Safety and liability issues came up the last time the Harvey County Commission discussed a proposed walking/biking pathway extension in North Newton, particularly in regards to work around NW 36th Street — a stretch of road for which ownership and maintenance responsibilities have been somewhat murky in the past.

Following a recent safety study through an independent engineering firm — and reviewed by the Kansas Department of Transportation — that proposed project was discussed once again at Monday's county commission meeting, with the equivalent of a green light given to North Newton by the state department.

"Based on the current conditions and speed limit, the distance the trail is from the road way, which is 30 to 45 feet, and the slopes on the ditches maintained really never exceeding a four-to-one ratio in that area, and then also looking at traffic counts, they believe that this is not an area of concern for having a path," County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber said. "KDOT actually views this as a safety enhancement instead of a safety concern."

Using criteria provided by Earles Engineering & Inspection (the independent engineering firm), it was determined the minimum safe "clear zone" for a walking/biking path along that stretch would be 20 to 24 foot from the road — with the proposed path being even farther out than that.

Giving that ruling from KDOT addressing and alleviating safety concerns (not being labeled as a "dangerous" project), Swartzendruber noted that if that was acceptable to the county commission then it could move in to discussion of ownership and maintenance responsibilities regarding that stretch of NW 36th Street.

"I don't object to this, as long as it's not on county property, so I think the next step is — one way or another — to get this on their (North Newton's) own property," said commission chair Randy Hague.

Construction of the pathway is fully a North Newton project, while ownership and maintenance (i.e. mowing, drainage, tree trimming, etc.) of the area between the pathway and the road right-of-way would also be a responsibility of the city under both options of potential agreements Swartzendruber brought before the commission on Monday. Meanwhile, the county would own and maintain the road pavement and traffic control signing.

Differences between the two options that could potentially be put in place centered on ownership/maintenance of the shoulder three feet from the edge of the road pavement. Superintendent Jim Meier was had a clear recommendation on how the county should proceed in that regard.

"What Harvey County needs to be concerned with, in my opinion, is our infrastructure, so we need to take measures to preserve, I believe, the ownership of our pavement, the shoulders and the signing," Meier said. "I would like to have the authority to address those issues if they happen."

Having a consensus from the commission for the option that kept maintenance/ownership of the shoulder with the county, Swartzendruber noted administration will now reach out to North Newton to begin preliminary work on an agreement.

In other business, the county commission:

Shared condolences for Sedgwick County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Kunze III, who lost his life in the line of duty over the weekend.
Was informed of calls for nominations regarding representatives on the Kansas Association of Counties governing board and the Regional Economic Area Partnership of South Central Kansas' executive committee, with the former being due Oct. 8.
Learned that elevator upgrades at the courthouse are planed to start in mid-November and wrap up in early December, so as not to conflict with voting in the general election.
Heard an update on progress receiving bids on removal of the residence at Camp Hawk. Swartzendruber said he has received one estimate and based on that he believes the county can go through an informal bidding process.
Received notice of some proposed changes regarding regulations of cell tower applications, with it being recommended to do away with the third party review currently included in the process — which goes against state statutes. Planning and Zoning Director Gina Bell noted she is fine handling review of such applications.
Addressed the county commission's agenda format, with the county getting ready to switch to an e-Agenda system and creating a new template. Swartzendruber noted there were two main options to consider, basically coming down to the inclusions or exclusion of a consent agenda (with minutes, payroll, etc. to be approved in one motion) item. Consensus among the commission was to go with the option that does not feature a consent agenda and is similar to the current agenda format.
Was informed by Treasurer Emily Nichols that Harvey County has registered the most new organ donors (2,130) in the state this year. She also reminded the commission that the treasurer's office and its departments (driver's license, vehicle registration, etc.) will be closed Friday as employees will be attending a customer service training in Wichita.
Received an invitation from Parks Director Kass Miller to go out to the Skyline plant in Arkansas City as parks staff inspects the model cabin the department is considering purchasing and installing within the county parks.
Heard an action report from Sheriff Chad Gay about totals for the month of August, which included 108 cases pulled, 435 traffic stops, 42 tickets issued, 42 arrests, 12 non-injury accidents, six injury accidents and two deer accidents, with the average population of the jail hovering at 112 inmates. Max population of the jail, it was noted, is 134 and the detention center is currently holding 127 inmates — with an increased number of federal inmates since the renegotiated contract with the U.S. Marshals went into effect.
Gave consensus to present a draft of a lease proposal to the Harvey County Remote Control Club for use of land at East Park for an airstrip and crawler course, with one recommendation to change the hours of operation to be from 9 a.m. to a half hour after sunset and for special permits to be necessary for night flying. The initial lease was also extended from the commission's original agreement from one years to two years (through 2020) based on the recommendation of county staff.