Planning for events past, present and future drew a lot of focus at Monday's Harvey County Commission meeting, starting with work planned by the Road and Bridge department.

The Right (of) Way

Having been made aware of work needing to be done to a bridge on SW 84th Street (just west of Ridge Road), another issue was brought to the commission's attention regarding that area from Raymond Bretton of Alpha Land Surveys.

Bretton started a boundary survey for McGinn Land Company a year ago (in order to try and swap out some land on adjacent properties) and soon became aware of issues with the road right-of-way in that area.

From what Bretton found, the road was opened in 1877. Less than a year later, 23 petitioners came forward to the county requesting that a portion of the road be vacated. From other documents found, the portion in question is just north of the current road west of SW 84th Street and Ridge Road.

According to Bretton, nobody really knows if the road is open and there is no good evidence to prove that. In order to resolve and finalize the company's boundary survey (and so the county can maintain the ditches and bridges), Bretton requested the commission approve a drawing with an amended centerline and right-of-way — surveyed by the company —reflecting the road as it exists currently and allowing it to officially be reopened. The commission approved the drawing upon counsel review, to be filed (and recorded), with the township also to be notified.

The commission also addressed the Hot in Place Recycle and Hot Mix Asphalt maintenance plans for 2017, with the intent to address major stretches of Burmac and Ridge roads this year. The commission approved the plan, allowing the bidding process to commence.

Putting out Fires

While no fires stretched to Harvey County, local personnel from multiple departments were called on to assist with the situation in nearby Reno County. Recently hired special projects coordinator Brian Ellis was loaned to Hutchinson, helping coordinate airdrops and working as a safety officer, while former coordinator and current assistant county administrator Dan Bronson was in Clark County. There, 76 percent of the county burned up. While there was one lone human casualty, 34 structures were burned and several head of cattle were lost.

"It's one thing to have your house burn up, but when you lose your livelihood it's about as bad as it gets," Bronson said.

Gratitude was passed on from commissioners to personnel who were loaned out to help neighboring counties and Emergency Management Director Gary Denny noted a good deal of aid is coming from the government, too, with seven Fire Management Assistance grants currently in play around the state. He noted fires are now mostly contained and areas affected are into the recovery process.

Locally, the only issue to address was the burn ban that was put in place last week and expired at midnight on Tuesday. Talking with all of the local fire chiefs, the majority were in favor of lifting the ban. With the threat of grassland fires moderate for most of the week, and the regulations (no burns if winds above 15 mph, grassland fire index is very high/extreme, etc.) the county has in place, Denny also recommended lifting the ban. The commission came to a consensus to end the ban.

"We still have that safety net to fall back on if things change drastically," Denny said.

Hitting the Road

After a previous opportunity fell through, Communications Director Don Gruver brought forward a new option for an operations vehicle for 911.

Gruver was alerted to the potential vehicle through the Friends of Harvey County Emergency Response Team. The vehicle was formerly used as a shuttle bus in Miami, Florida, has 200 inches by 90 inches of interior room and is in good working condition.

Noting it could still be used for ERT purposes, Gruver suggested buying the vehicle from the ERT (for the investment cost of $6,000) and making any necessary upgrades, with $36,000 laid out for a vehicle purchase in the capital improvement plan. The commission gave Gruver the green light to proceed with the purchase.

In other business, the county commission:

Heard a couple of issues brought forward to commissioner Chip Westfall about restrictions keeping the city of Walton from checking on part of a fire lane north of Harvey County East Park, as well as inquiries from citizens in Halstead about a potential energy company looking to put up solar panels in the area.
Noted the ongoing conversation to provide emergency medical services in Sedgwick, with the city working out its financial situation to come up with a long-term plan. The county will continue to remain in contract through the process.
Was informed of a resolution for emergency preparedness and collaboration passed by the City of Newton recently, with county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber noting he will bring a variation of that resolution (recommended for all county communities) to the commission next week.
Learned that the budgeting process has started with department heads, with Swartzendruber noting personnel have been asked to keep operating expenditures flat (due to the impending tax lid), though supplemental requests will be accepted.
Approved the application process for the Health Department to pursue two grant opportunities, one through Blue Cross Blue Shield (for three years and up to $100,000) and one through the Kansas Health Foundation (for three and a half years and up to $262,500), both falling in line with some of the current health assessment goals (i.e. healthy living). It was noted neither are matching grants, but if approved it would required the addition of at least one full-time staff member (funded through the grants). Health Department Director Lynnette Redington also noted talks are ongoing with Mirror Inc. about a drug free coalition.
Was informed of one tax foreclosure sale that may require an auction, something that county counselor Greg Nye has discussed with the necessary parties. Next steps included clearing the dates and running notices of sale.
Heard from Randy Pugh during a citizen's forum about continued issues with flood plain zoning on his property. The commission recommended talking with Tom Morey, National Flood Insurance Program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources, to try and sort things out.
Received the annual township reports from county clerk Rick Piepho to make sure there are no outstanding balances (with a variety of operations from township to township). The commission accepted the township report and authorized the commission chair to sign.