While there was a good amount of time allotted for the public budget hearing on Monday's agenda for the Harvey County Commission, there were no comments made on the proposed 2.5 mill increase and the item was wrapped up quickly. Though the 2017 budget drew little conversation on Monday, some construction items slated in the 2016 budget proved heavy topics of discussion for the commission.

Building Bridges

After the budget hearing, the commissioners opened bids for a bridge construction project (Q-16.9) in Hesston, receiving two bids from King Construction and Bridges Inc. The former presented a bid using steel beams and the base bid totaled $1,352,909, while the latter's base bid totaled $997,187.50 using concrete beams.

Commissioners raised questions about the total amount of the bids, given that the type of construction they planned to use on this project was pitched as a cost-saving initiative, especially when compared to the recent Burmac Bridge construction project (with a roughly $1 million price tag).

Some of that defrayed savings can be attributed to construction employment rates being the highest in a decade, according to representatives from MKEC Engineering, but Harvey County Road and Bridge Superintendent Jim Meier noted the county will likely see more of the real savings down the road when it can start doing these types of projects in-house. That is especially true taking into consideration the fact that it normally has to save up for these bridge projects since the department only receives $232,000 in state funding each year.

"One year's worth of allotment doesn't buy a bridge anymore," Meier said.

Building a conventional bridge would cost between $1.2 and $1.5 million, according to MKEC Engineering, and while the new technique may not have saved as much as hoped, it was noted that it does provide other benefits. Projected construction time for the bridge in Hesston is 70 days compared to eight to nine months. The commission accepted the bids, but given that $600,000 was originally budgeted for the project, they wanted to review things a bit more before coming to a final decision.

"There needs to be some significant discussion conducted in-house," said County Administrator John Waltner.

Showers not stalled

Construction currently under way provided the commission with some better news, as Parks Director Kass Miller noted the foundation footing has been poured for the new shower house at West Park and the plan was to run utilities Monday, but that will be postponed slightly (to the end of the week) because of damp conditions. Walls should also be up by the end of the week and the Parks Department will be pouring the floor for a project that continues to progress rapidly.

Given the heavy amount of rainfall this summer, there were also talks of moving a road at West Park because of recent issues. Miller said there have been discussions about moving it west, which would need to be an offseason project.

Courthouse efficiency pays off

Other good news received came from the renovations to the courthouse building that continue to pay off for the county. Tracking utility usage through energystar.gov, it was noted that the courthouse rated 98 out of 100 in its efficiency, meaning only two percent of buildings in the comparable area had a better rate. Commissioner Randy Hague noted he continues to field questions from county residents if the renovations were worth it and they continue to be blown away by the savings.

The commission signed off on an application for certification from Energy Star in rating its efficiency.

In other business, the county commission:

Certified the primary election ballots following votes canvassing, noting an additional 93 votes for a total of 6,654 and a voter turnout of 31.58 percent.
Were notified of an educational opportunity that was brought up at the recent active shooter focus group meeting, with Prairie View and EMPAC sponsoring a presentation on targeted threats on Oct. 28.
Received feedback from the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corporation that it is working to put together totals on weatherization assistance in Harvey County to comply with a request from the county tied to an exploration of switching regional services.
Authorized Road and Bridge superintendent Jim Meier to move forward in pursuing a contract agreement for road striping in Harvey County (with the same company as last year).
Heard a report from Emergency Management Director Gary Denny on the progress of the active shooter focus group, which is into phase three and developing standardized policies, which will be drafted by two sub-committees with templates to be reviewed at the next meeting on Sept. 7. Denny also noted the county's request for FEMA assistance due to flooding in May was officially denied.
Were informed of an additional $3,500 that Harvey County's Retired Senior Volunteer Program is eligible for this year, with staff recommending it go towards training.
Accepted the regional solid waste plan as presented by Solid Waste Superintendent Rollin Schimdt, noting there were no changes made from last year's plan.
Held a public budget hearing and, receiving no comment from county residents, moved forward with plans to address adopting the 2017 budget at the next county commission meeting.