By TIM HORAN
Without any fanfare the boundaries that make up the three commission districts in Dickinson County were changed at the April 4 regular meeting of the commission.
“It’s been a long process,” said Chairman LaVerne Myers.
The option that made the City of Abilene District 2 was given a tentative OK after a public hearing at the March 28 meeting. No one showed up at the April 4 meeting when the three commissioners signed a resolution changing the boundaries.
“I haven’t received any additional comments,” Myers added. “Hopefully, it’s not too big of a change and it’s easy to explain.”
“I’ve only received positive comments,” said Commissioner Craig Chamberlin.
The redistricting action has been a long process and one that sparked considerable debate.
Without new districts, the previous map could have been considered unequal. District 1 had 5,911 people and 404 square miles; District 2 had 7,821 people and 36 square miles; and District 3 had 6,022 people and 411 square miles. The population difference between District 2 and District 1 is close to 2,000 (1,910).
The commission’s attorney Doug Thompson said in January that state law says that each commission will address the redistricting.
The issue heated up last year when the most popular map among the commissioners split District 2 which includes Abilene, the county’s largest populated area, into each of the three districts. This caused a protest among the rural residents as it left the possibility open for all three commissioners to live in the city of Abilene.
A motion to approve that map failed for a lack of a second.
The map the commissioners approved places the City of Abilene into District 2, moves Grant Township into District 3 and Garfield and Newbern townships move from District 3 into District 1.
The greatest population discrepancy there is 384, again between District 2 and District 1.
The commissioners also attended the North Central Kansas Highway Officials meeting in Minneapolis.
Myers said he learned from that meeting that Kansas might be putting more money into funding safety concerns such as the Old Highway 40 project.
“There could be some funds available,” he said. “I talked with John (Gough, the county engineer) and he said there could be some projects that could be safety issues. That might be a fund where money would be available. It doesn’t hurt to apply.”
Those federally funded projects are also split 90-10 with the county only paying 10 percent while most grants are 80-20 with the county paying the 20 percent, Myers said.
In his report to the commission, County Administrator Brad Homman said that the road and bridges crew is now working four 10-hour days.
“We started that several years ago and that has led to considerable savings, especially when it comes to driving out to jobs and back, fuel and mileage. We only do that in the summertime, during the fair weather months,” Homman said.
Homman reported that sales tax collection was down for the month of January.
“We hope that is a one month trend,” he said, adding that state-wide sales tax collections are down.”
“It is a concern because it does reflect economic activity in the county,” Commissioner Lynn Peterson said, adding that sales tax collections totaled $1,250,414.96 last year. The previous county commission approved a budget of $1.1 million. “It was a conservative amount that is factored in and I think that is always important for them to do that because there is a concern that the sales tax is down. As for the budget, because of that, the conservative frugal approach, we are not in any real danger, you might say.”
The commissioners will also canvass the recent election.
“On that number we always shoot low and hope it is high,” Homman said.
In other business, the Commission:
* signed a proclamation making April “Fair Housing Month;”
* approved the minutes of the March 28 meeting, approved abatements of $673.48 and wire transfers of $6,716.84;
* approve the purchase of tubes for 1668 Barn Road for $8,440 from Metal Culverts Inc., Jefferson City, Mo.;
* approved the purchase of steel beams for two projects—2910 Flag Road and 1745 Deer Road—from Welborn Sales, Salina, for $7,831;
* set a date of May 2 to view and discuss a fence issue;
* set April 25 for a meeting of the Public Building Commission;
* will meet with members of neighboring counties commissions Wednesday night.