As election season draws closer, a new potential issue was brought before the Harvey County Commission at its meeting on Monday, with county clerk Rick Piepho making the governing body aware of elected positions that may become open relating to authority over the Little Arkansas River.
"There's potentially some issues coming down the pipe for the Little Arkansas River Drainage District," Piepho said, "I'm just making you aware of something."
Following an amendment to state statutes following the election two years ago, drainage district board members are set to be put on the ballot again this year. The filing deadline is Sept. 1 and, currently, Piepho noted none of the current members (Mike Creach, Phil Schmitt and Grant Williams) have filed or shown such an intent — raising the question of what will happen if they do not run for re-election.
Piepho informed the commissioners that if no one runs and there are no write-in candidates, then the current board members would technically have to maintain their positions. If they choose not to, the commission questioned if the drainage district would dissolve and who would have authority to work on the local river channel if that were the case.
Questions about appointments by the commissioner were also brought up, with Piepho noting that any potential board members must live in the drainage district (near Halstead) or own land there, while he also said he is continuing to look into the issue and how to move forward if no one files before the deadline.
In other business, the county commission:
Was notified of a recent meeting with Homeland Security that directed county departments to some other avenues to pursue funding for the drug task force.
Addressed potential risks regarding tall crops close to the road and suggested circulating information recently received from the Kansas Department of Transportation on right-of-way related to that specific issue.
Discussed the recent notification of changes to the The Newton Kansan's publishing schedule and how that may affect legal notices, though county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber said he doesn't expect it to cause much concern. Departments will be notified of the change, which will begin Sept. 10.
Heard the results of a South Central Kansas Economic Development audit that took place in July, with nothing overly concerning to report, though Swartzendruber did note that there was a request to do more with the Economic Development Council to promote small businesses that are eligible for microloans.
Was notified of the upcoming planning forum for the next quad county meeting, which will be hosted at the Sedgwick County Zoo on Sept. 11.
Learned of ongoing efforts of the Emergency Management Department to spread information learned from the active shooter situation that took place in Harvey County last year. Director Gary Denny will be making four more presentations (in Independence and Manhattan) this week.
Received notice that registration is still needed for the Kansas Association of Counties Conference Nov. 4 in Overland Park, with commissioners Chip Westfall and Randy Hague planning to attend.
Was informed that county public information officer Kyle McCaskey had been requested to assist the Newton Police Department during the double homicide last week, with the county glad to be able to partner and assist local departments in such scenarios.
Heard a recommendation from Road and Bridge superintendent Jim Meier proposing to contract with Reece Construction (the lowest bidder) on the RCB contract brought before the commission last week. Upon closer analysis, Meier also suggested dropping work on alternate two, as the first alternate with the project is a more pressing need for the department (and given it is already going over the allotment). The commission approved the RCB replacement program to address four total bridges at a cost of $337,114, authorizing administration to sign. Meier noted that Reece notified him the project should be ready to start in November, while the department is getting ready for Hot-in-Place Recycling starting next week and the Ultra-thin Bonded Asphalt Surface project set to start in the second week of September.
Learned of a couple resolutions regarding road closures/changes that county counselor Greg Nye is preparing to bring before the commission in order to facilitate the next steps leading up to public hearings at future meetings.
Received a bid for a boom mower for the Road and Bridge Department from Murphy Tractor totaling $28,085. It was the only bid received and Meier noted he would work with Director of Finance Dan Bronson to confirm room in the budget before reporting back to the commission next week.