County To Help RFD #2 Secure Funding

Calvin Kelsey has a full-time job working for the Salina Fire Department.  He also serves as Chief of Rural Fire District #2, which has stations in Mentor and Assaria.  Almost the same can be said for Dave Sommerfeld, who serves as Assistant Chief and Secretary/Treasurer to RFD#2’s board.  Changing banking regulations have created new hurdles that both have faced to secure funding for a new station in Assaria.

RFD#2 doesn’t own the property where its equipment is stored in Assaria.  The lease is up and the owner does not plan to renew the lease.

Knowing that this was coming, RFD#2 paid off its Mentor fire station building and will soon make its final payment on recently acquired equipment.  Earlier this year, RFD#2 received the County Commission’s approval to design a metal building for a new Assaria fire station; however, that approval was for a lease purchase.  Because an appraisal of the as-of-yet unbuilt building came in low, a bank won’t continue with the lease purchasing option unless there is a 10% down payment of $80,000.

RFD#2 officials have sought to obtain a loan from banks, which only raised additional questions.  Generally, governmental entities issue bonds.  It has been several years since Saline County issued bonds; the last time it did was to build a sewer system in Kip.

At the Commission’s request, County Counselor Mike Montoya will continue to work with RFD#2 to explore funding options.  One option is for the County to loan RFD#2 the $80,000 to facilitate a lease purchase, with RFD#2 paying the County back, with interest.  Or the County might issue bonds.  The County currently has $1.4 million in strategic reserves, but with a State-imposed tax lid, Commissioners expressed discomfort at using the reserve to build a station that would primarily benefit one segment of residents.

Chairman Monte Shadwick asked that as the process moves forward, that RFD#2 officials keep the County informed.  Other entities in the County eventually may need to replace buildings and lessons learned from this project could benefit others.

Work Agreements Approved with a 4-1 Vote

Saline County Commissioners approved work agreements with the Saline County Association of Public Employees (known as SCAPE) and the Sheriff’s Office Bargaining Unit.  These agreements include a 37 cent an hour increase for all employees.  It also requires each employee to pay $30/month more toward his/her health insurance; this can be refunded once the employee completes wellness activities that primarily involve getting an annual physical.

Commissioner Dave Smith voted against both agreements.  He said these agreements “continue the practice of paying for tenure (time on the job) and not performance”.  Smith continued, “The only way to recognize excellent performance is to reward it.”  He said the County is discouraging good performance and rewarding mediocre performance.

Sanitary Code Change

At next week’s Open Forum, the Commission will take up a resolution that would update the County’s environmental code.  It would give the Commission the responsibility to name which department administers this code by resolution.

A year ago, the Commission approved a plan to umbrella its environmental services under Planning and zoning; prior to that, these functions were housed at the Health Department.

Administrator’s Report

In her weekly update, County Administrator Rita Deister said a number of employees had expressed interest in improving the design of the County’s website.  They might even submit a new logo design for the Commissioners to consider.

November sales tax collections were $389,635, up 1.21% from November 2015’s collections of $384,903.  Year-to-date collections were $4,270,405, down 0.28% from YTD 2015 collections of $4,667,362.

Deister reported that County revenues for the Special Ethanol Funds, which are used for rehabilitation and education related to alcohol, have increased slightly while funds for special parks and recreation have decreased.  Tax money from the sale of alcohol at businesses located in the county goes into this fund.

North Central Regional Planning Commission is asking that mayors, city and county commissioners, city managers and administrators, rural water districts and related officials participate in its survey.  Participants are asked: to:

  • Identify plans to complete projects related to water distribution, water storage, water treatment, sewer treatment, sewer collection, streets and bridges, and electric.
  • Assess the condition of buildings—including nursing homes, hospitals, health clinics, fire stations, EMS services, community services, and courthouse/municipal buildings.
  • Assess the condition of airports, parks, sidewalks, ADA accessibility, internet and recycling.

The goal is to identify projects that could be accomplished on a regional level, but not necessarily a local level.

The Salina Area Chamber of Commerce hopes to place a kiosk featuring “Hall of Fame” winners at the Smoky Hill Museum.

Road and Bridge and County Engineer Updates

Commissioner Jim Gile had recently been out to Road and Bridge to check on the progress of a re-vamped wash bay.  The cement slab and metal frames are in place.  A block wall is nearing completion and soon can be skinned.  The roof may go up soon.

Darren Fishel, Road Superintendent, reported that:

  • R&B staff helped the County Clerk with set-up and take-down voting booths for the elections.
  • Staff had completed motor grader training as well as snow and ice training.
  • Bids had been sought for an excavator. Commissioner John Price learned of this while attended a Kansas Association of Counties meeting in Overland Park in November.  Price said Commissioners should have been advised of the bidding.  Deister said that according to policy, once the next year’s budget was approved, department heads used this as authorization to go out for bid in December for anticipated January purchases.
  • Ditch cleaning and road striping projects were completed.
  • Staff had reshaped shoulders on Niles Road and established edge wedges near DonMeyer Road.

Neil Cable, County Engineer, reported that:

  • Shoulder work on the trash haul routes had been completed.
  • Concrete has been poured for the Water Well Road structure over Spring Creek.
  • Work on two reinforced concrete box structures has been completed.

Commissioner Luci Larson participated in the meeting via the phone lines.  Commissioners-elect Robert Vidrickson, Rodger Sparks and Jim Weese attended.

Wednesday, the City-County Building Authority will meet at 8:30 AM.  They are expected to take up issues regarding a meeting quorum.  Perhaps they will be updated on the status of plans to bring down the pedestrian bridge to the north of the City-County building.