Discussion of business for the Harvey County Commission in 2018 started with a conversation about some potential new business through a requested conditional use permit brought before the governing body on Monday.

The permit was requested by Amanda and David Balzer to build a barn (6,000 square feet, holding up to 300 people) serving as a wedding venue on their property at 716 S. Grace Hill Road, Newton; it was vetted and approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission at its December meeting — hearing little opposition, with only one of the Balzer's neighbors speaking out against it.

Prior to approving the permit, the Planning and Zoning Commission wanted to make sure the additional utility needs — namely water and sewage — would not be an issue. Planning and Zoning Director Gina Bell reported the Balzers had talked to rural water about adding a meter and sewage was vetted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Deemed to not be used enough to require involvement from the KDHE, and directed back to the county for guidance, it was determined the Balzers would require a 1,500 gallon septic tank to handle waste — with waste water running into the lagoon on the property (and an overflow to be created if necessary, though not projected).

Along with the utility departments, Pleasant Township also had no problems with the permit given the benefits it could provide.

"They were happy to have some potential tax (revenues) come into the township," Bell said.

Speaking to that, and what it could also do for Harvey County, Bell noted that such venues that exist in the county are not lacking in business.

"Every one of them that we have is as full as they want to be," Bell said.

County commissioners questioned if lagoon usage would be self-reported or inspected by planning and zoning, with Bell noting a little bit of both approaches would be utilized. Additionally, insurance coverage was a top priority in the eyes of the commission, which wanted to make sure the venue had that covered before approving the permit.

Particularly, the issue of alcohol on the property was brought up and Amanda Balzer noted while they would not be selling liquor they will allow wedding parties to serve alcohol — provided they have a licensed and insured bartender to handle said responsibilities.

Beyond that, the issue of a venue insurance policy being kept in force (with a current copy to be on file with the Planning and Zoning office) was one of six conditions recommended by the planning and zoning commission while approving the conditional use permit. Other conditions included: having all appropriate beer/liquor licenses in place before alcohol is served, cooperating with the township about road conditions (as the $4,000 road impact fee will apply for the structure), contacting KDHE about the kind and size of sewer system large enough for the venue, a Rural Water meter for the venue and requirement of a permit for on and off-site signage.

Features of the venue will also include a new driveway and parking lot, as well as a section to the side of the barn itself for outdoor covered patio seating, a caterer's kitchen, possible bride and groom rooms and bathrooms with three to four stalls each. Though it was noted the venue could also be used for reunions, graduations, etc., the main use of it was made clear.

"Weddings will be our primary event," Amanda Balzer said.

Given the inclusion of the conditions that will be useful on the planning and zoning commission's report, the county commission approved the Balzers' conditional use permit.

In other business, the county commission:

Reviewed a letter of resignation from county treasurer Becky Opland, effective Jan. 1, 2018, which also included her support for deputy treasurer Jeri Smith to fill her role in the interim and to be placed on the ballot in the 2018 fall election. County Clerk Rick Piepho noted the Republican party will meet on Jan. 18 to officially appoint a replacement (to be submitted to the governor for approval). The election in the fall, Piepho noted, will also be for two years of service — instead of the usual four — to finish out the unfulfilled term of Opland.
Was notified by Scott Macey, with the city of Wichita, that representatives from the Public Works and Utilities Department would like to discuss the ASR permit conditions and Recharge Credit Accounting with the commission at an upcoming meeting.
Received an invoice including 2018 dues for membership with REAP, which went down slightly.
Learned that changes to the fairgrounds property lease have been reviewed by Newton city staff and will be presented to the city commission on Jan. 9, likely coming back to the county commission for consideration on Jan. 15.
Authorized railroad crossing upgrades (lights and gates) to the Golden Prairie crossing three miles west of Halstead and one and a quarter miles south of U.S. 50.
Reviewed a 2017 year-end memorandum listing all that was accomplished by the county and its departments in the past year.
Accepted the recommended appointments of Greg Nickel (through June 30, 2020) and Kristi Berning (through June 30, 2019) to the Harvey-Marion County CDDO Board of Directors.
Approved Resolution 2018-1, naming First Bank of Newton as the official depository of Harvey County.
Approved Resolution 2018-2, naming Newton Now as the official county newspaper.
Approved Resolution 2018-3, establishing the salaries for elected officials in 2018. Those salaries were increased 4.5 percent over the past year based on a combination of advised market adjustment and the equivalent of what a step would be for county employees — though it was noted if someone is newly appointed to a position those salaries are kept the same as the previous year's allotment.
Heard of a couple of disc golf tournaments being scheduled at Camp Hawk, including a fundraising tournament for New Hope on Feb. 11 and the annual season kick-off tournament on March 3.
Learned of efforts to publish organization-wide social media pages that will start this week.
Per by-laws, held the annual meeting of the Public Building Commission, in which the group approved the retention of the same officers for 2018 — Bob Nattier as chairman, Gary Roth as secretary and Randy Hague as vice-chairman.