The east side of the Dickinson County Courthouse is looking like a construction site as preparation for the new jail ramps up.
“When you drove in this morning you probably saw that things have changed a little bit,” County Administrator Brad Homman told commissioners Thursday morning.
A fenced-in construction area extends from the east side of the Courthouse, encompassing the east parking lot and closing off the north half of Court Street, which was vacated a few months ago by the city of Abilene.
A trailer has been set up for Loyd Builders, the construction manager, east of the county attorney’s office, crews are digging trenches to lay down electrical conduit, and utilities are being relocated.
Moving the utilities is the first priority, so that poles and power lines can be moved.
“Things are starting to move pretty fast here now,” Homman said.
Inside the Courthouse, the east door — which has been used as an entrance for employees, the sheriff’s office and jail — is boarded shut.
The public will continue to use the south secure entry, while employees can enter through the west door.
With the elimination of the east parking lot, the parking lot west of the courthouse across Buckeye Avenue has become a busy place, not only for staff but for the public, as well.
With more people parking in the west parking lot, that caused an increase in foot traffic on the west side of the courthouse. It didn’t take long for staff to realize a section of concrete had risen up, causing a staff member to trip and stumble.
Luckily, the problem was solved when a Loyd Builders representative said they could use left over material from their recent Ottawa County building project to smooth out the concrete “lip.”
“Initially, I was thinking we were going to have to replace the sidewalk and all that,” Homman said. “This might be a very inexpensive solution to what could have been very expensive to take care of.”
Sales tax down
• Dickinson County sales tax collections for June — which had just come in — were down a little from May collections, Homman told commissioners, with $95,709.82 recorded in June compared with $108,065.68 in May.
Overall, however, yearly sales tax collections are higher than during the same time last year, with a total of $807,158.92 so far in 2019, compared with $776,906.81 in 2018.
Commissioner Craig Chamberlin said he is amazed by the difference in sales tax collections from month to month. For instance, in March, the county received a little more than $109,000, but in April it was down to around $96,000, then in May it was back up in the $108,000 range.
“You wouldn’t think there would be that much fluctuation,” Chamberlin said.
Likewise, collections for the special road and bridge sales tax were also down in June with a monthly total of $92,267.60, compared with May’s $104,324.59.
Overall, however, the yearly total of 779,746.94 is higher than last year, when it was $749,357.15.
The special half-cent sales tax, approved by voters in November 2014, can be used only toward road and bridge projects. Voters will be asked to renew the sales tax for roads and bridges in November.
In other matters, the commission:
• Heard from Homman that the road and bridge department had closed Oat Road south of Hope to replace a “fish passage bridge.” Also, road and bridge crews are going back to their regular workday, five eight-hour days.
The fish passage bridges are in the habitat of the Topeka Shiner, a minnow that is on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical list of endangered species. The bridge replacement is funded through a U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant that pays for materials, while the county provides the labor.
• Heard from Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson that the commission has been invited to attend the Eisenhower Legacy dinner Oct. 12. Tickets cost $125 apiece. Peterson said that, typically the, county pays $50 toward a commissioner’s ticket, with the commissioner paying the difference.
“Is that written in concrete that you pay the rest out of your pocket?” questioned Commissioner Ron Roller, explaining he feels the county should pick up the tab when the commissioner attends a celebration or event serving in the role of commissioner.
Peterson said he felt the policy should remain the same for this event, but the commission could address making a change at a later date, possibly in January.
• Approved a change in county policy regarding business ethics and conduct having to do with acceptance of economic opportunity, gift, loan or gratuity during the course of county employment. Giving food or beverages is not considered to be a means of influencing a public employee, Homman said.
“Whether you’re at KAC (Kansas Association of Counties) or another meeting and some vendor provides you a meal, it’s not considered unethical,” Homman said.
The change is a “routine one” done as things change in counties, he said.
“HR (Human Resource) personnel share those with each other and everybody tries to learn from each other’s mistakes,” Homman said, explaining it had not been an issue in Dickinson County. “It’s just trying to stay proactive.”
• Approved placing some road and bridge equipment on Purple Wave, the online auction site, including a laydown machine. Homman said crews just finished using the machine, which is nearing the end of its lifespan. Money is available in the county’s capital plan to replace it.
“There will be some value for a laydown machine for somebody else, but right now we’ve pretty much expended its usefulness.”
Contact Kathy Hageman at email@example.com.