Lead Tests Coming Back Negative

Results from over half of the people recently tested for lead in Saline County are coming back, and there have been very few positive results.  Jason Tiller, Health Department Director, discussed that, and other issues with county commissioners on Tuesday.

The loss of the Health Department’s Home Health Coordinator has prompted the Saline County Commission to reconsider what to do with this service.  Tiller thought he could name an individual to serve as interim coordinator.  Tiller was then asked to study if there was a need for the county to provide home health services.

It was reported that Salina Regional Health Care had offered to buy the agency within the past few years, but expressed no desire to do when asked more recently.  OCCK has begun home health services, as well as other independent businesses.  It may take Tiller two weeks to gather requested information.

Citizens are Receiving Results from Lead Testing

When asked, Tiller said that approximately 65% of the 300 or so individuals who had their blood tested for the presence of lead had been sent results.  To his recollection, one of the results showed an elevated level in the 5-9 micrograms/deciliter range.  Tiller said that both the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Saline County Health Department are looking for answers to the many questions raised when 32 county residents recently were found to have elevated blood lead levels.

Failing Septic Systems

Commissioner John Price said the Soil Conservation District is again able to offer assistance to a limited number of households needing to replace their septic systems; interested individuals should contact the Soil Conservation District.  The Board revisited past discussions about the adequacy and functionality of septic systems that fail inspection before a property is sold.  The Board has contemplated making changes to existing policy.

Budget Update

County Administrator Rita Deister revealed a proposed 2017 budget of $42,773,109.  If adopted as drafted–on Tuesday, August 9th’s budget hearing, it would:

  • Reduce the mill levy by 1.003 mills; a mill is the equivalent of $565,133.
  • Raise employee wages by $0.37/hour; a salary survey completed earlier by Archer Company had recommended a $1.33/hour increase for workers in grades 6-18.

Sherriff Shares Own Budget Information

Sheriff Glen Kochanowski and Undersheriff Roger Soldan appeared before the Commission.  Kochanowski distributed multi-year statistics.

  • From 1980-2015, the Sheriff’s Office has operated within its budget for nine years (with 2011 being the most current). In 2012, expenses exceeded budget by $295,180; in 2013, by $648,132; in 2014, $609,367, and in 2015, $651,840.
  • Chairman Monte Shadwick said the Commission responded by increasing the Sheriff’s Office budgets from $5,362,179 in 2012, to $5,420,940 in 2013, to $6,023,477 in 2014, to $6,126,840 in 2015 and $6,825,095 in 2016.
  • Separately, Kochanowski said that this year, as in previous years, the Sheriff’s Office begins its budget process following the direction set by Commissioners. The directive given for 2017 budgets was to base them on 2016 budgets.  However, in June the jail had a record high census—holding 310 inmates.  Kochanowski said the Courts decide who to hold in jail, that he–as Sheriff–does not make those decisions.  He also can’t control the medical needs of the individuals being held.
  • Kochanowski said staff collect “earned income” from serving civil papers and from payments made by inmates for medical care. In 2012, $765,791 in “earned income” was collected; in 2013, $756,041; in 2014, $809,036; in 2015, $766,544.  Deister said this money is put in the general fund; she said of the earned income “they don’t get to spend money because they brought it in”.
  • From June 2015 to May 2016, the Sheriff’s Office billed for $704,388 in medical expenses. The Sheriff’s Office identified a medicaid rate of $142,592 and a savings of $561,796.  Commissioner Luci Larson “sympathized with the Sheriff, who can’t control medical costs”.
  • In 2015, inmates worked 50,713 hours—performing various custodial and food service duties. If billed at the minimum hourly rate, of $7.25/hour, the value of inmate workers was $367,669.
  • In 2015, the cost for housing inmates off-site totaled $811,367. In addition to housing costs, this figure includes both vehicle and officer time needed to transport inmates.
  • Until recently, juvenile detainees were housed in Saline County; the number of juveniles being held at any time has declined from 15-20 to 4-8. Kochanowski encouraged the County to renegotiate its contract with the Junction City facility in recognition of this decline; Commissioner Jim Gile said that the Junction City’s facility rate of $404,000/year has come down; Gile said it cost $700,000/year to operate a juvenile facility through the Saline County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Commissioner Dave Smith asked about Legislative reform on bonding. Kochanowski acknowledged that raising $500-1,000 is prohibitive for some arrestees, so these individuals remain in jail.  Kochanowski suggested that the Committee to Reduce the Jail Population could advance what county officials want the Legislature to address.  The Kansas Association of Counties is taking ideas for legislative issues through the first part of September.

