Dickinson County

Dickinson County Commissioners approved buying steel bids to be used on two “fish passage” bridges.

The bridges are located at 564 Oat Road and 777 Paint Road.

The commission on Thursday accepted the low bid of $29,155 from Husker Steel of Lincoln, Neb., for I-beams, angle iron and flat iron for both bridges.

The county received only one bid for push sheeting, deck sheeting and guardrails submitted by Welborn Sales of Salina totaling $33,328.84 for both bridges.

Fish passage bridges, located in the southeastern portion of the county, are in the habitat of the Topeka Shiner, a tiny minnow.

The Shiner is on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical list of endangered species so when bridges in the habitat need to be replaced, the county has to follow specific regulations.

Due to the costs involved in following the specific regulations, the federal government offers fish passage grants to help fund the projects. In recent years, Dickinson County has been awarded a number of grants.

The grants cover the cost of materials, while the county provides the labor.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant pays for us to build those and we essentially provide the labor so they will reimburse us once we spend it (for materials),” said County Administrator Brad Homman.

In answer to a question posed by Commissioner Craig Chamberlin, Homman said the county has probably replaced 18 to 19 bridges using fish passage grants. Without the grant funding, some of those bridges likely would not be replaced, he said.

Wash out?

Dickinson County was not affected or minimally affected by flooding caused by heavy rains before and after the Labor Day weekend, Homman said.

911 Dispatch received a report of a tube washing out east of Rain Road on 3200 Avenue, but roads have been too wet and muddy for road and bridge crews to check it out.

“We’re waiting for it to dry out. Of course if it’s too wet, nobody is getting down there to use it anyhow,” Homman said.

The tube is likely owned by the township since it doesn’t show up on the county’s inventory, he added.

“I think we dodged a bullet. Fortunately, we didn’t have what Manhattan or Riley County had, but we had some pretty decent rains in the northeast corner of the county,” Homman said.

Filling jobs

Several county jobs are open in dispatch, the sheriff’s department and road and bridge department, Homman said.

“What can we do to attract more people?” questioned Commission Chairman Craig Chamberlin.

“It’s not just us. I think it’s the workforce in general. Everybody we talk to has difficulty attracting laborers,” Homman said.

Some jobs, like 911 Dispatch and sheriff’s officers require specific skills. Even road and bridge crews today need specific machine operating skills.

Commissioner Lynn Peterson commented that the jobs require background checks and drug testing which often disqualify people.

“We reevaluated and raised our wage levels as well,” Peterson said. “We’re making an attempt to be competitive in that regard and the quality of life we offer in this area.”

Homman said having two or three open positions in a county with 140 employees is pretty good and Peterson noted many of those employees have been with the county for years.

“We have great benefits, but you can’t spend benefits,” Chamberlin said. “Like this year, we gave a raise, but after everything was taken out of it, they took home less money.”

In other matters, the commission:

• Appointed Chamberlin the voting delegate for the KWORCC (Kansas Workers Risk Cooperative of Counties) meeting and Peterson as alternate.

• Heard that several items have been listed for sale on the online auction site Purple Wave. Besides a loader and steel beams approved as surplus during recent meetings, a V-blade for a snow plow also was listed. Homman said it sold on Purple Wave several years ago but the person who bought it didn’t pay for it or attempt to pick it up.

• Will meet with the Abilene City Commission for a planning session Oct. 1, time and place to be determined.

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com

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