County news

Construction work on Dickinson County’s new jail has slowed a little thanks to nearly daily rain the past couple of weeks.

“We’d love to have a few days without rain, but it hasn’t really slowed things down too much,” County Administrator Brad Homman told commissioners on Thursday.

One thing the rain did delay was concrete work. Since it was too wet, concrete contractors moved on to a different project.

“Obviously, we’re going to have a little problem getting the concrete people back here to work,” Homman said.

On the plus side, the front facade of the new building is completed and is ready for bricklayers. On the east side, studs and other framework are in place for most of the walls.

“They’re putting the electrical, HVAC ductwork and everything in. Things are moving good out here,” Homman said. “They can’t sheetrock until we get this part done and are ready to put the roof on the whole thing, but they’re doing what they can.”

Plumbing is also being installed for the fire suppression sprinkler system.

Commissioner Craig Chamberlin asked if the bids for phase 2, the courthouse remodeling project, were ready to go out.

Homman said bids were supposed to go out in July,

“We missed that target a little bit,” he said, explaining some changes were made in the basement involving moving the 911 dispatch center.

“We’re still waiting on the structural engineer and mechanical engineer to change those drawings,” he said. “As soon as that comes back, they (bids) are ready to go out.”

Construction officials indicated that, even with the delay, the project should remain true to the timeline.

Unfortunately, the delay might mean bids could come in higher than anticipated. Local construction officials were hoping bids might be lower than projected due to a slowdown in the building industry caused by the COVID-19 shutdown. However, in recent weeks circumstances have changed.

“With all this CARES money coming out nationwide, all those contractors that were kind of hungry last time we talked now have more work than they can do,” Homman said. “So I guess we’ll just see where it (bids) come in.”

More COVID relief

Commissioners awarded more CRF (Coronavirus Relief Funding) money on Thursday to county schools and cities to help cover costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county received $3.6 million in funds from the State of Kansas’ Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARKS) Taskforce Executive Committee to be allocated to local school districts and governing bodies.

That money came from the federal government as part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act.

The county began awarding funds during its July 23 meeting and approved more awards Thursday to schools and governing bodies that had submitted qualifying expenses.

CRF funds are distributed in two categories: One, to reimburse the entities for COVID-19 related expenses incurred between March 1 and July 31; and two, to provide direct aid to help counter the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31.

The amount of money each Kansas county receives is based on its population multiplied by $194 per person plus additional funding for “weighting” based on the number of positive COVID cases the county has had.

“Our number has been low, which is why bigger counties get more,” Homman explained. “They assume if you’ve got more people, you’ve got a bigger problem.”

After learning how the program would work, Homman said county staff met with four of the county’s five school superintendents (USD 481 Rural Vista, which includes Hope and Woodbine schools, is not included in Dickinson County since the district office is in Morris County), some board members and city officials to explain how the process would work.

“It’s first come, first serve,” Homman said. “They had to submit their requests and once we vetted those and felt like they were a COVID-related expense, we added it to the list.”

The funding is especially important to cities and school districts that had to use budget money for COVID-related expenditures earlier this year. Now the schools are preparing for in-building classes later this month.

“A lot of money will be going for personal protective equipment, sanitizing the equipment, thermometers and ways to measure temperatures and deal with the number of students coming in,” Homman said. “And the same for the cities.”

CDBG-CV authorization

The commission authorized documents and approved a Community Development Block Grant-COVID (CDGB-CV) to help businesses and non-profit organizations needing assistance because of issues caused by COVID-19.

Like the SPARKS program, this funding also comes from federal CARES money but was distributed to a different state department (Kansas Department of Commerce). It will be allocated locally to businesses or non-profits that suffered losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, Homman said.

The county was awarded $132,000 from the state.

“We applied for that with assistance from the Dickinson County Economic Development Corp (DKEDC) a month or so ago,” Homman said.

Grant funds can be used by qualifying businesses or non-profits that may be having difficulty meeting payroll, paying for inventory, utility bills or other similar issues.

Applications for this program will go through the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation and the North Central Regional Planning Commission. Dickinson County is the fiscal agent for this program.

“Lots of money is coming down to help society revitalize, although it’s kind of belated to some degree and happens in arrears,” Homman said.

Other

• Homman told commissioners the county had received a $1,012 risk reduction grant from KCAMP (Kansas County Association Multi-line Pool) to buy two video systems that will be placed on two loaders.

The county has been placing video cameras on the back of road and bridge equipment with monitors at the front so operators can view what is behind them, “reducing the risk of backing over someone” and accidents.

• Concerning road and bridgework, Homman said mastic seal has been placed on Old 40 Highway from Abilene to Detroit. Also work on Jeep Road to 2200 Avenue has been delayed due to a break down at the asphalt plant. The county purchases asphalt from an area paving company.

The county will dust off an application used in the past to apply for grant funds from the Kansas Department of Transportation’s “off-system” bridge program, meaning the structure is not on a major highway, to replace a bridge on 800 Avenue.

• The county received a $3,000 grant from TransCanada Energy Operations that will be used to help fund the purchase of new “Jaws of Life” for the three rescue trucks in the county used by the Abilene and Herington fire departments and Dickinson County Fire District No. 1.

• Commissioners approved an Equal Opportunity policy update for employees as a “housekeeping” item.”

• County Clerk/Election Officer Barb Jones reported that advance voting has been “brisk,” with 423 people coming into the courthouse to “walk in and vote” by meeting time Thursday.

“This is a higher number than usual in an August primary,” Jones said.

The primary election is Tuesday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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

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

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.