Advanced voting in Dickinson County started out strong, according to County Clerk/Election Officer Barb Jones.
On the first day of advance voting on Wednesday, July 15 — for the Aug. 4 primary election — 51 registered Dickinson County voters “walked in” to the clerk’s office to cast ballots at the courthouse and 394 advance ballots were mailed out that day.
Statewide, 263,000 ballots were mailed out July 15, Jones said, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Tax sale successful
The annual sale of properties with delinquent taxes was held Monday, July 13 and it “went very good,” said County Administrator Brad Homman. He reported for County Counselor Doug Thompson who was unavailable.
Twenty parcels were up for auction and 16 sold. Homman noted that number is “really good.” The sale brought in $16,170 for the county.
“Hopefully, those 16 will get back on the tax rolls and start generating some revenue,” Homman said. “I think that in all my years, that’s the best auction we’ve had in the number of parcels that have sold and the least number that were on the list. So doing it every year has really been paying off.”
Several years ago when the county began holding a yearly tax sale, there were 125 parcels on the auction block because no sale had been held for years.
Homman noted the word seems to have gotten out to those who “play the system” by not paying their taxes that the county “will do something about it.”
Homman said his office had received several inquiries asking why the courthouse security guards were not wearing masks in compliance with the governor’s mandatory mask order, adopted by the county.
Homman said there were a couple reasons: One, the guards need to be able to smell and use all their senses when dealing with people coming into the building.
“They’re looking and smelling for things like alcohol and marijuana and they can’t do that with a mask on,” he said.
The second reason — the “more prevalent” one — concerns the number of hearing impaired people who come into the courthouse on a daily basis.
“You don’t realize how much you look at somebody’s mouth and face when you communicate with them,” Homman said, explaining it’s a challenge trying to communicate with some people when they come in to purchase tags or do other business.
“They (guards) determined it’s better for them to be able to keep their senses aware and not wear masks. All of those things fall under the governor’s (mask) exemptions for different categories,” Homman said. “So if anybody asks you, there are some reasons why they’re not wearing masks. It’s not just because they don’t want to.”
Jail update & Phase 2 bids
During the biweekly jail update with contractors, county staff learned of a couple setbacks this past week, primarily due to wet conditions.
“It seems like we had rain every morning,” Homman said.
• Walls in the jail that were still under construction July 9 when commissioners toured the facility are now up.
• The wall between the original courthouse and the corner of the new building was two-thirds of the way completed;
• The floor of the booking area in the new jail will be poured this week after being delayed by muddy conditions, delaying plumbers and electricians from getting their portions prepped;
• Uprights on the exterior of the administration portion have been built and builders are preparing for sheathing to be installed on the outside. Masons will then begin working.
• Forms for the front entry into the courthouse and jail have been erected and contractors hope to pour the walkway for the ramp this week.
Homman reported hands-free faucets will be installed in the new building and renovated areas of the courthouse due to COVID-19 concerns.
He also noted that the bid package for Phase 2, renovating and remodeling the courthouse built in 1962, was in the process of being finalized and would likely be ready by the commission’s July 23 meeting.
“Everything is going well. There are lots of moving parts out there going on. Lots of people scurrying around,” Homman reported.
Line moved finally
Homman told commissioners that AT&T finally moved a line Wednesday that served the treasurer’s office.
“We’ve been waiting about three years for that. So they were very timely,” Homman quipped.
After waiting without results, Project Manager Tom Shirack with Loyd Builders, construction manager, had decided to pull the line out of the ground and hang it up over the building with some slack.
“Until yesterday (July 15) it was still hanging over the building,” Homman said, explaining crews were tired of working around it, but the line was necessary.
“We had to keep it intact because the motor vehicle department relies on that for all their computer information,” he said.
“It’s kind of humorous when you look back. They were supposed to be here and didn’t come. If we’d have waited on them to move the AT&T line that was underground under the corner of the building, we would still be waiting and the jail wouldn’t have been built,” he said.
Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson said the county health department had begun publishing a summary showing the status of COVID-19 cases and other information three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The summary gives statistical information as far as age groups, demographics, deaths by age, hospitalizations and statewide deaths.
“It’s just something to let us know what’s going on here in Dickinson County and get that information out to the public,” Peterson said. “I know people still have high levels of concerns and safety steps being taken and will continue to be taken.”
The summary is published on the Dickinson County Health Department’s Facebook page.
In a related comment, Peterson said commissioners continue to hear comments from people regarding the governor’s mandatory mask order adopted by the commission for Dickinson County. He believes many people were more interested in what the governor would say, specifically in regard to schools opening, but said the commission would continue to welcome comments from county residents.
• Commissioner Craig Chamberlin thanked county resident Randy Leckron for taking down a couple rows of corn at the intersection of Old 40 Highway and Jeep Road making visibility at that intersection “a lot better.”
He also complimented county road crews for the “excellent” job laying down asphalt on Kansas Highway 15.
• Heard from Peterson that the commission was still going over budget numbers and were tentatively planning to hold the budget hearing Aug. 13.
• Commissioner Ron Roller said he attended a board of directors meeting for the North Central Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center and the facility was doing well, but has concerns about COVID-19. Roller also said he appreciates the community’s support in working with the commission to follow the mandatory mask order.
• Homman said he learned the county would have to foot the bill for a second indigent death this year after being contacted by a Junction City mortuary that handles indigent cremations.
Indigent burials occur when a person dies without any family or means to pay.
Contact Kathy Hageman at firstname.lastname@example.org