The Harvey County Commission had some special guests on hand for its meeting Monday, as representatives from Westar Energy appeared before the governing body to make a request for construction of a new electric substation in Burrton (northwest of the intersection of Wheat State Road and U.S. Highway 50).
Planning and Zoning Director Gina Bell noted there were a couple of issues raised by neighbors, with residents at the intersection of Wheat State Road and Highway 50 worried about an increased risk of lightning to their property, while a nearby farmer wanted assurances that Westar would have appropriate drainage on its property so as not to impact his farm land.
Westar engineer Katie Walbridge stated that the company is working with the Kansas Department of Transportation to get approval to direct drainage to the ditches along Highway 50. If that is not cleared, Walbridge noted there are plans in place to build retention ponds on the site (as the substation will take up only five acres of the 17-acre property). Given the minimal issues, Bell recommended the commission approve a conditional use permit for the construction of the substation.
"This will assist Burrton and the surrounding areas to have more stable service," Bell said.
"It's going be great for reliability to the city of Burrton. This is going to increase reliability and quality of service," Walbridge said. "Right now, we can't serve the people in Burrton the way they need to be served."
At times, it was noted, the local gas station does not have power. On top of providing a more consistent output locally, the substation would tie directly to Halstead and Hutchinson and help those communities (as well as rural areas in between) if work needed to be done due to storm outages.
Commissioner Chip Westfall brought up issues the community faced last year during the wildfire, particularly in regards to not being able to isolate Burrton on the electric grid, but Walbridge noted the new substation should allow Westar to isolate those lines to provide power in another such occurrence.
Questions regarding that isolation and the exact number of customers in Burrton remained, but Westar representatives noted they would get clarity for the commission, which did vote unanimously to approve the conditional use permit for the substation.
"I know the industries in Burrton will be glad to have more reliable power," Westfall said.
Work is scheduled to begin this fall and be complete by either the summer or winter of 2019 — Walbridge said it is usually an 18-month process (with a planned merger only possibly affecting work by moving the completion date to the latter half of those projections) — and will eliminate the need for the current, smaller station in Burrton.
In other business, the county commission:
Received a request from the Kansas Association of Counties to submit any items to be considered for the 2018 legislative agenda by Aug. 25.
Was notified of a REAP leadership summit that will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 31 on the Wichita State University campus.
Adopted resolution 2017-13 for the sale of surplus equipment, including a camper currently held by the Harvey County Sheriff's Office and the legacy VHF portable radios (no longer utilized on the 800MHZ radio system).
Approved the appointment of Craig Simons to the Central Kansas Regional Solid Waste Authority, waiving second reading.
Learned of ongoing economic development in the county, including reports on contracts being pursued through AVI for its facility at the Newton City/County Airport. A potential adjustment to the budget was also discussed given the Sedgwick City Council's recent vote to longer participate in the cooperative agreement, but patience was urged in regards to resolving that particular issue.
Heard a report on HopeFest, held this weekend at the Newton Activities Center. Health Director Lynnette Redington said there were more than 200 in attendance and 30 exhibitors present, including new ones like Prairie Land Independent Living and Newton Fire/EMS fall prevention.
Received a preview of the ballot for the upcoming election and how the Camp Hawk issue would be presented on it.
Heard a report on financials for the 2017 second quarter from assistant county administrator Dan Bronson.
Accepted four proposals received from Sydaptic Inc., Stanley Convergent Security Solutions Inc., Cornerstone Detention and KUBL Group for replacement of the master panel control system at the Harvey County Detention Center, allowing for staff to review and come back with a recommendation at a later meeting.