County to Purchase New Voting Machines

In a 4-1 vote, Saline County Commissioners approved the purchase of both new voting machines and electronic poll pads.  Earlier, Saline County Clerk Jamie Allen said she hoped to be able to put the new equipment to use in the November election.

Commissioners agreed to purchase from Election Systems and Software Voting System:

  • 38 model DS200 scanners
  • 43 4GB flash drives
  • 138 Express vote ballot making device terminals
  • And related battery back-ups, carrying cases, etc.

Discussions centered around the need to comply with the 2002 Help America Vote Act and enhancing accessibility.  Commissioner Rodger Sparks said he had received a call from a citizen who advocated for the return to only paper ballots.  Allen advised that this would not be permitted as voters at each polling location need to have access to the various devices that can help those with limited sight to vote.

Commissioner Mike White moved to replace the machines, saying it was a “necessary evil, dictated by the” Help America Vote Act.   Commissioner Robert Vidricksen cast a dissenting vote, saying that he was “not 100% convinced” that the proposed action was necessary at this time.  Commissioner Jim Weese expressed surprise that he and other commissioners had not received comments from the public.

Then, in a separate action, Commissioners voted 5-0 to spend $62,010 for 65 “poll pads” from KnowInk.  These devices will scan a voter’s identification to pull up their voter registration information.  Currently, the Clerk’s Office prints “polling books” that election officials use to locate this information.   Commissioners also agreed to purchase the $8,125/year maintenance program for the poll pads.

Controlling Jail Water Waste

Commissioners unanimously approved a $91,809 plan to purchase 90 toilet valves, 90 lavatory valves and 28 shower valves from I-CON.  The Jail’s maintenance staff will install the valves that will reduce the amount of water in each toilet flush, from 4.5 gallons to 1.76 gallons. The shower valve will reduce flow from 3 gallons/minute to 2 gallons/minute.

Undersheriff Brent Melander said that currently, inmates plug toilets.  With multiple flushings, they can flood a cell with 5 to 6 inches of water.  The ICON valves will only allow a toilet to be flushed no more often than once every five minutes.  If there is an attempt to flush the toilet sooner than that, the device prevents the toilet from flushing for an hour.  Melander said that while the devices won’t prevent all forms of flooding, it gives correction officers time to be able to detect and address problematic activity.

Vidricksen said the new valves would pay for themselves within two years.  ICON projected that once installed, the new valves would reduce water usage by $44,000/year.

Certified Assessed Valuations Increase by $11,000,000

County Administrator Rita Deister told Commissioners that the November 2016 certified assessed valuation, used in the 2017 budget, were $561,611,271.  Deister is using an estimated July 2017 assessed valuation of $577,553,906 in planning this year’s budget.

The increase in the assessed valuation, along with other changes made by Deister to umbrella appropriate expenses under the Sheriff’s Office, caused Deister to write “at this point”, the County will “have no problems with complying with the budget lid” created by the Kansas Legislature.

Deister wrote that the 2017 budget reflects a mil levy of 37.272.  She estimated that the mil levy so far in the budget process is 35.206 without making appropriations.  Funding appropriations as requested would take the mil levy to 35.462.

Deister plans to turn the 2018 budget over to the auditor on July 6th; he will then review her figures and will calculate the official mil levy.  She said the auditor may express concern about the amount of funds being carried over from year to year.

Commissioners expressed concern about continuing to supply any funds to the Saline Commission on Aging, in the absence of three years’ worth of audits.  Shadwick said it’s the third year he’s approved money for the Commission and he didn’t know if that money “is spent legally”.

2018’s budget, so far, appears to include salary increases for staff, though no parameters for those increases were explained.  The Commission met in executive session to discuss “employee employer negotiations”.   It was unclear if the 2018 budget includes any increases to health insurance premiums.

Commissioners made no decisions about providing the Sheriff with a requested $300,000 contingency fund.  They also made no decisions about creating a gravel road enhancement program.  Years ago, Commissioners set up a 2.0 mil bridge fund that has allowed the County to steadily replace aging bridges.  Current commissioners have expressed interest in creating a similar fund to pay for improvements to gravel roads, which ultimately might include paving some roads.

In other matters,

  • Chairman Monte Shadwick told the group that Community Correction’s lease on its current space is up and Director Annie Grevas is looking at options. The new owner, of the space they currently rent, will develop plans to use part of a third floor for additional office space.  Concurrently, key individuals will tour space in the Ace Hardware building as an alternative.
  • Commissioners voted to sell a 1999 Catapillar, a 2006 John Deer excavator, a 2003 Ford Explorer and other used equipment on the internet auction site, Purple Wave.
  • Health Department Director Jason Tiller advised Commissioners that the department has received an additional $5,873 for the regional public health emergency preparedness grant. Commissioners also agreed to pay a pharmacist a retainer of $75/quarter to conduct audits.
  • Commissioners proclaimed June Elder Abuse Awareness Month.