Citizens of Sedgwick Township and nearby areas have spoken, and the Harvey County Planning and Zoning board listened. In a public hearing to address the potential of converting three Sedgwick Township roads (portions of SW 84th Street, S. Mission Road and SW 60th) to a minimum maintenance designation, there was a vocal outpouring against that action.

So much so, in fact, that the planning and zoning board voted unanimously against said designation, bringing the item back before the Harvey County Commission on Monday to decide what the next step will ultimately be.

As county counselor Greg Nye laid it out, the commission had three options: publish a notice on the designation change and have its own hearing, rule that there is not enough evidence regarding road usage and a need for the change in designation or send it back to the planning and zoning commission to address the roads in question on an individual basis.

"Maybe it shouldn't be all or nothing," Nye said. "Maybe one of the roads isn't being used and it can be minimum maintenance."

From the input received at the hearing, it was clear those roads get heavy use for agricultural traffic, while the Sedgwick school district submitted a letter highlighting a concern about not being able to use SW 84th Street in particular (for bus routes) should it be declared a minimum maintenance road.

While those concerns were raised at the commission meeting, Sedgwick Township trustee Dan Andrew also brought up some big picture uses of the road for the commission to keep in mind.

"Not only is it for local residents and the township use, but also there's emergency vehicles that go through there, too," Andrew said.

Part of the issue in seeking the minimum maintenance designation was about getting signage placed on the roads in question, which it was noted can be hazardous in wet conditions. While putting up signs would help alert traffic to that, something the township does not have authority to do, how those roads are maintained is still a question moving forward.

"My sense was that, in some respects, the roads are already in a minimum maintenance form and some of the problems they have with people mudding the roads could be because of the level of maintenance they're currently receiving," said county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber.

Officially, the minimum maintenance designation by the county commission would shift liability away from the township. Andrew noted current township board members are for minimally maintaining the roads in questions, which he said could in fact improve the roads if done right, but there is uncertainty if future membership would handle the issue in similar fashion.

Upon hearing the feedback from township residents and the planning and zoning board, commissioner Randy Hague said the issue appeared to be one between the township board and the township residents and no action was needed from the commission. Having the quasi-public hearing with the planning and zoning board and seeing the feedback against the new designation, commissioner Chip Westfall was in agreement and the commission came to a consensus not to proceed forward with the issue given the lack of evidence in favor of a minimum maintenance designation.

"With the push back from some of the residents and the school district, and the board voting 7-0 not to do it," Hague said, "I'm in consensus, too."

In other business, the county commission:

Received reminders about the Harvey County Economic Development open house from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, the quad county meeting the county will be hosting at The Barn in Burrton (focusing on fire issues) next Monday and the legislative forum being put on by Prairie View at 10 a.m. Dec. 13.
Accepted Resolution 2017-25, cancelling warrants issued between Nov. 29, 2014 and Oct. 30, 2015, having not been presented for payment.
Approved a contract extension with ICM, extending its lease for a gasifier at the county landfill from Jan. 1, 2018 through the end of that year — providing for an additional one-year extension if requested in writing prior to the end of 2018. Administration reported that John Orr of ICM had noted plans were to have the gasifier gone by the end of 2018, through a short extension may be needed.
Approved the updated contract for county counselor Greg Nye at an annual salary of $69,000 and an additional work rate of $89/hour (increases of $10,500 in total salary and $14 for hourly rates), effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Was notified that the sheriff's office has finalized its contract with the U.S. Marshals to house federal prisoners at a rate of $71 per day with a $28.50 transportation fee (increases of $11 daily and $3.50, respectively), effective Dec. 1.
Approved work to convert a shuttle bus purchased by the Communications department into a mobile command center. Following an initial agreement with a vendor falling through, Communications Director Don Gruver reported he had received a proposal from Flint Hills Fire/Rescue to do the work at a cost of $38,750 — well within the budget for the project. The commission approved the work, waiving the purchasing policy. Gruver noted he is also working to attain an additional A/C unit, a mobile generator and a wired 800 radio system for the mobile command system (an additional projected $7,500), all of which was noted to be within the budget for the project as well.
Accepted bids for the publication of legal notices from The Newton Kansan ($5/column inch) and Newton Now ($3.75/column inch) for 2018, with staff to review before coming back to the commission with a recommendation.