Given the events of the past week, flooding was a major point of discussion among the Harvey County Commission at its meeting on Monday, with Emergency Management Director Gary Denny reporting on the current status across the county.
After 5.16 inches of rain in a seven-day period (and several severe weather watches), Denny said Harvey County officially remained under a flood warning until 2:15 p.m. Monday. This came on the heels of a national report that the 12-month period ending in April 2019 was the wettest period in U.S. history.
Because of the flooding, emergency management had to enact a "modified response plan," Denny said, as Halstead in particular was limited in getting emergency responders out. However, Denny and county commissioners praised the efforts of county staff across multiple departments in addressing the flooding — from parks to road and bridge to 911.
Communications director Don Gruver reported that last week, Harvey County 911 received 54 road closed calls, four water rescue calls and 11 miscellaneous flooding calls, including animals in water and water in basements.
By Monday morning, Denny reported that the floodgates had been reopened at Halstead and a majority of the roads that had been closed — about 20 during peak flooding — were accessible again. It was also reported that while Harvey County East Park is primarily open now, West Park remains closed until further notice.
On May 8, commission chairman Chip Westfall signed a disaster declaration, and on Monday the commission was curious if that would lead to any federal assistance.
The Federal Emergency Management Association's threshold for counties is just over $130,000, while the state threshold is just over $4 million, and Denny said that after talking with those affected by the flooding, he is confident those funds should be coming as they were received following flooding last fall.
"This event — speaking with our township people and local people, we're going to well exceed last October," Denny said. "With the 16 counties, I'm pretty confident the state is going to be able to meet its threshold as well."
While not directly linked to last week's flooding, the commission also received a letter from KCAMP about modernizing its flood insurance coverage — specifically related to properties in a 100-year flood plain and making sure they are covered.
Commissioner Randy Hague expressed concerns over cost, as flood insurance is known to be expensive, but ultimately the commission was in agreement there was nothing wrong with researching flood insurance, selecting the West Park bait shop and residence as the main priorities in regards to threat of flooding and requesting administration to bring financial information back before the commission at its next meeting.
"I don't think it hurts to get the price on it. We're not authorizing it today. The house and the bait shop's an important part of West Park," Westfall said. "I don't have a problem getting prices and negotiating it out."
In other business, the county commission:
• Noted the pending retirement of Register of Deeds Margaret Hermstein and a meeting of the Republican Party being planned to call for nominations to fill her position.
• Heard an update from Wayne Valentine of the Silver-Haired Legislature, who noted it looks like two of the organization's key issues (KPERS funding and a reduction of the sales tax) will be passing through this legislative session.
• Agreed not to enter into a contract with the Kansas Department of Transportation for the services of the Harvey County Noxious Weed Department spraying KDOT right-of-ways stemming from safety concerns and a lack of support from KDOT to address those.
• Was reminded that the annual bike count for Newton/North Newton will be going on Wednesday.
• Heard about challenges the Road and Bridge Department is facing following flooding, with Superintendent Jim Meier stating that at least one culvert (on N. River Park between N.W. 24th and N.W. 60th) will need to be replaced and stretches of road with eroding shoulders will need to be signed appropriately.
• Approved a proclamation denoting May 19-25 as Poppy Week, recognizing and saluting the sacrifices of veterans.
• Reappointed Kristi Berning and Craig Simons to the Harvey/Marion County CDDO Board of Directors, waiving second reading.
• Following changes to sections on accounting practices and usage stipulations, approved a revised interlocal agreement for the Harvey County Drug Task Force (for funding assistance) to submit to the Kansas Attorney General's Office.