Saline County Syphilis Outbreak

Saline County Commissioners, among other things Tuesday, were briefed on a sexual transmitted disease outbreak.

Jason Tiller, Health Department Coordinator briefed County Commissioners on an outbreak of syphilis in Saline County. There have been ten, lab-confirmed cases in Saline County in the past 75 days. Syphilis is a bacterial disease spread through sexual contact—oral, anal and vaginal. Symptoms include a painless or uncomfortable sore or body rash that may not itch.

Those who have questions can either contact the Health Department at 785-826-6602 or go to the Center for Disease Control’s website and get their fact sheet at:

If someone believes they may have been exposed, the Health Department will take a sexual history and may take a blood sample. A State lab will process the sample at no cost to the individual. The Health Department can provide appropriate treatment.

Repair, Remodel or Build Road and Bridge’s Shop?

Newly hired Road and Bridge Director Gary Nash came to the Commission with a proposal to build a new shop. From the start, Commissioner John Price questioned why the County would do a remodel. “No one has come in and said we need to do this” said Price. Nash replied that he had been led to believe the County had reserved $1.6 million to remodel the facility.

Price then asked Nash to elaborate on the “chain of command”. Nash identified Rita Deister, County Administrator and then the County Commission. Price said that the “tax payers are at the top”; he added “maybe we should let the tax payers make the decision”.

When asked how long the Commission has been dealing with this issue, County Engineer Neil Cable answered “ten years”. Price said “I’m done dealing with this”. Nash replied that whether the existing shop was remodeled or fixed, it would not solve key issues—such as bays that were built for smaller equipment; the shop does not have the ceiling height needed to perform some repairs and wash-out activities. If a certain amount of work is done on the building, it will need to be brought up to code, be made ADA compliant, and have a fire suppression system (sprinklers) added.

Price said he’d spoken to individuals who aren’t in favor of spending money on a new building. Shadwick said he agreed that the public should decide this.

In a budget proposal, Nash estimated that $2,125,000 would be needed for the facility, and $335,000 for utilities. After this sub-total, Nash estimated an additional $200,000 (roughly 10%) would be needed for incidentals, bringing the total cost to $2,660,000. According to the proposal, the County has set aside $1,838,000 in current funds, leaving $822,000 that would still need to be devoted to Nash’s plan. The proposal closed with “we would respectfully request a budget of $2,660,000 to build a new R&B facility capable of meeting the needs of Saline County.”

The proposal contained few details about the proposed 26,575 square foot facility. An office area of 100’ x 100’ would provide 10,000 square feet (and would allow the County Engineer and traffic control to be located there). The proposed shop would be 195’ x 85’ or 16,575 square feet. It would consist of 5 bays—4 for servicing vehicles and 1 for washing out vehicles. Two of the bays would be drive through. It would include an overhead crane, welding cave and tornado shelter.

Nash said he asked an individual to help him determine the size and costs of his proposal, saying R&B needs a metal, functional building.

While still on the topic of R&B’s shop, Price spoke about how he found boxes of apples, cookies, chips “with a use before September 1 date”, and related supplies besides a dumpster, in proximity to a National Guard facility. Price commented that the “government wastes so much money; Gospel Mission was right there.”

Discussion followed about how to put this on the ballot; November 2016 is most likely. Plans for an Open House in April or May were briefly discussed. Shadwick said he wanted to see the structure again, on his own. Commissioner Jim Gile was absent for this meeting.

Home Occupations

Planning and Zoning Director David Neal briefed Commissioners on home occupations, suggesting the present code might benefit from clarifications. The Planning and Zoning Commission will hear a complaint on December 7th. Neighbors have complained that a mechanic is operating in a large metal building; they said the original building permit stipulated the building would be used for storage. If the individual files for a conditional use permit, neighbors will be notified and will have an opportunity to provide feedback that will included in the hearing.

Neal said that he first considers whether a business is operating legally. In the existing code, a “home occupation” can have no outside employees. “Family” is exempt and farms are considered “agriculture”. Over thirty minutes was spent on this discussion.

EXPO Center Committee

Commissioners were asked to identify one name and an alternate that they wish to have fill one or two vacancies on the EXPO Center committee. These names are to be submitted to Chairman Shadwick. Individuals who expressed interest in serving include: Roger Pernod, Duane Flaherty, Claude Lecklider, Greg Jones, Heather Franklin, Greg Stephens, Carolyn Schaeffer and Barbara Young.

Deister indicated that Commissioners had generally agreed that Rick Lamer, Director will represent Expo Center staff. Jim Gile will represent the Commission. Jane Anderson will represent the Friends of the River. Joe Hay Jr will represent the county. Chris Rost with represent TriRivers Fair Board. Carl Garten will represent K-State Extension.

Creation of a Committee for Reducing Jail Populations Committee

In a 4-0 vote, Commissioners approved resolution 15-2177 to create a committee to reduce jail populations. At last week’s meeting, Deister provided copies of proposed by-laws to Commissioners, but citizens were not permitted to comment. Karen Shade identified multiple concerns in an e-mail that was sent to all five Commissioners but only Smith said he received. Commissioner Luci Larson moved to accept the by-laws as drafted by Deister, amending that membership of the committee could include, “but is not limited to” and added law enforcement as one of many categories that might serve on the committee. Motion carried 4-0. Commissioners rejected Shade’s request that the public be allowed to comment at committee meetings; as written, the by-laws permit the public to attend these meetings.

Department Updates

The Commission’s agenda (located at contains details on all three department reports.

Shadwick asked Community Corrections Director Annie Grevas what the biggest challenge is for Community Corrections. She replied “getting offenders to want better”. Staff have to work with offenders to build self-esteem, before they can address other issues. Questioned further, she said the “threat of jail is nothing” for many offenders.

Jason Tiller returned for the Open Forum. The Community Flu Clinic, held at the 4-H Building, resulted in 465 vaccines being given. In a state audit, the WIC staff’s methods for collecting essential data was commended and will be used to train WIC personnel across the state. The Health Advisory Council will next meet on November 10, at 4:00 pm at the Health Department’s conference room.

Commissioner Dave Smith asked Human Resources Director Marilyn Leamer for updates on both performance-based pay and employee wellness. She was also asked if/when the $1,000 salary increase would take effect. She replied January 1. After some questions, County Clerk Don Merriman confirmed that the amount had been approved in the budget. Price commented that “employees are happy about it”. The Commission also agreed to provide three “day off” incentives to employees who make either a one-time or continuing donation to the United Way campaign. While the Health Department has a “hiring freeze”, Commissioners gave their approval to filing a position vacancy of the home health coordinator.

Miscellaneous Items

• Commissioners approved starting a new Correctional Services Officer at level 16, step 2. It later emerged that this candidate had already completed required training.
• Commissioners approved a memorandum of agreement with Clinical Associates, to be the primary provider evaluating and treating sexual offenders.
• Commissioners went into three (technically four) executive sessions.
• “Presiding” chairman, John Price signed paperwork to meet Heartland Health’s “match” requirements. Chairman Shadwick was absent from the afternoon session.

Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News