With 280 bridges to maintain, the Harvey County Road and Bridge Department has its hands full deciding what projects to take on each year. Of course, when a report from the Kansas Department of Transportation deems that a bridge should no longer be in operation, it's quite easy for it to become a focal point.
Such was the case for a bridge in rural Sedgwick, at the intersection of SW 84th Street and Emma Creek Road, that had been rated unable to carry even zero ton loads, which led to a temporary closure. While that string of events opened the door for a potential permanent closure of the bridge, the road and bridge department worked out a plan that was approved by the county commission to take on repairs for that structure. For that, local resident Frank Harper came before the commission on Monday during the citizen's forum to pass on some gratitude.
"I just want to express my appreciation to the commission for taking on the repairs on the 84th and Emma Creek Bridge. That's a huge thoroughfare for our farming operation there. Even though it's not a heavyweight bridge, it allows us to move back and forth in the area," Harper said. "Bridges are our lifeline, and there's a lot of them in Harvey County. I know you guys have a lot of people with a lot of needs, and I just appreciate that was one you addressed."
Even though Sedgwick is close by, Harper noted the lack of bridges in the area make it a challenge to transport goods back and forth, which is why the work on the structure on SW 84th Street meant so much (as he noted it was sorely missed while out). Harper is also aware that a long-term decision to maintain that bridge will need to be addressed in the future, but he was happy the commission and road and bridge department came together to keep it open for the time being.
Commissioner Randy Hague noted the governing body is currently working with the department and MKEC Engineering on a new evaluation model designed to get a better idea of what structures need attention. The bridge at SW 84th Street will get put on the schedule like the rest, with MKEC Engineering already heavily involved in efforts that led to that structure being addressed this year.
"We're lucky that the engineers could design a project that our in-house crew could do," said commissioner Chip Westfall.
In other business, the county commission:
Was notified of an increase (about $2,000) of the threshold the county will need to meet in order to receive FEMA funds in emergency situations.
Approved the recommendation of Dana Shifflett to serve on the Central Kansas Regional Solid Waste Authority for an initial three-year term, waiving second reading.
Received and reviewed a copy of the questionnaire filled out by the county for KCAMP coverage renewal, the last step before the form can be submitted. This is the last year of the county's current agreement.
Heard a report from Silver-Haired Legislature representative Wayne Valentine, who attended the state session last week. Valentine noted all the items brought forth from regional meetings (including the repeal of the tax lid) were approved for the organization's lobbyist to act on in the upcoming legislative session.
Learned of ongoing training efforts through the Emergency Management Department. Director Gary Denny noted that several issues were addressed among the Local Emergency Planning committee last week, the public information officer's working group will be convening again this week and multiple tabletop exercises on active shooter situations are planned in the coming weeks — with those in education (Oct. 23) and government (Nov. 1). Other trainings on the county's new active shooter policy are being set up, which County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber noted were well received at last week's inservice.
Was informed that Safe Hope will be sponsoring the chamber breakfast this week and giving a presentation. Director Jan Jones also invited the commission to Safe Hope's open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 to share about future plans for the facility at 316 Oak St.
Received notification from county clerk Rick Piepho that voter registration ends Tuesday, with the county clerk offices closing at 7 p.m. and online registration closing at midnight. Early voting will then begin Oct. 24.
Approved a revision (mainly cleaning up language and clarifying the mission) of the Harvey County RSVP Advisory Council's bylaws, which had already been reviewed by council members and county counsel.