Weekend Storm Costs County $20,000+

The weekend winter weather  proved costly for Saline County. County Road and Bridge Director Gary Nash told County Commissioners Tuesday that the snow, ice and rain that fell over the Thanksgiving weekend meant that some staff worked the weekend, earned 240 hours of overtime, and used 378 tons of salt and 504 gallons of diesel fuel. He estimated the total cost of maintaining the county’s roads at $20,000+ and compared this to the $61,000 cost reported for Barton County.

Environmental Codes Discussion

Commissioners spent 45 minutes discussing environmental codes intended to keep “waste out of the water supply”. Planning and Zoning Director David Neal explained that the County inspects septic systems when it is alerted that a house is on the market. The present owners pay a $250 permit fee and then must have their septic system pumped before it can be inspected. A failing/failed system can result in either installation of a new septic system or a new leach field, which can cost $10,000 or more.

Currently, sanitarians inspect 1-2% of the county’s 3,000 septic tanks per year. According to Neal, more than half fail and are undersized. He said typically, the septic tanks themselves fail and it has been 30-40 years since they were installed. The average life of a septic tank is 20 years, but can vary based on household size and quality of the concrete used.

Neal said the sanitary codes don’t affect the city; Kansas Department of Health and Environment does these inspections. Currently, Ellsworth County also requires a septic tank inspection before a house is sold, but Ottawa and Lincoln Counties do not.

Commissioner Dave Smith voiced concerns that if two individuals live in a four bedroom house, the septic system might be judged to be “too small” because the system must have the capacity to deal with the waste generated by eight household members—when only two live there full-time. Commissioner John Price advocated for ”let’s not make this too complicated” noting that these kinds of inspection practices influence where people choose to build and live. Chairman Monte Shadwick wanted to make sure that what “triggered” an inspection was appropriate. There was discussion about grandfathering in existing systems. Neal closed with the comment that he is in the role of protecting the public.

Committee to Reduce Jail Population

Commissioners reviewed “expression of interest forms” submitted to date to serve on a committee tasked with reducing the population in the jail. Those seeking to serve on the committee include: Michael Trow, Jim Vint, Danielle Brown, Rick Bues, Brian Kinnard, and Cheryl Murray. Chairman Shadwick said he hoped the County attorney, or a member of her staff, would agree to serve, as well as a judge. Commissioner Luci Larson said Justice Jerome Hellmer, though retired, occasionally serves on the bench and might be an ideal candidate. There was consensus that Smith would represent the Commission. Brent Melander will represent the Sheriff’s Office; Director of Community Corrections, Annie Grevas, will serve as chair. Grevas is asked to supply the names of at least two individuals who have been jailed and have gone on to become productive citizens, in the hopes that at least one will agree to serve on the committee.

Chairman Shadwick said he’d like to see ten or more additional people submit “expression of interest forms” to Rita Deister, County Administrator, by next Friday. Commissioners will then make their decision as to who will serve. There was discussion about how frequently the committee will meet. Most want to see this committee meeting at least monthly by the start of the year.

Cancellation of Warrants

Next week, the Commission will likely take action to cancel warrants that have not been redeemed in two or more years. This is a way of cleaning up recordkeeping. A public notice must be printed in the paper identifying which warrants will be cancelled. According to County Counselor, Mike Montoya, should an entity find that they have not been paid, and a warrant has been cancelled, they can then ask that the check be reissued.

Actions Taken

Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve a work agreement for Sheriff’s Office employees. Smith voted “no” because the agreement is scheduled to last one year; he hopes to see performance pay adopted before then.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to sign Amendment #7 with CBM Managed Services, to extend its operation of the jail’s food service for another year. The price of meals is based on census, and will increase by 3.1%, the change in the Consumer Price Index’s food eaten away from home.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to sign a service agreement between WELK, LKA Inc. and the Health Department to participate in a Baby and Me, Tobacco Free project designed to reduce the number of mothers or their partners who smoke three months prior to the start of their pregnancy. The county also agreed to accept a $5,000 grant for diapers, to serve as a reward for mothers and partners who successfully reduce tobacco consumption. Price voted against signing the service agreement, saying “March of Dimes supports abortion”.

Parliamentary Procedure Training

Montoya presented the basics of Roberts Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure to all Commissioners, select department heads, members of the Planning and Zoning Board, and the public.
In seventy-five minutes, he covered the basics of determining when each motion is in order.

Commissioners were reminded that there is no Federal or State statute requiring that there be an agenda, but in order to allow the public to “not feel cheated in seeing what is going on”, it is often helpful to have an agenda and then to stay within its bounds. Given that the County’s agenda stipulates that “any item can be discussed at any time”, it indicates that the “rules” can be suspended at any time.

Montoya said to those assembled “you folks do a good job; to a great degree, you follow what needs to be followed.”

When it came to debating motions, Montoya said it is customary that the person who makes a motion (that is subsequently seconded) to begin speaking about why s/he favors the motion. Then, someone who opposes the motion speaks and the process alternates until all Commissioners have spoken, perhaps twice on the issue.

When pressed to define the order of a meeting, following the “flag salute and moment of silence”, Montoya said it was typical to do a roll call, adoption of the agenda, and then approval of the previous meeting’s minutes.

If things “get out of hand”, it is the responsibility of the chair to deal with the matter. Only the individual can determine if they have a “conflicting interest” on a matter to be discussed. According to Montoya, they should announce that conflict, then leave the table and sit in the audience while the matter is being discussed; they are not to contribute to that discussion.

Commissioners met from 8:30 AM – 12:20 PM and from 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM. There was one executive session lasting for 25 minutes. Commissioner Price was not physically present but did listen to the meeting by speaker phone.

Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News

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