County news

Dickinson County officials were hoping they would not have to purchase a heating unit for the office and booking area of the jail, but winter did not cooperate.

“We tried to live without it, but it didn’t work,” County Administrator Brad Homman told commissioners on Thursday, explaining there is not enough heat during bitter cold spells.

In mid-December, the heat exchanger serving a portion of the jail failed and it was hoped residual heat from other units could keep the area warm. It was a short-term solution since the old HVAC units will be removed and replaced when the courthouse is remodeled after the new jail is finished. However, when temperatures plummeted, that option was not feasible.

The cost to replace the heat exchanger was $2,500.

New heat exchangers also are needed on another county-owned building. An inspection of Sterl Hall at the Central Kansas Free Fairgrounds found that four of eight HVAC units had bad heat exchangers.

“They are of an age where it’s not unusual,” Homman said. “It’s something we’ve got to do and, as far as I know, the AC (air conditioning) coils and compressors are still in good shape.”

The cost to replace the four units is $7,200 at $1,800 apiece. That money will come from a Sterl Hall fund.

Sales tax

Dickinson County’s regular sales tax collections in 2019 came in lower than expected.

The county recently received the October report — the final collection of 2019 — showing $101,545.17 collected during the month, making the yearly total $1,239,583.25.

The county had hoped to bring in $1.3 million.

“We didn’t quite make what we budgeted for,” Homman said.

While regular sales tax collections were less than planned, the county’s special half-cent sales tax used only for road and bridge projects, came in higher in 2019 than in 2018.

Approximately $1.197 million was collected in 2019 compared to $1.142 million in 2018.

“It was considerably more. It goes to show our economy did a little better this year,” Homman said. “We always set the bar pretty high for what we budget for.”

Internet provider change, upgrades

The county has changed its telephone service, upgraded its firewall and data transport by switching to Eagle Communications, which has an office in Abilene and employees who live in Dickinson County.

The county uses an Internet phone system and had telephone issues with the former provider that was difficult to resolve. Especially since it was difficult to reach an actual person when necessary.

“You go into the black hole of pushing buttons on your phone and you never get a body — even for a commercial system where we pay the money we pay,” Homman told commissioners. “It’s extremely frustrating.”

Although 911 lines never went down, the line to 911 Dispatch has had problems.

“When dispatches’ line goes down at eleven o’clock at night and we’ve got no service until two or three o’clock in the afternoon the next day, that’s problematic for us,” Homman said.

By switching, county officials have a “face we can deal with and basically for the same amount of money we can switch over to them, have a dial tone coming from them and promote a local company as well,” he said.

Changing telephone service is basically a trade off for the cost, he said. For 80 phone lines with 23 sip trunks, the county will pay $509.06 monthly and $500 for labor and materials, install and setup.

The county also is upgrading a seven-year-old computer firewall that is out of compliance. Eagle will provide a firewall for a $1,896 annual fee, based on a four-year contract that is managed by Eagle employees.

The bid for a replacement firewall from the old provider (with the county managing it) was $11,595 for purchase and setup along with a reoccurring annual maintenance contract of $5,546 after the first year.

The county’s data transport system also was upgraded with Eagle. It includes upping internet speeds, providing or increasing connectivity to all county facilities (which includes installing fiber to several locations, even from the courthouse to Station 2 EMS in Herington) and other enhancements.

By connecting Station 2, that means county staff will not have to drive to Herington to troubleshoot when that facility has issues.

It’s also a time savings for Abilene health department nurses and staff who travel to Herington twice a month for clinics. They have had to transport computers to Herington, enter information there and then transfer that information into their computers in Abilene.

It’s also a time savings for Herington EMS staff who will be able to log in their own reports.

“Now they call up here (EMS in Abilene) and tell their information to the crew here,” Homman said.

The cost for the data upgrade is a one-time delivery fee of $6,000 for materials and labor and a $1,400 monthly recurring fee for 250 mb speed and all fiber connectivity.

The county has been paying $900 a month for 100 mb service.

• Commissioners approved a resolution setting the 2020 fee schedule, listed on the county website. It includes price changes for some chemicals used for noxious weeds, a processing request fee for the register of deeds and a $2 fee increase at the transfer station previously approved in 2019.

• Road and bridge crews are replacing a small structure located in the 600 block of Paint Road. The bridge replacement is funded through a “fish passage” grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The grant pays for materials while the county pays for labor.

• In response to a question from Commissioner Craig Chamberlin, Homman said work is continuing on a joint sewer project between Detroit Sewer District No. 3 and the city of Enterprise.

During the process, it was discovered the lining in the south pond is not working properly. Water was pumped into it and the water just disappeared, Homman said.

• Heard from County Counselor Doug Thompson that 25 parcels are currently on the list of properties to be sold at the next delinquent tax sale. Of those, he’s already received default judgments on 20 of the projects while five still have government claims.

“I cannot foreclose on those until after 60 days,” Thompson said, explaining the federal government must first respond on the five properties.

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

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

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