Part one of last week’s Dickinson County Commission meeting.
By Tim Horan
Members of the public put the Dickinson County Commission in the hot seat at its regular meeting.
Gina Dalton started over an hour of comments asking, “How important do you think a quality education is?”
She asked if the schools in the county were exempt from the mask mandate.
“If it is not clear in the mandate, can we make it clear in the mandate?” she said.
She said that schools are essential and should be exempt from the mandate.
“I would like to consider the schools essential, get rid of mandate so they can do their job and not have to worry about if they make a wrong step they will get completely shut down.”
“Do we have jurisdiction over the school board?” Roller asked.
“No,” said County Administrator Brad Homman, who is a member of the Solomon Board of Education.
“Does the school board not take care of their own affairs?”
“Yes,” Homman said.
He said the only authority the county would have over the school district is if it would come to a medical order under Chapter 65 of the statues.
“And there haven’t been any of those yet,” he said.
“I was just told by someone in the school system they can’t make decisions because (Dr. Brian) Holmes rules,” she said.
Dr. Holmes is the Dickinson County Health officer.
Peterson said that during the summer, stakeholders, city managers, county representatives, city representatives, school nurses, school superintendents and school board members met to discuss COVID-19 procedures.
“All of them were brought to the table saying we’ve got this challenge and we need to start working towards it,” he said. “It was an organized effort to try to bring everyone to the table.”
Laurie Megan Armstrong questioned the county’s use of the COVID-19 grants.
“My impression was that the purpose of those funds were to kind of help our community move along in this pandemic,” she said.
She said the web site said the funds were for economic challenges impacted by COVID-19.
She said, of the $3.6 million the county received, the county kept about half to invest in outdated infrastructure. She specially mentioned Sterl Hall where grants were used to add a bathroom with showers.
“I don’t thank that was part of the health and economic challenges,” she said.
She also questioned $263,000 paid out for payroll for public health and safety. She said $59,000 was paid out to the county administrator.
“It was explained to me that was a 70 percent reimbursement of their time,” she said.
She was concerned that money went to the county emergency manager, the budget director, the EMS/health director and the deputy director of public health and the public health director.
“We didn’t use it for the health and welfare and building up our businesses here,” she said. “I think our taxpayers, our citizens, deserve an explanation.”
Peterson said requests were sent out to the cities and schools in the county to identify specific needs.
“From my understanding, we did not turn down a request from a school or a city,” he said.
“Ultimately, it had to go to the state for their review and approval,” he said. “It didn’t happen here but in other counties, they didn’t meet the guidelines and it was turned down.”
Homman said no county official received a bonus. The grants went instead to the county as a reimbursement of county official salaries. He said it was to pay for the percentage of the job that officials had done related to COVID since the first of March.
“We got no extra bonus,” Homman said. “The purpose behind that was to reimburse the county so the 70 percent we saved can be pushed forward into our capital plan. So the county saved that amount of money.”
He also said more than 70 percent of his job as county administrator since the first of March has been COVID related.
Homman said there were improvements made to Sterl Hall. The improvements were new construction so it can be used as an emergency structure.
“I think our expenditures were good,” he said.
Though he didn’t mention Dr. Holmes by name, Greg Wilson questioned salary being allocated as the county health officer and county coroner.
“I am glad you told us that you didn’t make any money off COVID but I do know one person that has,” he said. “And it is really upsetting to me that he made $10,000 a month over the nine months that I know about and $60,000 was COVID. He is not here to defend himself but this is public knowledge.”
He said he’s also making $2,900 a month as the county coroner.
“There is no way he can physically do four jobs — Junction City emergency room, the hospital, coroner and CHO— and do any of those jobs any good if he is actually putting the time in,” he said. “I am glad to hear that nobody else made any money off COVID.
“How can a person, morally or ethically, make that kind of money off a pandemic?” Wilson asked. “There is no way he can put that many hours in and do all four jobs. That is why I got involved. The No. 1 reason. Everyone is upset in the county.”
At first you were trying to fine us and shut us down, he said.
“I know it was not you guys. It was one man and the people stood up,” Wilson said. “That’s why we are here now.
“I am very happy to hear that nobody else made money off this but the one that did needs to be fired,” Wilson said.
Peterson asked for any follow-up and there was none by commissioners.
Paige Westfall said she realized the commissioners have a difficult job.
“I don’t want it. I know exactly where Craig (Chamberlin) stands. Do I agree with it? No. Doesn’t mean I hate him. Hope he doesn’t hate me. We all have different opinions. I know right where Ron (Roller) stands,” she said. “Not sure about you, Lynn (Peterson). I have been here a long time and I have seen you talk circles. I think the politician is who you want to be. And that’s fine.”
She asked the commission to keep businesses and schools open.
“I think our vote pretty much tells where we are at,” Peterson responded.
Roller said that when he was working in the Department of Defense for a number of years he worked with some top-notch people.
“Those people were two-star generals,” Roller said.
He quoted from one of those generals. “Ron, there is not one of us that is as important and powerful as all of us. We are a team.”
“We as commissioners sitting here, believe me, have gone over more things than we have discussed this morning. There are times we shed tears here. There are times when we are so angry we can’t see straight. We are not your enemies. We are you. We are the public. You see one side, sometimes, of what is going on but we see the repercussions on how we can put out a fire and go on and move forward and do something positive on a situation.
“That is what we are looking at,” he added. “Please don’t think we are your enemy. We lay awake nights thinking how we can make things better. None of us want to wear masks. All of us think this is crazy.”
“Take them off. Take them off,” said someone from the audience.
“But we have leadership higher up from the federal level, from the state level down,” Roller said. “The vaccines are here and we will be over this in no time.”
“When is the criteria when the masks come off?” Wilson asked.
“I wish I was smart enough to tell you,” Roller said.
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.