County news

Dickinson County Commissioners approved an updated county emergency operation plan during their Thursday meeting.

The state of Kansas requires that emergency operation plans be updated every five years, said Dickinson County Emergency Management (EM) Director Chancy Smith.

“The way technology replaces so fast, it’s web-based; it’s a living document. We can change it fairly easy once it’s in there,” Smith said.

The updated plan includes a mapping feature so important infrastructure and other places can be located easily.

“So if you want to know where a shelter is, it’s on the map already. There’s a dot there. You click on it and it tells you what it is,” Smith said. “Critical infrastructure is all mapped out there; all nursing facilities are mapped out on there.”

The plan includes GIS (Geographic Information System) data. Dickinson County has been a leader in GIS, especially since Sherry Massey, Dickinson County IT/GIS director, is a member of the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council.

A recent example of the importance of GIS data was seen following the May 2016 tornado that cut a swath across northern Dickinson County. Almost immediately after the tornado exited the county, the county’s GIS department created maps for first responders to check on residences in the path.

Smith said the updated Dickinson County plan includes features like maps for National Guard dip sites, pre-staged for helicopter use when fighting fires.

“If a helicopter comes here to help us, they know the grid coordinates to go out and fly right in to get water into their bucket to fight fire,” Smith said.

The emergency operation plan is an invaluable document, Smith explained. If he were unavailable during an emergency, another EM director could handle the situation.

“We have a really good relationship with Clay County. Their emergency manager could come here, open our plan and have no problem running a disaster for us in my absence,” Smith said. “That’s the reason for having it.”

Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson said he appreciates all the work Smith did documenting and likes the idea that someone else could handle the situation if Smith were unavailable.

Smith said he plans to talk to all city commissions/councils in Dickinson County about signing the agreement.

“It worked so well with Chapman when we had the disaster there (the 2008 tornado),” Smith said. “They fell right into the plan. They were able to look at it and use our debris management plan, mitigation plans.”

Having the cities’ approval before a disaster is important, he said.

“It takes that step out of it. If they should have a disaster, we don’t have to come to them and say ‘are you willing to do this?’ That’s not the right time,” Smith said.

Heat exchanger gone bad

Dickinson County Administrator Brad Homman told commissioners the heat exchanger on a HVAC unit serving the jail office and booking area had failed.

Since a new jail is under construction and all HVAC units will be replaced in the not-too-distant future when the courthouse is remodeled, Homman said the plan is to see if residual heating from other units would keep the area warm.

“We are pretty frugal around here and if we can get by without doing that part, we will. But if it gets cold in there, we may be replacing or repairing it,” he said.

Smith, who also oversees the county’s buildings, said the cost of a new heat exchanger is approximately $3,000 and that does not include installation.

New K-9 vehicle

The commission voted to purchase a fully equipped K-9 unit for $33,000 from an Andover vendor to be used by a new sheriff’s department deputy who will handle the dog officer. In November, the commission voted to sell the county vehicle used to transport the K-9 (sheriff’s department canine), the K-9 and equipment to Geary County for a total of $33,500 when a Dickinson County deputy took a position with the Geary County Sheriff’s Department.

Since the officer and dog work as a team, it was not feasible to keep the dog without having an officer. The dog would have had to be boarded, then retrained to work with a new officer, which also is not optimal because the dog was already halfway through its lifespan.

“Gareth (Sheriff Gareth Hoffman) said at the time he’d try to hire another canine officer to fill that void. Unbeknownst to him, he had an applicant that they have since hired — much more expediently then they anticipated,” Homman explained.

Finding a full-equipped vehicle for $33,000 is a “pretty good deal, knowing what equipment goes into those and what those expenses are,” Homman said.

“We sold a vehicle about half used up, it had about 70,000 miles on it and we’re buying a vehicle that’s brand new and coming out in the black about 500 bucks,” he said.

Other

• The commission approved the annual salary increase for elected personnel. The 3 percent increase is consistent with other county management positions included in the 2020 budget.

• The commission received a copy of an updated county policy that deals with gifts, gratuities and other property to be approved at the next county meeting.

• County Counselor Doug Thompson said 2020 indigent defense contracts are ready for commission approval.

• Heard from Peterson and Commissioner Craig Chamberlin about the death of Geary County Commissioner R. Ben Bennett on Dec. 12 and expressed their condolences. Peterson noted Bennett’s many accomplishments as a commissioner, former teacher and well-known wrestling and football coach.

“It is a great loss,” Peterson said. “We were privileged to have known someone like that.”

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

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

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