County news

Dickinson County Commissioners expect to hear a plan during their Feb. 13 meeting about forming an extension district with Marion County.

Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson said Marion County Commissioners voted in favor of having the Marion County Extension Council reach out to Dickinson County Extension about merging.

Representatives from Dickinson County Extension plan to meet with commissioners next week about the idea, which has been talked about for years.

The Kansas Extension District Law, passed in 1991, gives local Extension Councils the opportunity to partner with one or more counties to form a district, according to the Kansas State University Extension website. Forming a district involves agreements between the local Extension councils and county commissioners.

“K-State, generally speaking, has sent indications they would like counties to combine services and work together to have districts,” Peterson explained.

Before any decisions are made, Peterson said the commission would examine “how we could work together, what that would look like, examining the advantages and disadvantages and researching it further.”

“This is the time if the public has concerns or questions we’d certainly like to hear from them,” Peterson said. “We’re looking for some of that information also. At a future meeting, we will have that as an agenda item for discussion.”

Peterson did say the commission had already heard from an individual concerned about what is involved in creating an extension district.

“It would involve forming a new tax district, but also that money would be removed from the county budget so it’s just kind of a transfer,” Peterson said, explaining that’s one of many considerations.

“I’m sure we’ll be hearing some comments other people may have,” Peterson said.

Anyone with questions or concerns about the extension programs should contact Dickinson County commissioners Peterson, Craig Chamberlin or Ron Roller.

Jail project revs up

County Administrator Brad Homman said foundation work on the new jail began this week.

“The superintendent told me they have ordered concrete in for Friday morning (today) for footings,” Homman said. “They plan to pour footings Friday morning for the east portion of the building and bricklayers and sand masons are supposed to be here Monday to put up scaffolding and start putting up walls.”

In other jail news, civil engineers have given the go-ahead to proceed with foundation work in an area on the northeast corner of the courthouse grounds where underground structures were located. The structures at one time held a large heating and oil tank that served the courthouse.

The existence of the structures was a surprise since soil testing done in preparation for the build did not locate them.

Commissioner Chamberlin asked how far behind the project was based on the timeline.

Homman said his guess was about six weeks, but he would know more after a meeting with the superintendent and others next week.

“The weather, issues with the hole and the surprises we have had set us a little farther behind,” Homman said, explaining the superintendent believes lost time can be made up as the project progresses.

Commission

districts

Commissioners approved a resolution reviewing and adopting county commission districts pursuant to Kansas statute. State law requires counties to make sure commission districts are as equal in population and as compact as possible.

Last week, commissioners learned there has been less than one-tenth of a percent change in the size of each commission district. Commission District 1 has 6,100 residents; District 2 has 6,300 and District 3 has 6,317.

“They are all approximately 33 percent in size as far as population,” Homman said.

Other

• Homman reported job openings still exist in the road and bridge department and jail and the county is advertising for a new environmental services director. Long-time director Randy Barten recently announced his plans to retire in May.

Chamberlin asked if there’s any opportunity for jail detention officers to move up.

“We have a lot of Detention Officer 1s. Is there stuff they can learn or training they can take to become a Detention Officer 2?” Chamberlin asked.

Homman said he did not know because the sheriff operates the jail, but moving up is normally determined by training, proficiency, testing and longevity.

• The most recent sales tax collections received by the county are a little lower than the same time last year. Collections for November 2019 came in at $117,125.35, compared to $118,410.14 in November 2018.

The same is true for the special sales tax collection used to fund road and bridge projects. The November 2019 collection brought in $112,912.92, while November 2018 had $114,678.99.

• The county has received a $110,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to replace two fish passage bridges at 579 Sage Road and 544 Sage Road and the removal of another at 2250 800 Avenue — a low water structure that was vacated last year.

“Fish and Wildlife will pay us $76,000, which is up slightly from percentages they would pay us in the past,” Homman said.

• The commission approved the $187,346.81 purchase of a 2012 LeeBoy Paving machine for the road and bridge department from the Kirby-Smith Machinery Co. to replace a 15-year-old piece of equipment. The expenditure was budgeted in capital outlay funds.

Homman said the machine is being purchased through an alliance program for contract award pricing, meaning the purchase price was about $10,000 less than retail.

Having the road department do paving whenever feasible is a cost savings, Homman said in answer to a question posed by Peterson.

If all road paving were contracted out, it would cost “about three times more.” Also, the county uses its machine to help out the smaller cities when they have paving work.

“That $187,000 (purchase price) is going to easily save you millions over the life of the machine of 10 to 12 years,” he said.

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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