County Discusses Roads, Legislation

All five County Commissioners attended the City Commission’s consideration of its charter ordinance to bond for the proposed field house from 8:30 AM – 10:30 AM. Before the City heard public comments, County Commissioners went to their office to meet with County Counselor Mike Montoya. Soon, Mayor Jon Blanchard asked for use of room 107, past 11:00 AM as it was clear the City Commission still had much to discuss. Commissioner Shadwick graciously complied. Montoya confirmed that open meeting requirements would not be violated if the County moved its Open Forum to the County Commissioner’s offices on short notice.

Road Concerns

The Commissioners began by discussing road concerns:
• Montoya advised County Commissioners that he had received a letter regarding erosion on West State Street. Brief discussion followed.
• Commissioner Jim Gile provided an update on the temporary repairs completed on February 8th and 9th on the 3300 block of East Country Club Road. Gile said he observed 12-14 hours each day. While “rails are still loose”, some had driven it and said it was improved.
• Commissioner John Price raised concerns about the speed limit on West Grand, saying seventy employees use that road at peak times. Price felt a 30 mph limit should be posted. Montoya said it would be possible to put signage up, even though part of the road is in the city.
• Commissioner Dave Smith raised “legal and liability” concerns about a dirt road that owners want to pay, by themselves, to gravel. Montoya said the County has made people remove aggregate that individuals have put on a road. The County has a formal “upgrade policy”. Montoya said if the road is 25 feet wide, and the standard for a gravel road is 30 feet wide, these differences become a factor in an upgrade. Also, if the proper subsurface is not in place, the gravel will go down deep in the road and it will eventually appear to primarily be dirt; this process can continue many times. Montoya said that property owners could get tired of paying for multiple cycles of gravel. Discussion turned to the assessed valuation of the properties on this road; Smith said at least one of the five homes is valued at over $150,000. Price suggested that Commissioners take a field trip to see the road in question before making decisions. Price asked, “Do they deserve to have a gravel road with the property taxes they are paying?”

Appraisers Update

County Appraiser Sheryl Sammons thanked the Board for their “interesting” discussions over the years. She will retire soon. She and Sean Robertson, Assistant Appraiser, provided the following updates:
• The Kansas Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding KSA 79-1460, which passed in 2014. Sammons wrote, “The Court will rule on the constitutionality of holding a property value for two years, or even one year of the year of valuation in which the property received a reduction in the hearing process, as it pertains to being uniform and equal.”
• Robertson provided an update on three bills currently before the Legislature on the “tax lid”, which prohibits local governing entities from raising taxes above the Consumer Price Index, unless specifically approved in a public election. House Bill 2493 would repeal the tax lid. HB 2604 uses the Municipal Cost Index, instead of CPI; it is developed by the American Association of Cities and Counties and looks specifically at the cost of providing services to residents. Senate Bill 316 moves the start date of the “tax lid” from 2018 to 2016 and contains language about state and federal mandates. If passed, the “tax lid” could go into effect in a few months. The August 25th deadline for filing the state budget would be changed to October 1, which Sammons said “becomes unworkable”. County Clerk Don Merriman agreed that it would become “impossible” to complete usual county tasks under the proposed timelines. Merriman said, “Coming from county government, I wouldn’t want to see that happen.”
• Commission Luci Larson asked about the property tax impact of a revitalized downtown. The 28 block area includes 350 parcels; the value of these properties (for tax purposes) will be frozen for 10-20 years. Sammons said it would impact property values if downtown became more vital and it attracted businesses on the fringes. Taxes could go up for those just beyond the district, which prompted a comment from Smith that that “hardly seemed equitable”.

Health Department Update

Health Department Director, Jason Tiller provided a roll-up of 2015 program counts:
• A Healthy People 2020 goal is to reduce infant mortality. Data for the past five years shows Saline County has an infant mortality rate of 5.5 infant deaths per 1000 live births, which is better than the State’s average of 6.3 infant deaths per 1000 live births.
• Saline County is seeing positive increases in the number of women who initiate breastfeeding as a result of the focus in Becoming a Mom classes and from WIC’s breastfeeding peer counselor program.
• The Home Health Agency will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016. Home Health should see an increase in the number of visits for physical and occupational therapy in upcoming months because Chairman Monte Shadwick has recently signed contracts with additional providers.
• WIC staff and other community stakeholders will meet to discuss program improvements tomorrow. This is part of a state-wide effort to create a positive community impression of WIC and make WIC more effective (at the clinic and at the stores). WIC is now offering some appointments during the Tuesday lunch hour.
• The Health Advisory Council was cancelled last week and will meet again at its usual time next month.

On the topic of child care licensing, Shadwick stressed the importance of having HD staff educate clients about requirements. Larson wants HD staff to reiterate good points and emphasize what is going well.

Other Matters

Commissioners approved:
• The purchase of five new Taser X26P Electronic Control devices and batteries for the Sheriff’s Office for $4,498.
• Fire District #3 going out to bid for 8 Self Contained Breathing Apparatuses, 16 cylinders and 8 SCBA masks. District 3, as well as all other districts, will need to eventually replace SCBA in upcoming years. Price estimated that the total county cost for replacing these units at $720,000. Questions about group purchasing were fielded by Emergency Management Director, Hannah Stambaugh. Chief Scott Abker also received approval to seek quotes from interested banks and finance companies regarding leasing terms.

Price asked for the annual hours that bucket loaders are used at Road and Bridge. This will allow for a determination of cost per hour to be made and whether purchasing used or leasing is the better option. The Commission pre-authorized a purchase price for an item on the equipment improvement plan.

With both Glen Kochanowski not running for Sheriff and Don Merriman not running for County Clerk, Commissioners discussed Human Resource’s procedures regarding the salary of their eventual successors. If the successor is new to the county or currently earns less than the starting wage for that office, s/he would begin at step 1. If the eventual successor is an existing county employee, and s/he already earns more than the starting salary of that office s/he is elected to, s/he would receive a 2.5% wage increase and move a grade. According to Human Resources Director Marilyn Leamer, the successor would “never drop salary but they may not be at the same step”. The Commission also discussed the Sheriff’s possible appointment of an undersheriff and that the County Appraiser’s position was advertised in Sunday’s paper.

Sheriff’s Office Transportation Corporal, Carnell Egana provided an update on the number of juveniles being held in detention.

Commissioners went into two executive sessions, on personnel issues.

The Committee to Reduce Jail Population will meet Wednesday, February 17 at 12:00 Noon at the Community Corrections Building on North Santa Fe.

Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News

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