Term Limits Set For Several County Positions

In a 4-1 vote, the Saline County Commission moved to amend county codes to set term limits for the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals. The resolution permits appointees to serve up to two, three-year terms; members would be allowed additional terms after a one-year break in service.

The term limits will first apply to P&Z Commissioners Duane Flaherty and Mike Wilson, who have each served 12 years. David Neal, Director of Planning and Zoning said that interested individuals can complete an “expression of interest” form, on the county’s website. Appointments will likely be considered in January and February, with new appointees being seated in March.

County Commissioner Dave Smith voted against term limits; he prefers that P&Z and BZA appointees be eligible to serve up to three, three-year terms. Commissioner Luci Larson asked how soon the County Commission could revisit the question; Neal said this could be done in a year or less time. Chairman Monte Shadwick said he preferred term limits and disliked having to overturn a decisions made by the Planning Commission (who in a May 4, 2015 vote recommended denying term limit regulations).

County Adopts Emergency Operations Plan

The Commission unanimously adopted an Emergency Operations Plan that replaces one adopted in 2010. The new plan will be in effect for five years. Emergency Management Director Hannah Stambaugh said the plan delineates the responsibilities in each county department as well as with other planning partners to save lives and protect property in the event of a major emergency or disaster.

The “all hazards” plan addresses evacuations; sheltering; post-disaster response and recovery; deployment of resources; communications; and warning systems. The 500+ page plan, that has received preliminary State approval, can be located on the County’s website, under Emergency Management.

Criminal Justice

County Administrator Rita Deister ran quarterly budget reports. All departmental spending was within goals, with two exceptions:
• The Sheriff’s Office and Jail had spent 81.65% of their year-to-date budget (when 75% would be expected). There were also questions about expenses related to the juvenile center.
• The courts had spent 85% of their budget
These reports will be reviewed by individual commissioners.

Smith said two line items in the jail’s budget accounted for the discrepancies: contractual housing and inmate medical costs. Smith added that the Sheriff has no control over either cost. Smith said that in 2014, the County budgeted about half of what has already been spent year-to-date for 2015.

Commissioners Jim Gile and John Price asked for the Commission’s consensus about touring jail facilities in Chase County. The Sheriff will still need to endorse any plan to house any inmates at this facility.

Smith wants to establish a committee on reducing the jail population to reduce recidivism. Initial consensus was that it would be a “stand alone” committee, and would include citizens. Deister will examine whether the recently developed Health Advisory Council by-laws might be applicable. Several individuals have expressed interest in serving.

Smith and Deister were among the 85 residents who attended Wednesday’s TALK Salina public deliberations on criminal justice. All commissioners received copies of the discussion points and summary prepared by organizer Thea Nietfeld.

Smith also attended last Thursday’s presentation on Johnson County Court’s pre-trial release program. Johnson County has moved away from bond to pre-trial supervision. In some cases, rehabilitation and treatment services are started before the actual court date, reducing time that inmates wait in jail. Since the adoption of the pre-trial release program, Johnson County has been able to reduce by 1/3 the number of inmates in its jails. Smith said that if an individual spent three nights in jail, the way the present systems works, the individual will find him/herself without a car, home or family.

Health Advisory Council Terms Set

As outlined in the HAC by-laws, Commissioners drew lots to determine the length of terms for the newly formed Health Advisory Council. Amanda Michaelis and Gwenda Philbrook will first serve a one year term; Glen Engelland and Ron Kramer will serve a two year term; Jacob Hodges, MD and Tom Bell will serve a three year term. The County may re-appoint members to a second, three year term. This action will stagger terms to promote smooth transitions.

Additional Items of Broad Interest to Citizens:

• Salina residents interested in having their homes tested for radon can pick up a free testing kit from the Planning and Zoning office on 300 W Ash. To date, 637 homes have been tested, with 252 tests showing high levels of radon. Additional CARE grant activities have included 97 healthy home inspections and the mitigation of radon concerns in seven homes. At least ten additional homes are seeking mitigation. Neal will pursue extending grant activities, to complete existing efforts and to possibly expand the grant to county residents.
• Those interested in holding a bonfire are encouraged to get a free permit by contacting Emergency Management. EM officials will contact the appropriate rural fire department. Tires, telephone poles and railroad ties may not be burned. The permit is good for 24 hours and can only be used if wind speeds are under 15 miles per hour. A bonfire permit is not necessary if the fire is used for cooking or ceremonial purposes.

Miscellaneous Matters

• The Commission briefly discussed copy and research fees.
• The Commission will begin its meetings routinely at 8:30 AM, unless the Building Authority meets that morning.
• Two individuals have come forward, expressing interest in serving on the EXPO committee.
• The Commission will not join with Johnson County on their mandamus action involving property valuation statutes.
• Both the Commission and individual commissioners, along with several staff in the Sheriff’s Office, and all lawyers who are members of the county bar were served notice that Robinson A Smith, aka John Roudybush, is suing them for $1 billion; the action primarily regards a criminal case.
• One trucker told Shadwick that he is glad the County randomly checks to see if trucks observe weight limits as it gave the trucker some leverage for declining loads that exceed limits. Some commissioners expressed interest in having legislators pursue fining elevators that load or accept overweight loads, as well as fining the truckers who haul them, as is done in Missouri.

Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News

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