Following a lease agreement with the City of Newton reached a few months back, the county is ready to take the next steps in setting up a sublease agreement with the Harvey County Fair Association and the Newton Saddle Club for four tracts of land that comprise the Harvey County fairgrounds (all adjacent to the corner of W. First Sreet. and Grandview in Newton).

Reflecting the dollar amount and locations listed out in the county's lease agreement with the city, County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber noted the fair association and saddle club will have some more specific details to work out in the sublease.

"The fair board and the saddle club are going to have to work hand-in-hand to figure out who's going to be responsible for the restroom, who's going to pay the water bills, who's going to pay the upkeep, etc., on that," Swartzendruber said.

Swartzendruber noted administration came before the commission seeking any feedback before taking a draft of the sublease agreement to both parties. Commissioner Chip Westfall suggested bringing both the fair association and saddle club together to review the agreement jointly, while the commission as a whole stated that responsibility for the restroom (on the same tract as the saddle club arena) could be the biggest sticking point of the ordeal.

Moving forward in working out those shared responsibilities, Swartzendruber said that both parties have been receptive to the joint work necessary to iron out the agreement and he also addressed concerns commissioner Ron Krehbiel had about conflicting authority with the city, noting that lease agreement is fully in place and allows the county to proceed with work on the sublease.

Financial support was one item in particular the fair association had requested in writing as part of the sublease. While Swartzendruber noted there were stipulations on how the county could approach that, he is optimistic that what was included in the sublease — and the county's history in working with the fair board — will be agreeable to the group.

"We put in the language we can put in by state statute. We can't make a multi-year commitment to them because that would be in violation of cash basis law," Swartzendruber said. "I think the commission is committed to helping them with capital improvements. I think you acknowledge that you're their primary funding source and those are county buildings."

Drawing precise dividing lines was something Swartzendruber admitted was a goal in the sublease agreement, but he pointed out the amount of overflow of usage between both parties on multiple tracts would not allow that (with the saddle club utilizing parking across the street for big events, and vice-versa while the fair is going on).

Requested amendments are expected from both sides, Swartzendruber said, when it comes to the shared responsibilities, and the commission was in consensus to proceed with those discussions — something Swartzendruber wants to start soon giving the upcoming schedule for the parties involved.

"I'd really like to get this done soon because the saddle club has events coming up in the near future, and technically they don't have a legal right to be there at this point in time," Swartzendruber said. "I'd like to get this finalized so that we have everything outlined as far as insurance and everything goes."

In other business, the county commission:

Extended condolences to the family of Newton Mayor David Nygaard, who passed away last week.
Was updated on HB 2583, which could add some flexibility to where funds can come from to treat noxious weeds (among other minor changes). The bill has been adopted by the Kansas Senate, but no action has been taken in the House.
Received two notifications about two upcoming meetings on regional partnership hosted by REAP and the Greater Wichita Partnership, with RSVPs requested of the commissioners if they plan to attend.
Approved a change in budget authority for the purchase of equipment (monitor rails and cables) from the 911 fund at a cost of $10,863, authorizing a single source vendor (as the equipment comes directly from the manufacturer of the dispatch center's consoles). Purchase of an ACU interoperability gateway (for $11,000) was also approved and amended to be handled through the general fund, rather than the 911 fund, a necessity Communications Director Don Gruver pointed out due to 911 Act regulations.
Approved two grant applications, through Newton Et Cetera Shop and the Central Kansas Community Foundation, for the Health Department totaling $4,000 in potential funds.
Approved a consent and agreement regarding a mortgage modification on internal revenue bonds previously issued to Bluestem communities Schowalter Villa (Hesston) and Kidron Bethel (North Newton).
Learned of the spring Drug Take Back Day, which will be held on April 28. Old and unused prescription drugs can be turned in at the Harvey County Sheriff's Office.
Heard an update on drought conditions in the state, with three more counties added to the severe drought map within the past week, making 40 percent of the state now under such conditions.
Was informed of the good turnout (100 people) for last week's storm spotter workshop by Emergency Management Director Gary Denny, who also noted the LEPC will try to reconvene for a rescheduled meeting in the Newton Medical Center's mobile hospital this Wednesday.
Approved the lowest of five bids received from Mies Construction for bridge replacement (M-17.6) of a structure on NW 36th Street between Hoover and West streets. The cost was $124,253 and will be accepted pending engineer review, with the commission authorizing staff to sign the contract.
Approved the lowest of two bids received for Hot Mix Asphalt overlay covering 17.6 miles of road in Harvey County (including SW 36th Street from Hertzler to Burmac Road, and an alternative portion of SW 36th Street through Halstead) from Cornejo and Sons for a base cost of $1,346,997.50 and $56,302.50 for the alternative options. The bid was approved contingent upon action taken by the Halstead City Council to also approve the project, with staff authorized to sign contracts.
Discussed potential collaboration and responsibility for a pathway project currently being taken on in North Newton.