Harvey County Parks were a heavy topic of conversation among the county commission at its meeting on Monday, as the governing body heard several updates on a number of projects going on — namely at East and West parks.

Joe Owen, local remote-controlled vehicle enthusiast and one of the organizers of a new club, updated the commission on progress at the RC Park going in at East Park. So far, he noted the club behind the push for the park has volunteered 81 hours towards initial set-up efforts (since the lease was officially signed).

That has included work on both the runway for remote-controlled aircraft and the crawler course for land vehicles. With the latter, Owen noted the group found less work was needed than expected — as no foreign grass will need to be planted as long as the native prairie grass is maintained regularly.

For the crawler course, while the club has had equipment and materials donated to help with its formation the weather has not been cooperating so far, but the club is still hoping the RC Park will be fully operational for a grand opening/launch weekend scheduled for April 27. Currently, the club has 14 members signed up (nine for the runway and five for the crawler course), with Owen noting seeing the investment of those who will be using the crawler course is of particular significance.

"It's unheard of because those folks around here aren't used to being a member of a club," Owen said. "We're kind of breaking ground and taking strides on that side of things."

Another big project that was recently wrapped up, according to Road and Bridge Superintendent Jim Meier, was the restoration of the river bank near the northern entrance road at West Park. A total of about 1,400 tons of rip-rap was hauled in (in 62 loads) to help reinforce the eroding river banks. The cost for staff to handle the work, it was noted, came in under the one bid received for the work to be handled by an outside entity ($42,664.96 versus $118,000).

Questions were raised by commissioners about the safety of the current shoulder width following completion of the project, with Meier noting it is at about four to five feet. He did also state that the rock was left high to serve as a natural barrier while the placement of a cable barrier was also taken under consideration — but ultimately was tabled for the time being as Meier said there are other locations around West Park that would likely also benefit from such barriers.

While the lifespan of the reinforced bank depends on river patterns, both staff and commissioners alike were pretty pleased with the final results of the project.

"I think it's gonna work if it stays," said commissioner Ron Krehbiel.

"Thank you to everyone for getting that remedied," said Parks Director Kass Miller.

In other business, the county commission:

Noted its regular meeting will be held on Feb. 19 next week (due to President's Day).
Learned, following a pre-construction meeting held between staff and Snodgrass and Sons Construction, that the timetable for arrival of materials has pushed the projected start date for repairs to the Solid Waste Transfer Station floor to March 4.
Was notified that bids for the Law Enforcement Remodel were opened last week and the goal for a joint meeting with the Newton City Commission Tuesday is to award a bid and schedule the start of work.
Received a reminder that the official hearing for the Wichita Aquifer Storage Recharge project will be held March 26 (and potentially March 27) at ICM in Colwich. County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber noted he is still awaiting an official statement from Groundwater Management District #2 before drafting a position letter on behalf of the county.
Heard from Health Department Director Lynnette Redington about HIV testing services being added at the Health Department offices as of this week, following the certification of two nurses. She also said the department is reworking its agreement for joint services regarding a shared nursing position with Marion County — namely in changing that position to be able to better provide services.
Was updated on January statistics by Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay, who noted the department pulled 97 cases, made 412 traffic stops, issued 62 tickets, arrested 48 people and worked six non-injury accidents, two injury accidents and eight deer accidents.
Following staff review, re-awarded the bid for a van for the sheriff's office to Robin Motors for $16,750, as it was found to be the lowest bid that actually met specs.
Approved a request for bid for a new truck for the Parks Department.