Given the large amount of rainfall accumulated during the past few weeks, visual aids are not lacking for how that has affected Harvey County — something county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber reviewed with the county commission Monday at its meeting.
Ways the recent flooding has affected county roads and other infrastructure included material washout (to dangerous extremes on some roads, like N.W. 36th Street), debris pile-ups along bridges that lead to additional structural stress and continued erosion in trouble areas like at Harvey County West Park — where the issue has already been addressed this year.
"There's continuing to be bank erosion issues," Swartzendruber said.
Specifically, erosion has led to downed trees in several locations around West Park, while material washout has also affected county bridges. Witnessing this structural damage, commissioner Randy Hague questioned if it would count towards the damage that could help secure monetary assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which emergency management director Gary Denny noted would be the case.
Denny also clarified the two declarations that were put into effect during the stretches of severe weather experienced during the month of May, as well as the differences between them. Originating on May 8, Gov. Laura Kelly made a major disaster declaration — which has now grown to include 60 counties — that covers public assistance, debris removal etc., with a deadline placed on submitting damage reports to get potential aid from FEMA. That deadline has been extended following the second round of storms and reports for Harvey County are still being accumulated.
Additionally, the latter storms led Gov. Kelly to make an emergency declaration that provides a more direct route to federal aid.
"The emergency declaration allows the state of Kansas to tap into federal resources immediately for preservation of life, shoring up levies," Denny said.
Currently, 33 counties have been approved to receive resources from the emergency declaration and it is expected the state and listed counties will receive aid from the major disaster declaration as well. What is less clear is if that aid will extend to individuals (e.g. private homeowners) who suffered flooding damage. County departments are trying to direct individuals to nonprofits that may offer assistance if they indeed will not be included in receiving FEMA support.
In other business, the county commission:
Discussed the current recycling contract and increasing efforts to reduce contamination among the items picked up by Waste Connections.
Came to a consensus to begin holding commission meetings on Tuesdays effective July 9. A resolution will be drafted to be officially approved at a future commission meeting.
Learned that due to a recent trade, Harvey County now falls under the authority of South Central Kansas Economic Development District for weatherization services — something the commission and previous administration had been pushing for.
Received official invitations to the next quad county meeting and an upcoming agricultural growth summit to be hosted by the Kansas Department of Agriculture in Manhattan.
Agreed to draft a letter in support of the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, which stands in opposition to current regulations being considered federally to allow heavier truck traffic on roads across the country.
Reviewed a resolution looking at citizens forum practices, with the commission not looking to take any action changing current policy.
Heard about water tests being stocked among the Harvey County Planning and Zoning Department, with plans to send some additional tests to Halstead to help facilitate testing for those in the county who have been affected by flooding.
Learned that Raquel Langley has been selected to serve as the interim Register of Deeds by the Republican Party.
Approved the revised guidelines for the Harvey County Community Mental Health Center Advisory Committee, allowing the board to select its representatives (instead of the county commission) with one seat being reserved for a county commissioner or designee. Additionally, terms will now last one year instead of three.
Accepted the results of a Kansas Workers Risk Cooperative for Counties (KWORCC) inspection of county facilities in May, which was almost perfect with the exception of GFCI outlets being installed within six feet of a source of water at the Road and Bridge building.
Began 2019 budget hearings with requests received from the Register of Deeds, Harvey County Historical Society, Extension Council and more.