Harvey County Commissioners saw the needs of the Harvey County Emergency Response Team outlined in person at a presentation at Camp Hawk about a month ago.

Comparing the capabilities of the current armored rescue vehicle (a converted ambulance) employed by the Harvey County ERT to the Lenco Bearcat available as a regional resource — and based out of Hutchinson — the presentation made it clear how much Harvey County's current resource is lacking, both in terms of tactical functionality and safety. Additionally, Harvey County ERT's current vehicle would not meet FEMA Type III standards, which are becoming a requirement to receive federal and state funding.

Agreeing on the pressing nature of the issue, an action item was then brought before Harvey County Commissioners at Monday's meeting to consider the purchase of a Lenco Bearcat and provide that updated resource to the Harvey County ERT.

"I would expect this vehicle to last us 20 years," said Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay.

Total projected cost for the vehicle — which would mirror that of the unit used for the demonstration, with the addition of a gas injector unit — is $295,418. Harvey County Director of Finance Dan Bronson noted there are a few ways the commission could facilitate the purchase of the vehicle.

Financing options included a five-year lease-to-purchase plan through Lenco, at an annual rate of $66,302.98 per year (starting in 2020). The county could also seek out a lower lease rate through a company approved to do lease programs or the commission could choose to use reserve funds to purchase the vehicle.

Supplemental support in the purchase of the armored rescue vehicle would be offered through the Friends of the ERT organization, which has pledged to donate $10,000 per year over five years towards the cost of the Bearcat. Additionally, the sheriff's office has bookmarked $10,000 per year over that same five-year span from forfeiture funds (assuming they are available) to help with the purchase — though commissioners questioned if the wording could be flexible to allow for larger forfeiture payments depending on how much is brought in during a given year.

With a minimum six to nine-month build time, Bronson pointed out the commission will have time before it has to settle on a final financing option. Given what it saw at the previous presentation, and based on the recommendation of the sheriff and county administration, the commission was unanimously on board with this equipment upgrade — authorizing the sheriff to enter into a purchase order agreement with Lenco (at the quoted price of $295,418), directing administration to seek out and bring back financial package options and waiving purchasing policy.

"It's a sad deal that we have to do this, but the culture in America has changed," said commissioner Chip Westfall.

"My theory on this is, would we ask the fire department to go into a burning building to save lives without the best, updated equipment they could put on to protect themselves? No, we wouldn't ask them to do that," said commission chair Randy Hague. "Being a law enforcement officer is tough enough the way it is."

In other business, the county commission:

Was informed the quad county meeting will be hosted at the Harvey County Health Department building next week, with Kansas Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick) agreeing to give an update on the joint transportation task force.
Learned of ICM's intent to renew its lease (allowed within the current contract) of land at the county landfill for the use of its proprietary biomass gasification system. Beyond that, County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber noted the company will have to come back before the commission if it wants to extend its lease past 2019.
Heard an update on expansion of the county's C&D landfill, with space to the east of the transfer station being available and researched as an option. Solid Waste Superintendent Rollin Schmidt has reached out to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment engineers to see what needs to be done to officially consider that site for expansion and the commission was in consensus to push forward in that direction and explore the viability of that option.
Received quarterly documents from Workforce Area I and Workforce Area IV showing the coordination of services and outreach between the two entities to serve residents of Harvey County.
Saw and approved the renewal of annual membership fees with the National Association of Counties, which educates the county on programs it is privy to (leading to cost savings for citizens) and also does federal policy advocacy for counties.
Was notified of two upcoming legislative forums, one hosted by Farm Bureau at the Water's Edge (Hesston) on Jan. 7 and one hosted by Prairie View Dec. 14, with commissioners requested to RSVP if they are interested in attending either.
Heard a report on monthly sales tax collections, with November continuing this year's trend — as overall sales tax is down 2.47 percent year-to-date and second cent sales tax is down 2.16 percent.
Learned that the Health Department is currently hosting free flu clinics, with the next coming up Thursday at Safehope, and that the department also received the second opioid crisis grant it applied for totaling $28,000 in funding.
Acknowledged receiving a petition to vacate the Kisiwa Acres plat and gave consensus for Planning and Zoning Director Gina Bell to proceed with the next steps of notifying adjoining landowners, setting a hearing date, etc.
Approved Resolution 2018-23 establishing an ethical code of conduct for county commissioners.
Tabled a discussion on the Armstrong Chamberlin marketing proposal with the Newton Chamber of Commerce until next week.
Approved Resolution 2018-24 regarding a regional economic development philosophy that would not have Harvey County competing for companies already located within fellow partners of the Regional Economic Area Partnership of south central Kansas.
Received bids for publication of legal notices for 2019, with The Newton Kansan bidding to print notices for $2.75 per column inch and Newton Now bidding to print notices for $3.25 per column inch.