By a vote of 3-2, Saline County Commissioners voted to join the Salina Community Economic Development Organization (EDO). The City of Salina, the Salina Airport Authority and the Chamber of Commerce are the other members of this entity. The County has agreed to commit $20,000 / year for three years to this organization.
When the public was given an opportunity to comment, Ray Hruska spoke at length about how the EDO was structured like an “oligarchy of corruption”. Hruska defined oligarchy as “government by a few who exercise control for corrupt and selfish purposes”. He quizzed Commissioners about their own business practices, where they generally supplied private money to provide the capital needed to make more money. Chairman Monte Shadwick noted that Hruska has attended the EDO meetings from the start and had made a particular argument. But, Shadwick disagreed with Hruska’s characterization of the organization and process as being corrupt. Hruska urged Commissioners to vote against the EDO agreement, saying he supported the Chamber of Commerce. Price echoed Hruska’s comments and was one of two Commissioners who voted against the EDO.
Shadwick said that originally, the County Commission was asked to fund the EDO at $50,000/year but the present commission felt uncomfortable obligating a future commission to the higher amount. County Counselor Mike Montoya briefed the Commission prior to the ACCESS televised Open Forum.
Norman Mannel commented that “until Salina identifies the problem, people won’t come here.” Continuing, Mannel said the community does not pay wages that interest workers in coming to Salina. He attributed this to “greed”, concluding “until Kansas changes its attitude, the young people in Kansas will continue to leave.”
In the audience were Jason Gage, Salina City Manager; Don Weiser, Chamber of Commerce and Tim Rogers, Executive Director of the Salina Airport Authority.
Tiller Named New Health Department Director
With a 5-0 vote, the Commission promoted Jason Tiller to Health Department Director. Tiller has worked at the Saline County Health Department as “Coordinator” for the past year. The Commission will continue to serve as the Board of Health. Commissioners and staff are pleased with Tiller’s performance. Tiller will also continue to serve as the Health Educator and Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator (he is essentially doing the job duties of three positions that existed in 2013’s Health Department).
Tiller retired with 20 years of military service in 2013. He is currently completing a master’s degree. He and his family reside in Chapman. Tiller is attending a three-day meeting elsewhere, so he was not present during the announcement.
EXPO Center Committee to Meet Wednesday
A committee charged with looking at the use and functionality of the EXPO Center will meet Wednesday. Commissioner Jim Gile will chair the committee. In a surprising comment, either Commissioner Price or Gile said that a City Commissioner did not know about the EXPO Center Committee. Shadwick commented that “if there is that much opposition to the EXPO Center, then the public ought to know.”
In a related matter, the County has received two “expression of interest” forms from individuals wishing to serve on the committee tasked with looking at reducing the jail population. Jim Vint and Michael Trow have gone to www.saline.org, looked on the right hand column and clicked on the “expression of interest forms”. Individuals interested in serving on the committee are urged to do the same. Annie Grevas, Director of Community Corrections, has been working with her staff to identify a few individuals who have been in jail and who have since gone on to be productive members of the community.
Health Advisory Council Discussed
County Administrator Rita Deister provided Commissioners with the “unofficial” minutes from the second Health Advisory Council that met last Tuesday at the Health Department. Discussions centered around future health needs. Most Commissioners had not heard of 2-1-1, a hotline sponsored by United Way to help individuals locate health and human services. Commissioners were pleased that the business community is participating as members of the Council.
Later, during the Citizens’ Forum, Karen Shade expressed concern that this HAC meeting did not include an update on the syphilis outbreak, nor did key Council members go into a confidential executive session to discuss the adequacy of the response as well as any gaps in addressing the outbreak. Shade said it is fortunate that the syphilis outbreak didn’t happen 14-16 months ago when:
• The Health Educator and Public Health Emergency Preparedness positions (now filled by Tiller) were vacant.
• When the then HD Director didn’t have a medical background.
• When the family planning nurse position was vacant (this position, along with the position that works with HIV have likely played the largest role in dealing with the syphilis outbreak).
• When the BOCC essentially disbanded the Salina-Saline County Health Department’s Board of Health and went through nearly a 20 month period before the Health Advisory Council first met.
Shade suggested that Tiller and Medical Director David Dupy attend parliamentary procedure training, to be conducted by Counselor Montoya on December 1st. She said past actions by the Board may have “buffaloed” the Council into being extremely cautious.
Building Authority Discussions
Representatives of the City (Commissioners Randall Hardy and Kaye Crawford) along with County Commissioners Price, Gile and Dave Smith met with key building personnel at 8:30. They discussed:
• Timelines for going out to bid on a new phone system. Invitations for proposals were sent out on November 9th. There will be future walk-throughs. Final proposals are due back December 18 and final interviews will be conducted January 11. Price said he’s enjoyed serving on this committee but wondered if another Commissioner might take his place in 2016; if so, Price recommended that this Commissioner begin attending the December BA meeting. Replacement of the phone system has been discussed for a couple of years; early proposals suggested the total costs might be as high as $300-400,000. By waiting, costs have come down and technology has improved. The County has set aside $50,000 toward replacement of the phone system. Total future costs are estimated to be $100,000. The City will likely pay part of these costs.
• Commissioner Smith commented on a fiscal expense of providing “health insurance” for nine BA employees at a cost of $66,000 for ten months. He commented that this was “too high”. Discussion turned to whether these County employees could be insured more economically, if they were under the City’s health insurance policy. It is also likely that besides health insurance, that $66,000 figure represents KPERS contributions, optional life and disability insurances, etc.
• Commissioners heard a request from Fire Chief Shane Komarek to allow Rural Fire Department #7 to go out to bid on a new engine and squad. Both vehicles are scheduled for replacement in 2016 or later; but NFPA guidelines that go in effect in 2016 require certain new features that will significantly add to the expense of code-compliant vehicles. These features include a roll cage as well as seats and safety belts at the back of the engine; these features are expected to add $20-30,000 to the price of each new vehicle. Commissioners voted 5-0 to allow RFD #7 to go out for bid on these units, with a 30 day turnaround.
• Commissioners approved the placement of an Eagle Communications Fiber Optic Hub at Rural Fire Department #5. Eagle Communications will make a one-time payment of $1,000 and will provide RFD #5 with free internet service for the life of the contract. Price said a cell phone communication tower was located elsewhere in Saline County and paid a church $6,000 for the privileges of locating their tower there . . . but that location may not have been in the flood plain.
• Debbie Atkinson, Transportation Coordinator for OCCK provided an update on CityGo and other transportation services provided by OCCK. Commissioners were pleased to know stops at K-State Polytechnique and Salina Tech are well used; CityGo has reached out to Kansas Weslyan and has given out free ride coupons, but these have not been well utilized.
• Commissioners reviewed the TALKSalina summary about the criminal justice public deliberation.
• Commissioners filled a shop yard attendant position at Road and Bridge, at grade 8 step 5.
• Commissioners heard a proposal to replace three network switches on the third floor; they will vote on the measure next week during Open Forum.
• An impromptu discussion about parliamentary procedure caused Counselor Montoya to caution against naming a specific edition of Roberts Rules of Order in the County Commission’s by-laws. He also reviewed the pros and cons of establishing an agenda before the actual meeting.
• County Attorney Ellen Mitchell advised Deister that while the County Attorney’s office follows County policies, they aren’t required to do so under State statute. Specifically, the County Attorney’s office will not do performance appraisals. Smith wondered what impact this might have on pay-for-performance proposals currently being investigated by the Director of Human Resources.
Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News
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