Budget and business dealings were a focal point of the Harvey County Commission meeting on Tuesday. Three key items included:
1) Extension budget request put on hold
Following last week's budget hearings, state statutes required the county commission to make one decision earlier than most as it pertained to the Harvey County Extension Office — which had to have approval of its budget or feedback within 10 days of presenting it to the commission.
An additional $14,000 in funding for 2019 was requested by the extension council during the budget hearings. Given the mindset with which the commission entered that process — to hold departmental budgets flat — it could not justify that increase at this time.
"That was our goal from the onset of March," said commissioner Chip Westfall. "If we get a big windfall in valuation, we can always readjust the status of our requests."
"If" was the key word of the day, because there is certain information (i.e. valuation) that the county does not yet have that will affect the total amount of funding it receives from the state that can then be passed on to other county departments.
Once that data is received, the county will have a more focused picture of the funds it has to disperse and could readdress the extension council's request.
"We'll know within two to three weeks what our values are and we'll have better information at that point in time to be able to make a final decision," said County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber.
For the time being, the commission voted to keep the extension council's budget flat but agreed it could be amended if the valuation numbers and other data come out in favor of the county.
2) Airport lease agreements approved
Two leases were brought before the commission on Tuesday. Both had already been approved by the Newton City Commission, but the county's approval was also needed given that the leases were for company's utilizing space at the Newton City/County Airport.
Commissioners approved an addendum to the lease agreement with Ballard Aviation, as well an amendment of a sublease for Kansas Chemical Coatings. The former was a simple change in order to help facilitate more building improvements, while the latter approves the new company to utilize the facilities previously created for ABI Chemicals.
With the financial difficulty faced by ABI Chemicals, a number of investors were looking for a way to continue its work with a new company, leading to the birth of Kansas Chemical Coatings. With the groundwork they have put in, many tied to the project are optimistic about its future at the airport facility if given the chance.
"I think everybody involved believes this product has a tremendous upside," said Newton City Manager Bob Myers. "I'm encouraged that we may have a chance to turn the corner on this."
3) County to modernize courthouse elevator
Some issues with the west courthouse elevator — the elevator with the majority of public use — were brought before the commission recently, as was a plan to address it either in the short term or long term.
Given the time frames the thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation (which took over the company that originally manufactured the courthouse elevators) projected, the commission was all for the long-term fix and replacing the elevator in its entirety for a cost not to exceed thyssenkrupp's proposed price of $69,663.
"It's 50 years old," said commission chair Randy Hague. "It's time to revamp it, I think."