County Appraiser Sean Robertson told Saline County Commissioners Tuesday, “Given the facts of commercial development moving rapidly plus sale prices of both commercial and residential properties increasing, the economy as a whole in Saline County appears to be quite strong, despite some individual circumstances being contrary to that”.
In his quarterly report to Commissioners, Robertson said, “The number of 2017 commercial sales of over $1,000,000 each is up 50% compared to the same time period last year.” He noted that approximately 20 projects of newly built construction are on-going—such as Qudoba, Panera/Chipotle, Chik-Fil-A, Popeye’s, Hilton Garden Inn, Fairfield Inn, bowling alley, Mowery Clinic, one strip mall on South Ohio and two on South 9th and Schilling, firearms range, and apartments behind Cloud Street near Dillons.
Robertson noted, “Residential sale prices are up an average of 4% compared to last year.” He gave the average residential sale price as being $155,000. He continued, “Total number of sales, year-to-date compared to January-September 2016 is down slightly (-2%). The number of residential sales is flat but new home sales have increased by 10%. The number of commercial sales are down 20% year-to-date for the same period” which he attributed to a high number of sales in the previous year as well as to low vacancies and historically high rents that mean that owners don’t want to sell their properties.
Citizen Norman Mannel questioned Robertson about agricultural land. Robertson admitted that prices and values are flat.
Robertson also updated Commissioners on the Bulk Solid property tax exemption. The original exemption request that was to be heard by the State Board of Tax appeals has been dismissed. An economic development exemption request public hearing with the City is being continued until January. Robertson has been working with property owners’ attorney to clarify what sections may authorize a property tax exemption for the Bulk Solid Innovation Center without going through the economic development exemption process.
Chairman Monte Shadwick said he and other commissioners have received phone calls about this issue. He said that the Board of County Commissioners is not involved in the decision making process and acknowledged Robertson’s work on behalf of the Center.
Treasurer Brought Good Investment News
County Treasurer Jim Dubois also brought good news on the interest from idle funds. In the 3rd quarter, the County will earn $92,000 in interest. He also presented a quarterly Treasurer’s Report showing where money is invested. Since investing in Treasury bills is now done over the internet, Dubois said he prefers to make investments where he can “grab the money, if need be”.
Cell Tower Regulations Change
Planning and Zoning Director David Neal updated Commissioners on regulatory changes the state legislature made to cell phone towers. The changes were largely favored by the cell tower lobby and parallel those adopted recently in Indiana. The County can no longer require that an old tower be taken down. The County can no longer require towers to be camouflaged. Whatever the County charges for leasing space for a cell tower must be the same for all cell towers. The County can no longer evaluate whether a tower is “needed” in a particular area.
The Board will likely take up formalizing the new requirements at next week’s meeting. The changes went into effect on January 1, 2017.
Salina Initiative for Restorative Justice Grant
Commissioners unanimously agreed to sign a regional collaborative grant budget application, in the amount of $24,425 that will help fund restorative justice activities in Salina. Mediation Attorney Ann Zimmerman said that Kansas has a high number of children who live in “out of home placement”. A variety of agencies are working to bring those numbers down. Monies that had gone to paying for “out of home placement” are being used for programs that include activities listed in the SIRJ grant.
The mission of the Salina Initiative for Restorative Justice is:
To improve outcomes for juvenile offenders—holding them accountable while reintegrating them into the community and minimizing contact with the court system.
To allow victims to confront their offenders and participate in the resolution of their cases.
To lighten the lead of the juvenile justice system.
To strengthen community resilience through collaboration among law enforcement, court systems and the community-at-large.
If approved, the grant will work with youth who are between the ages of 10-17, of any gender, and who typically are at low to moderate risk level.
In Other Matters
Proclaimed this week as National Mediation Week.
Accepted an $800 grant from Lowe’s Charitable and Education Foundation, on behalf of Rural Fire District #2. Sara Hawbaker applied for the grant that will help the new Assaria station become outfitted.
Voted to purchase a compact track loader for $45,000 that the County has been leasing from Bobcat. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Robert Vidricksen dissenting; he advocated for purchasing a new track loader for $49,000.
Discussed Woodword Road, the new County Corner’s contract, and the new gun range with the County Counselor, Mike Montoya. They also went into executive session to discuss attorney/client privilege, potential litigation, involving the Commission on Aging.
Learned that County Administrator Rita Deister and Human Resources Director Marilyn Leamer have interviewed all of the Commission on Aging staff last week, to begin drafting job descriptions. The Saline County Finance team also worked with peers at the COA to develop a “chart of accounts” and to lay the framework for consolidating fiscal processes.
Discussed possible wording changes to the policy about how items from the Equipment Improvement Program, Capital Improvement Program, and Technology Improvement Program may be purchased.
Next week, Commissioners will meet with Road and Bridge staff to revisit the Gravel Road Upgrade Program. These discussions will take part in the “study session” portion of the meeting (after the Open Forum concludes); the public is invited to attend. After the preliminary review and direction from the BOCC, the presentations will move to the 9:00 AM meetings for additional public input.
City-County Building Authority
As required by the Building Authority agreement, Deister formally informed the BA that the County Commission is considering creating a “juvenile court” in space on the first floor that will soon be vacated by the K-State Extension Service by the end of the year.
The offices of Judge Mary Thrower and three county attorney staff will be relocated. Juvenile Court will be held on the days when Judge Thrower is in Saline County.
Court Administrator Todd Heitschmidt said that, “whatever day there is court, there will be a deputy” on the first floor. The first floor will also gain a metal detector. There was discussion about possible congestion in the hallways and restrooms, but there was agreement that the proposed arrangements would likely ease congestion.
City Commissioner Jon Blanchard asked, “Would a security plan ever include securing the building?” He asked that those involved keep an eye on this.
Administrators were asked to prepare their staff for changes in parking as work begins on the roof. Large dumpsters will soon be placed. Work will be done during the daytime, nights, and weekends. Optimistically, the work could be done in a month, though the roofers have a 3 month contract. Building Superintendent Duane Grace said the insurance company increased how much it would pay for the new roof, covering $258,500 of the project’s expected $271,000 costs. The remaining $17,000 will come out of the BA’s capital outlay funds.
Loren Harris gave formal notice that he is stepping down from serving as the “Member at Large”, for the Building Authority. He has served in this capacity for 9 years and will serve until the end of the year. Anyone interested in serving on the City-County Building Authority can fill out an expression of interest form at (click on government, then the Building Authority, then to the left, under Grace’s contact information).
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