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County hires new Emergency Management director

The Oskaloosa Independent of Oskaloosa, Kansas

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Jefferson County Commissioner Lynn Luck announced Monday afternoon during the weekly meeting of the Board of County Commissioners that the county had hired Keith Jeffers to replace Mike Baxter as director of Emergency Management.

"We're glad to have you here," Luck, vice chairman of the board, told Jeffers, who officially began his new duties Monday, filling a position that has been vacant since Aug. 3.

Luck's announcement was quickly followed by the passage of two resolutions, Resolution 2015-25 and Resolution 2015-13, each of which received the support of the vice chairman and her fellow commissioner, Wayne Ledbetter. Commissioner Richard Malm, chairman of the board, was absent, leaving it up to Luck to run the meeting.

Resolution 2015-25 represents a formal acknowledgement of Jeffers' hiring, while Resolution 2015-13 sets the new EM director's biweekly compensation at $1,961.54, whicb equates to $51,000 annually.

Jeffers, 53, has been a training and exercise specialist for the State of Kansas for the past three years. In this capacity he has been working in Salina, the home of what is known as Crisis City.

Jeffers told the paper Monday afternoon that Baxter, now the fire chief of Douglas County's Wakarusa Township, would be traveling to Oskaloosa in two days to help him become better acquainted with the facilities and equipment associated with Jefferson County's all-important EM operation.

More information about Jeffers will appear in the next issue of the paper.

Public Works Director Bill Noll reported that at the request of the board, a second CodeRed message had been sent to county residents most likely to be impacted by the closing of Ferguson Road between US-24 and 39th Street and that 47 percent of them had received it. He seemed pleased with the figure.

The road was closed Sept. 8 so county workers could begin removing the concrete bridge spanning Little Wild Horse Creek.

Noll said the Road and Bridge Department had placed a "Road Closed Ahead" sign near the intersection of K-92 and Ferguson but that he was still waiting to hear from the Kansas Department of Transportation as to whether or not it would allow the county to put "Road Closed" signs on either side of Ferguson along US-24.

Noll reported that county workers last week removed the bridge, which he believed was built in 1951, and said the overall project, which involves dismantling the existing bridge and replacing it with a new one, was on schedule.

There was a discussion about the availability of funds to upgrade the air conditioning system at the courthouse. Noll told the commissioners that the county's general Capital Improvement fund contained $212,000 but that roughly $110,000 would still be needed should the county ultimately decide to replace the entire system. He also suggested that various other funds controlled by various departments could be tapped to come up with much of the money needed for a new system, an approach he described as "piecemeal" in nature. "There is the money available either way," he commented.

At one point Noll asked County Counselor Josh Ney if the county was legally obligated to solicit bids on replacing the system, a reference to the fact that to date, Johnson Controls has made all of the improvements to the existing system that have been made, including the installation of a new control panel. "We'll look at it,"

Ney replied.

Current county policy dictates that any purchase of $25,000 or greater be subject to the bidding process.

Noll informed the board that he was interested in seeing the county buy what he described as a "stripped down work truck" for use by the Road and Bridge Department. He has his sights set on a Ford F-350 and estimated the cost of one at $26,000 based on 2015 prices. But those prices would only be good for another three weeks, he said.

Noll advised the board that he would like to solicit bids on the construction of a 96' x 36' building that would be used to store various county vehicles and equipment. The structure would be located amid the county's facilities on the east edge of Oskaloosa.

The Public Works director was informed by the board that it is opposed to the idea of implementing dust control measures along both Linn Road and 39th Street. Ledbetter said the county would be reworking both roads at some point. Grading a road would render useless any dust control material that had been applied to it earlier.

Ledbetter announced that he had conferred with the office of the County Treasurer and learned that using the office's mailings to disseminate information about the CodeRed emergency notification system would constitute "no problem whatsoever."

Sam Henderson, Planning and Zoning administrator, informed the board that Russell Brown, doing business as R-Bar-B, had applied for a Special Event permit to hold what is known as a "Type 6 event" at 3256 39th Street on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He said that Brown's conditional use permit allowed him to have six camping spots at the site at all times but that he wanted to have 20 sites available for campers over the three-day period.

Questioned by Luck, Henderson said his office received Brown's application for a permit last week. She responded by expressing the view that the application should have been submitted much earlier.

The commissioners approved the issuance of the permit.

Treasurer Mary Underwood briefly appeared before the board to report that an individual had expressed an interest in purchasing from the county Lot 6 in Block W of Lake Ridge Estates. She said the individual, who was not identified, wanted to build on the lot.

Based on the treasurer's report, the commissioners voted to have the county run an advertisement in the official county newspaper letting it be known that the lot is available and that the county will be accepting sealed bids on it. The minimum bid was set at $300.

Steven Bowen showed up at the meeting to ask the commissioners who is responsible for maintaining what he initially referred to as "Cove Road Cemetery" and seconds later called "the original Half Mound/Coal Creek Cemetery." He then proceeded to make the claim that "Jeff (Jeff Reichart) wants to doze (use a bulldozer) it out."

Bowen also accused Reichart of having lied to various people in recent years when the general subject of the cemetery was being discussed, but he did not provide any details.

Entering the discussion, Noll told Bowen that he (Bowen) needed to remove a sign that had been erected near the cemetery within the right-of-way of a county road. "You can't have a sign that close to the road," he said.

At one point Bowen mentioned a court ruling that had gone against the Bowen family, but Ledbetter told him the board had no authority to reverse the court's action. "There's nothing we can do for you," he remarked. "You'll have to pursue it (a favorable remedy to the situation) by other means."

The commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and F.W. Huston Medical Center in Winchester authorizing the transfer of dispatch services from the 911 Dispatch Center in Oskaloosa to the hospital in an emergency.

Copyright 2015 The Oskaloosa Independent, Oskaloosa, Kansas. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: September 24, 2015

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