County Mulls Trust Issues

Returning from three days of meetings in Wichita, County Commissioners agreed that “trust” plays a crucial role in government interactions. Commissioner Dave Smith cited the need to strengthen trust between the Commission and Sheriff’s Department. Others commented that the Legislature’s 2015 actions placing a “tax lid” on Counties damaged trust between them.

Commissioners Jim Gile, John Price, Monte Shadwick and Smith attended the Kansas Association of Counties Annual Conference. The theme was “Speed of Trust”. Randomly, Commissioners heard that Saline County’s Environmental Health Sanitarians were appreciated by officials at Lincoln, Ottawa and Ellsworth Counties.

Economic Development

Noting that the City approved the Economic Development Organization’s by-laws yesterday, County Administrator Rita Deister put the final materials before Commissioners. She will ask County Counselor Mike Montoya to review the final language; he reviewed earlier drafts.

The by-laws require a three year commitment from the City, County, Salina Airport Authority and Chamber of Commerce. The County will have until December 15 to name two representatives to the oversight committee. The Chamber of Commerce will contribute facility space and receptionist time.

There was spirited discussion about the total value earmarked for economic development in Saline County versus other communities. Price said he did not want to see spending exceed $400,000 over three years. Ray Hruska said, “economic development is understood to mean an increase in per capita income. We’re spending big bucks to make something happen, but first we need to have something happen in the market place.”

Additional Actions

Commissioners granted approval for Eagle Communications to locate a fiber optics hub at Rural Fire Department 5. Chief David Turner said that Eagle Communications will receive an 8’x12’ space where they will place the hub, a back-up generator, and a propane cylinder. In return, they will receive $1,000 and high speed internet service for the life of the contract (listed to be 20 years); Turner said the department currently spends $838/year for internet services.

Commissioners granted vacation of the right-of-way at Sundgren and Dry Creek Road to Chris Dauer. County Clerk Don Merriman said that the existing right-of-way is 80 feet and the Commission would vacate 10 feet, to allow DS&O rural electric cooperative to place power poles for a home Dauer wants to build.

“Afternoon Discussion”

Fourteen people arrived for what the agenda billed as a “discussion with Bobbie and Bonnie George”. Montoya set ground rules early that anything involving personnel issues (primarily involving Planning and Zoning Director David Neal) would be dealt with in executive session.

Bobbie George said he had some general comments to make, that involved the Commission’s organizational chart and mission statement. Referring to David Neal, Bobbie George said “I’m not here to crucify you and hang your hide from the highest tree. Not everyone who criticizes is an enemy.”

Stating that “what happened thirty years ago is happening today”, Bobbie George acknowledged that what he had prepared had personnel issues intertwined within it. Before the Commission voted to go into executive session, those in the audience were given an opportunity to speak. Easily half of those in attendance said they were there to support the Georges. Yet, others identified concerns about the George’s business of breeding dogs.

The Board went into first a 30 minute executive session, then a second 30 minute executive session, and then a 15 minute executive session. When that concluded, Bobbie George told his supporters that the matter had been presented.

The audience was again asked to comment. Hruksa stated he believed these had been unnecessary executive sessions. He said the Georges did not have their attorney present, saying “they should have rescheduled” the discussion. This discussion had been scheduled for one hour but lasted 95+ minutes.

Miscellaneous Matters

• Commissioners agreed that the contact information gathered by Deister reflected their preferred phone numbers; all will use the “” e-mail addresses.
• Commissioners agreed that communications with State Legislators about the “tax lid” should go on County Commission stationery and asked Deister to draft a letter for their signature.
• Deister asked Commissioners if they were satisfied with the progress different departments had made toward meeting strategic planning goals, set back in March. No one voiced significant comments.
• Commissioners will tour the Road and Bridge Shop November 17, during the afternoon. They will revisit R&B Director Gary Nash’s Request for Action to build a new structure on November 24.
• The EXPO Committee will meet on November 18, at 6:00 PM, at the EXPO Center.
• The Commissioners met from 8:30 AM – 10:50 AM; this included one 30 minute executive session that was extended by 20 more minutes. Open Forum lasted from 11:00 AM – 11:13 AM and included multiple reminders to honor veterans, especially tomorrow. Commissioner Monte Shadwick was absent from the morning meetings. He listened to the afternoon executive sessions on cell phone from an undisclosed location. During the afternoon, the Board went into at least five executive sessions.

Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News

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