Following the clear message sent by voters of Harvey County on election night, the future of Camp Hawk was immediately addressed by the county commission at its regular meeting on Monday. In particular, the governing body had to review several short-term maintenance items that had been tabled while the resolution of sale regarding the county park was being put to a public vote.
Items brought forward by County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber, after discussion with Parks Department staff, included repair of the dam overflow tube, installation of a new fishing dock, upgrades for the park shelter (i.e. door replacement, storm windows, new water heater, etc.), replacement of the gazebo/covered picnic area and more.
"Combined, we believe that all this can be completed for less than $31,000," Swartzendruber said. "From a funding perspective, if there's any remaining budget authority left in the Parks budget, that would work."
Most of the work — with the exception of dam repairs — is expected to be handled by Parks staff and something employees want to make a priority during the winter months before the parks reopen for the season.
While the immediacy of the repairs listed on Monday was stressed, it was also noted that the commission will need to take a look at the big picture items that would further enhance or improve the park for a larger population of Harvey County residents in the near future.
Swartzendruber noted many of those items, which could include measures like fully repairing the dam, refilling the lake at Camp Hawk and restocking it with fish, will be vetted by Parks staff, the advisory board and citizen feedback — though any larger scale enhancements may hinge on what becomes of the residence (the former home of the Parks Director) on site.
"There's a number of ideas for improvements that can be made to that park, but we would need to eliminate the house and have additional space there for those projects," Swartzendruber said.
Removing the house would also allow for the installation of camper pads, as Parks Director Kass Miller pointed out, leading commissioner Randy Hague to question if that should also be an issue addressed immediately — rather than spending any money on maintenance of that structure in the interim.
"I think the voters overwhelmingly spoke that they're for us spending money on the parks system," Hague said. "That being said, I'm ready to go forward with this."
Fellow commissioners shared Hague's sentiment about moving forward with renovations to Camp Hawk and how the park residence figures into future plans.
Along with any decision on the house, the idea of a fee structure is something that administration noted will need to be addressed further down the road as well. Given the charges for shelters houses and other uses of the county parks, as well as fees recently being doubled in national parks, commissioner Chip Westfall was in favor of that idea being revisited — a sentiment with which parks advisory board member Brittany Welch agreed.
Getting the advisory board involved is something commissioners stated was key on multiple enhancements. While the big picture remains a focus, Assistant County Administrator Dan Bronson said there has to be at least a little amount of expediency as well — namely so the next measures can potentially be addressed in the 2019 budgeting process.
Plenty of projects remain for the county to take on, some (like recreation fees and utilities) in regards to all county parks and keeping in line with surrounding facilities, but the renewed focus on Camp Hawk following the recent vote is something Miller believes will be a crowdpleaser — even for those who voted in favor of the sale — in the long run.
"It's going to be so nice when we're done with it," Miller said, "they're going to be happy we kept it."
In other business, the county commission:
Discussed the remaining schedule of commission meetings and a preliminary plan of forgoing the regular meeting during the final week of December.
Was notified by Swartzendruber that reminders had been sent to all parties involved about Harvey County hosting the next quad county meeting on Dec. 11. Location and topic of discussion for the meeting will be subjects to be addressed by the commission next week.
Hearing about the remaining vacancy on the Public Building Commission, received input from citizen Wayne Valentine to volunteer for the position.
Appointed Swartzendruber as county representative on the Hesston Economic Development Council for an additional two-year term.
Received information and a policy from the Kansas Association of Counties, highlighting tax reform being addressed at the federal and local level, including a House bill that could eliminate the ability for counties and cities to issue tax-exempt advanced refunding bonds and the KAC's focus on making sure tax deductions on municipal bonds are retained at the state level.
Held preliminary discussion on a draft resolution outlining the holiday schedule for the county in 2018. Given what the Kansas Supreme Court is doing with Christmas falling on a Tuesday next year, the commission suggested removing the half day scheduled on Good Friday and giving county employees an additional full day of holiday time on Christmas Eve.
Approved an agreement for engineering services with HNTB Corporation for rehabilitation of Taxiway C at Newton City/County Airport at a cost of $4,068 to the county.
Briefly discussed federal House Resolution 2997, which seeks to privatize air traffic control. Airport Manager Brian Palmer noted that could have a significant economic impact in the area and called it "the greatest single threat to airports ever."
Accepted Resolution 2017-20, waiving the GAAP requirements in preparation of the county's comprehensive financial statements and reports (having no relevance given the cash basis laws of Kansas).
Accepted Resolution 2017-21 authorizing the transfer of Road and Bridge Funds to the Special Highway Improvement Fund in an amount not to exceed 25 percent of the Road and Bridge Fund budget appropriated for 2017 and to be determined by annual audit.
Learned of the Department of Transportation expressing concerns over a county structure two miles west of N. Halstead Road on NW 36th, with Road and Bridge Superintendent Jim Meier noting the issue was able to be taken care of within 27 hours.
Heard of plans from Solid Waste Superintendent Rollin Schmidt to submit paperwork to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to allow for the removal of gas from small canisters at the county landfill. Schmidt also noted he has received approval from KDHE to move forward with perimeter gas-monitoring at the landfill.
Received a request from county resident Jeremy Kindy during citizen's forum. Having reviewed the third quarter financials presented to the commission last week, Kindy asked that the governing body consider working with department heads on readdressing some projects that were not approved initially for 2018, as the county's tax revenues appear to be in a healthy position and simply holding onto that money would be an "undersight."
Accepted Resolution 2017-19 establishing fees at the county landfill as of Jan. 1, 2018, with the most significant change reflected in recycling fees. Due to a new contract with Waste Connections impacting that process, fees charged for handling recyclables at the landfill will be $18 per ton (for loads 2,000 pounds or more) — an increase of $1.
Accepted a KDOT grant application through the Harvey County Department on Aging to provide transportation to county residents both within Harvey County and to surrounding counties. The grant is a matching grant, budgeting $67,072 in operating costs for the county to match
Came to a consensus to allow County Counselor Greg Nye to proceed with attempts at another tax sale of the Wheatridge properties. At an initial tax sale in 2013, five of the 35 total tracts were sold. Following sales have resulted in 11 more tracts being sold, but 19 remain. Estimated costs to organize the sale would be $2,000 with the goal of the sale to get those properties back on the county's tax rolls.