Rural FD Awarded $102,000 Grant

Persistent grant writing has paid off for David Turner, Chief of Rural Fire Department #5.  His sixth grant application, to replace air tanks that fire fighters wear, has been funded.

A division of Homeland Security will pick up 95% of the costs of purchasing self-contained breathing apparatuses while RFD#5 will pick up 5% of the costs.  DHS will provide $102,852 in funding, with $5,142 to be raised locally.  The Saline County Commission voted to accept the grant and to permit RFD#5 to tie into bid pricing from another RFD’s SCBA purchase earlier this year.

Community Corrections Advisory Board Members Needed

With three vacancies on the Community Corrections Advisory Board, the Commission is asking individuals who are interested in serving on this board to complete an “expression of interest form”.  This can be found on he county’s website at  Applications should be returned promptly as the Commission hopes to fill the vacancies in two weeks.  Because of public interest, the expression of interest forms need to be received a few days prior to September 9th, which is when the agenda packet is typically distributed.

The advisory board consists of at least 22 members.  Some members are appointed by position and represent judges, the County Attorney, defenders and law enforcement.  Other board members consist of interested residents of Salina, as well as Saline and Ottawa County.  The advisory board meets every other month.

Community Corrections Director Annie Grevas said she is especially interested in encouraging minorities and women to serve on the board.  She asked that applicants care about offenders, be willing to become knowledgeable about community corrections, and be willing to participate in reviewing budgets and grants.

In her bi-monthly Community Corrections update, Grevas said the SIRJ program, that is Salina’s from of restorative justice, is having a positive impact among juveniles.  Grevas said that SURGE might soon serve adults.  Commissioners asked that Grevas promote the program within the court.

Language to Address Septic Tank Replacements Rejected

In a 3-2 vote, Commissioners Dave Smith, John Price and Jim Gile voted to reject language in a draft policy intended to address when home owners must upgrade to a larger septic system when they put their homes on the market.  The Commission decided to further work on language in the draft policy.  Commissioners Monte Shadwick and Luci Larson voted to accept the draft language.

Months ago, Smith said homeowners have been required to install a larger septic system, when the septic system was inspected and found to be functional–but was deemed to be inadequate in size.  Adequacy is assessed by counting the number of bedrooms and the presence of a garbage disposal to determine septic tank size.  Over time, some homeowners remodeled the downstairs or added closets to a den, thereby creating additional bedrooms.  When county sanitarians inspect the system, they have on occasion found the existing system to be functioning but not adequate in size.  Home owners have then had to install a larger system, when they are about to sell their home—regardless of whether the potential residents represent additional occupancy.

Under instruction from the Commissioners, Director of Planning and Zoning David Neal drafted a policy that he said is intended to grandfather in tanks that are found to be functioning but undersized during real estate inspections.  Under the draft language, the system had to be adequate in size according to standards used at the time of construction, there could be no change in occupancy, and the system had to be functioning properly.

In last week’s study session, Commissioners suggested that the draft policy be amended to include wording that “no substantial crack” could be present in the system, as this would affect whether the system was water tight.

Smith said, “Neal didn’t want to change anything” in writing the draft policy.  Addressing his comment to Neal, Smith said, “I don’t think anything has changed and this is what you wanted.”

Update on Elevated Blood Levels

In his bi-monthly update, Health Department Director Jason Tiller said that of the 300 blood samples drawn in a mass blood screening in late June, one child and one adult had blood that met guidelines for elevated lead levels.  The child had been previously identified as having elevated lead levels.

Tiller said that the State has sent reports to those families where State workers visited homes and attempted to identify the sources of the lead.  A comprehensive report for the community is expected in September.

Home Health

Prefacing the start of what the agenda said would be a “home health care discussion”, Shadwick announced that no votes would be taken as a result of what was a 45 minute discussion.  Some have questioned if the county should provide home health and home care services, given that there are other providers in the community.  During the study session, Gile noted that “a lot of counties don’t do home health care”.

Tiller defined terms, distinguished between licensing and accreditation, and provided multiple statistics that can be reviewed at, under the tab for County Commission, under agenda.

Debra Blomquist manages Accessible Home Care.  She began her business in 2008 in Salina and now has 230 employees who provide home health and home care services across the state.  She noted that her staff perform significant charitable care, as do her colleagues, while still earning a profit.

The county’s home health agency operated last year at a $67,948 loss.  Some of the loss reflected changes in when reimbursement is counted as income, given that the County and the then Salina-Saline County Health Department used different accounting practices.  In the past year, with improvements in the billing process, the agency has been able to reduce loss even further.

Donna Roe said that the county agency accepts forms of insurance that other providers decline.  She noted that the agency’s staff had been long serving and had developed their patients’ trust.  She advocated that the agency’s home health program should continue.

During the study session, Price commented on the weight of responsibilities on Tiller, in both preparing information for this discussion, as well as from the Board’s prior decision to place the Health Department under a hiring freeze.  Recently, the Home Health Coordinator resigned and the Board has yet to decide to permanently fill that position.

In Other Matters

  • Tiller said that the Health Department’s annual flu clinic will be on October 5, in the 4-H building.  Those who choose to get out of their cars to get their shots will also have the opportunity to participate in a health fair.  Otherwise, individuals can get their flu shots while they remain in their vehicles.
  • County Administrator Rita Deister said that she’d attended meetings last week where she learned that Schwann’s is restructuring to become more employee friendly.  Reportedly, the firm is planning to spend $20 million to update equipment at its Salina plant.
  • The Commission voted to place potentially two newly hired truck drivers at grade 8, step 4 of the county’s pay scale.  As a result, they will earn $14.09/hour at step 4; otherwise, the starting wage would be $11.99/hour.
  • There were two executive sessions; there was also a 35 minute lull in the presentation of agenda topics.
  • The County Commission will meet next, on September 6th, at 9:30 AM.  For the past few weeks, there has been gaps in the agenda, as discussions on scheduled topics have been completed.