The conversation about the jail was intermixed with plans for the Sheriff’s Office to secure the entrance at the front of its building, at a projected cost of $100,000-150,000.  Commissioner John Price said, “We put off repairing the jail for a while, anticipating maybe a new jail”.  A new system for controlling water use in the jail is being installed in phases; in other facilities, it cut water use (by reducing waste) by 30%.

Open Forum, Public Comment Highlights

Ray Hruska asked the three new Commissioners (Shadwick, Smith and Luci Larson) about whether they donate their Commission salaries to charity.  Shadwick clarified that only he, as a candidate, had said he would do so; when pressed, Shadwick declined to offer specifics.  Hruska said 2015 expanded Commission candidate Randy Duncan had been told by Governor Sam Brownback that any successful Commission appointees would have to accept a reduced salary.  Both Smith and Larson said they had not been asked that question nor were they told that an appointee would need to accept a reduced salary when they interviewed with the Governor.

Karen Shade spoke in favor of paying county employee wages comparable to those earned by workers in other counties, as outlined in the Archer salary survey.  Smith said the Archer survey did not reflect benefits and did not look at what wages re paid locally.

Greg Stephens, K State Polytechnic management professor, responded that the Archer survey did include information from the Chamber of Commerce and the Kansa Wage Rate; Stephens noted that most private businesses do not respond to inquiries made about what wages are paid.  Stephens suggested that the County “has an opportunity to do a little bit better” and noted that the County “gets more” from staff who feel they are treated well.

Stephens asked the Board to consider a full or part-time Health Educator, at the Health Department, because of concerns involving “zika, lead, and sexually transmitted diseases”.

County Commission candidate for District #4 David Nichols spoke in favor of “health education”.  Nichols said he had not heard about stds growing up, but once in the military learned that individuals could take multiple steps to protect themselves.  Nichols suggested a need to educate students and parents.  Gile said he’d learned about stds in school; he concluded “maybe we aren’t educating them like they used to”.  Smith suggested that “abstinence is the only fool proof way” to avoid stds.

Other Board Decisions:

  • Reappointed Rick Beus and Michelle Martin to serve on the Committee to Reduce Jail Population.
  • Approved hiring two positions at Road and Bridge at grade 8, step 4.
  • Approved spending $18,775 to have MTS Construction do masonry block repair on the R&B shop and to have Riley Construction spend $7,000 to replace two doors.
  • Authorized Emergency Management to submit a grant that funds the Deputy Director’s position.
  • Learned specifics of J. Fred Hambright Inc. request to lease the gas/oil rights on property formerly owned by Oliver Hagg. Brandon Rudkin said that average leases in the area pay $10/acre over the course of three years; leases often contain provisions to extend that lease for three additional years, at the same rate.  The Commission wished to hear from its Counselor before taking action.
  • Considered using “leftover tipping fees monies” in excess of $289,000 to do shoulder work on West Water Well Road. County Engineer Neil Cable suggested contracting this out; in the past, Road & Bridge has used a contractor’s equipment. The Commission will seek input from its Counselor.
  • Reviewed bids for replacing eleven reinforced concrete box drainage conveyance structures. Four firms submitted bids; Reece submitted the lowest bid of $626,614.
  • Studied two technology proposals involving the Health Department. One involves backing up the system to an Integrated Solutions Cloud.  The second involves purchasing a new venware host.
  • Studied proposals to install 30 new cameras throughout the jail, at a cost of $38,600.
  • Heard concerns about washboarding on Stimmel Road and requests for more gravel.

There were three executive sessions.  Next week’s meeting of the Committee to Reduce the Jail Population has been postponed, but will be re-scheduled.