Two Appointed to New Economic Organization

Tuesday afternoon, Saline County Commissioners appointed Lloyd Davidson and Cheryl Murray to serve on the newly formed Salina Community Economic Development Organization. Murray is a former corporate attorney who has moved to Saline County to begin ranching. They will join with three individuals selected by the City Commissioners and two from the Salina Airport Authority.

Commissioners also appointed Michelle Martin, Rick Beus, Ken Petty and Garry Jelkem to serve on the Commission’s committee tasked with identifying ways to reduce the jail population. Martin works with Catholic Charities and Beus is an electrician and was formerly with Kansas Weslyan. Both Petty and Jelkem serve as drug court mentors.

These four appointees will join County Attorney Ellen Mitchell and Court Administrator Todd Heitschmidt, Sheriff’s Office representative Brent Melander and Commissioner Dave Smith. The nine member committee will be chaired by Director of Community Corrections Annie Grevas.

Commissioners were pleased to be able to select from nine applicants. Mitchell told County Administrator Rita Deister that her office has seven murder cases that may go to trial in the next four months.
Road and Bridge Discussions

Both Commissioners Jim Gile and John Price said that they had received multiple calls and comments about the condition of county roads, following November’s ice storms. Many of those commenting requested gravel for dirt roads. Road Superintendent Darren Fishel said that gravel was available to use on the roads.

Setting the tone for a discussion about the Commission’s tour of the R&B shop on November 17, Chairman Monte Shadwick said that “there isn’t a lot of interest among the Commission to build a new building” to replace the existing R&B shop.
• Price said the Commission “needs to get things fixed; down the road, they may need a larger bay” and improved “wash area; they may need a barrier against exhaust fumes”.
• Commissioner Luci Larson said that after she first toured the facility, she “thought they may need a new building” but she toured the “sign shop” and spent time with County Engineer Neil Cable, who answered questions. She also learned that a $2.8 million new building might be “priced ultra-conservatively”. She said her first concern was to provide a safe environment and her second concern was that if the work environment were nicer, it might improve staff morale.
• Commissioner Jim Gile said that for many of the R&B staff, the majority of their work time is spent out of the building—maintaining the roads. He agreed that the facility needed to be upgraded.

Multiple concerns with the R&B shop were discussed. There seemed to be agreement that making the entrance and bathrooms ADA compliant was a high priority. They will proceed with getting bids on doors. They will fix electrical issues. There was discussion about relocating parts storage to another building, which R&B Director Gary Nash equated to putting one’s “refrigerator out in a shed”.

Deister said $1.8 million has already been set aside to address shop issues. There was consensus that Price and Gile will work with Nash to develop a list of priorities as well as a sequence for addressing those priorities (to help insure that any work completed would not have to be redone in the near future as additional issues are addressed).

When Commissioners toured the R&B shop in mid-November, they were accompanied by City Fire Marshall Roger Williams and City Building Inspector James Brown. Both submitted written reports. Williams cited 19 deficiencies that Nash said are being addressed. Commissioners echoed the importance of addressing those issues. Questions arose as to why the City had not inspected the shop in recent years. No answer was immediately available, but Nash confirmed the shop is located within City’s limits.

As an additional concern, Nash said that the fuel tanks on the property must be certified by the State Fire Marshall and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The fuel tanks are 30 years old and haven’t been certified. Price said “we’ve been breaking the law for a while”. Nash said he received a “wag” (shorthand for wild guess) on the costs to replace one tank (that would hold 10,000 gallons both of diesel and unleaded fuel) for roughly $49,500 but this did not include concrete work, “ballers” and electrical work. The County will proceed with identifying the full costs.

Additionally, Nash requested the Commission authorize purchase of a pick-up truck to replace a 2003 truck that has multiple problems and that is scheduled for replacement next year. After lengthy discussion, it emerged that the problematic truck is used primarily by Nash. The Board chose not to take action on this matter, at this time.

A second request, to lease a mini excavator for $5,000 for one year, also met with resistance. Several alternatives were suggested and Commissioners asked Nash to collect additional information before they consider the matter further.

In other business:

• Commissioners voted 5-0 to cancel tax warrants (checks) issued over two years ago that have not been cashed by the recipients.
• Commissioners approved a resolution allocating funds to various special parks and recreation programs. All establishments that sell alcohol must remit 10% of sales to the Department of Revenue who then returns this money to the collecting municipality or county for these grants. In 2015, the “gentlemen’s club”, the race track, C&W ranch, and a convenience store in Headville that sells beer sold approximately $750,000 in alcohol in the County. A list of entities receiving grant funds over multiple years can be found at under Commissioner’s agenda for 12/8/2015.
• Commissioners agreed to sign a $3,200, one year lease for a BobCat loader.
• Commissioners approved the disposal of an exercise treadmill from the Sheriff’s Office by offering to sell it on Purple Wave, an internet auction service.
• Commissioners discussed the re-appointment of rural fire department board members with Emergency Management Director Heather Stambaugh. This matter will be brought to the Commission’s Open Forum next week.
• Commissioners went into executive sessions three times, citing non-elected personnel exemptions for roughly 15, 10 and 5 minutes. Commissioners then voted to approve hiring a mechanic at R&B at grade 15, step 4.

In other county news:
• Health Department Director Jason Tiller is quoted in The Atlantic’s December 3rd issue by Naomi Sharp, in her article titled “The Return of Syphilis”. Look for additional coverage on this topic separately. The article can be viewed on The Atlantic’s website at, under their “health” section.
• Saline County residents will need to get new burn permits for 2016. They can do this by going to the county website, and clicking on Emergency Management. Current burn permits will expire on December 31, 2015.
• Last year, Saline County issued 97 building permits. Year-to-date, 90 building permits have been issued, according to Planning and Zoning Director David Neal. In his bi-monthly report, he said K-State will be studying whether passive systems to remove radon in newly built homes is working as intended.
• The next EXPO Center committee meeting is scheduled for January 20th at 6:00 PM. Rick Lamar is working to price out improvements suggested at the earlier meeting. Karl Ryan will replace Jon Blanchard as the City Commission’s representative.

Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News

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