/visit to $150/visit. The auditor, when conducting the audit of the 2014 books had recommended these fees be increased, but this matter had not been brought forward to the Commission.  The auditor made the same recommendation when auditing the 2015 books.
  • Reviewed renewal contracts for providing KDHE funded services in the State’s new fiscal year.

Other Matters

Commissioner Jim Gile attended yesterday’s Central Kansas Mental Health Board Meeting.  He reported that due to cuts from the State, anticipated CKMHC revenues had been reduced by $1 million.  CKMHC has identified ways to make up about half of the revenue shortfall, through cooperative efforts with St. Francis Academy.

During Open Forum, Karen Shade raised questions about County Commission candidate statements during last week’s debates related to the EXPO Center.  Since the City owns the property and the County owns the buildings at the EXPO Center, she felt some County Commission candidates overstepped appropriate boundaries when those candidates suggested the “City should” extend the lease.  In the past, some County Commissioners have bristled when City Commissioners told the County Commission how to deal with a cracked roof at the Health Department; the County has statutory authority over the Health Department.

The Commission took a 45 minute break and had one executive session.  They started at 8:30 AM and adjourned before 1:00 PM.  Next week’s meeting of the Building Authority will likely contain a discussion on the concealed carry of handguns in the building.