County Mulls Jail Over Population

Saline County Commissioners unanimously approved a request from Sheriff Rodger Soldan to increase the price paid to hold an average of 40 jail inmates in Ottawa County’s jail.  The price to house an inmate will increase from $30 to $35/day, which is in line with what the Sheriff’s Office pays other jails.  Annually, this will translate into a $73,000 increase to the jail’s “contract housing” budget line.

Next week, the Commission is expected to take up revisions to the by-laws of the Committee to Reduce the Jail Population.  Commissioners discussed expanding the committee to up to 12 members, with a County Commissioner and Sheriff/designee serving as non-voting members.  The Committee is chaired by Annie Grevas, Community Corrections Director.  Grevas has asked Jeff Adams, a defense attorney with McKenna Law and Christina Trocheck, Salina City Prosecutor to serve on the committee.  The Commissioners will also likely reappoint County Attorney Ellen Mitchell and Court Administrator Todd Heitschmidt to the committee.  Others wishing to serve on the committee can go to and complete an expression of interest form.

Emergency Preparedness Director Hannah Stambaugh said that from April through June, there were two tornado warnings and one watch; two of these events may have involved straight line winds, which she said “could do as much damage as an EF 0 tornado”.  The Rural Fire Districts responded to 24 fire calls in April, 17 in May and 20 in June.  There was one response to a fire on the Fourth of July that may or may not be fireworks related.  She briefed commissioners on the June 16 chemical spill at Mixtures facility, saying “lessons learned” during last March’s chemical spill at Schwan’s had been put to use.

Stambaugh said the installation of new outdoor warning sirens is 85% complete.  These have been installed in Salina as well as Smolan and Gypsum.  Brookville learned recently that the City has been approved to receive a siren; Falun and Rural Fire District #6 have applied for grants to be able to purchase sirens.  For the time period of July-September, Stambaugh said the National Weather Service is predicting above normal temperatures and normal precipitation.

The Commissioners also:

  • Approved a reduction of speed along North Fairchild Road.
  • Heard a personnel update from Human Resources Director Marilyn Leamer.
  • Went into a 20 minute executive session on “attorney/client privilege”.

City County Building Authority Meets

Building Authority Superintendent Duane Grace took the Building Authority Board on an electronic visual tour of the exterior grounds of the facilities located between Elm and Ash, Santa Fe and Elm Street.  Besides the City-County Building, the Building Authority is involved with maintaining Robert Caldwell Plaza as well as the parking lot that extends around the Salina Public Library.  Grace said that shifting pavement and curbing as well as potholes will require repatching, repairing and replacing at some point.

Grass and vegetation struggle in the area immediately surrounding the City-County Building.  Some retraining walls show strains.  Grace raised the possibility of turning some of the green space into additional parking.  He also spoke about creating a small outdoor area for employee breaks, polishing the building’s granite and the purpose/location of storm pumps and drains.

County Commissioner Rodger Sparks wondered about an asphalt overlay while City Manager Jason Gage spoke of micro-surfacing.  There were mixed feelings about the benefits of “patching” sections or simply replacing the parking surfaces.

City Commissioner Melissa Rose Hodges described the building as reflecting “1960s brutalism, that in 50 years will be on the historic register”.  She described the issues as dealing with differed maintenance as well as finding uses for the Robert Caldwell Plaza.  County Commissioner Mike White suggested that the issues could be categorized as brick work and the parking lot.

Grace said the Building Authority has $1 million in its capital improvement fund that could be used for these purposes.  The Board gave him approval to begin talking with both city and county engineers and architects to gather ideas.

County Commissioner Robert Vidricksen noted that there are issues that needed to be addressed, but that he’d rather see the funds go to improving the City’s streets.  City Commissioner Jon Blanchard favored xeriscaping.