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Commissioners embrace work, mission of 4-H

The Oskaloosa Independent of Oskaloosa, Kansas

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Meeting Monday afternoon at the courthouse, Jefferson County Commissioners Richard Malm, Lynn Luck and Wayne Ledbetter voted to approve the issuance of a proclamation officially designating the week of Oct. 4-10 as National 4-H Week in Jefferson County in recognition of the positive role this youth development organization plays in communities across America through its emphasis on "learning by doing."

The action taken by the Board of County Commissioners followed the reading of the information-heavy proclamation by Sherry Seifert, leader of the county's 4-H Ambassadors. Two Ambassadors, Allison Nelson and Colby Weishaar, lined up in front of the commissioners to participate in the ceremony and were joined there by 4-H Council President Lewis Bolinger. Also present for the occasion were Linda Gantz, 4-H program manager, Anita Nelson, Allison's mother, and Bridget Weishaar, Colby's mother. In addition to being an Ambassador, Colby serves on the 4-H Council as a representative.

Malm, who has been active in 4-H over the years, and his fellow commissioners heard Seifert say that more than seven million boys and girls ages 7-19 are currently involved in 4-H in the United States. In Kansas alone, she reported, roughly 19,500 people are 4-H volunteers.

According to the proclamation, this county has 325 4-H club members and in excess of 100 volunteers.

Displays calling attention to 4-H's special week can be seen in the windows of two Oskaloosa businesses on the south side of the courthouse square, Linda Reiling's American Family Insurance agency and Kansas Secured Title.

In recognition of their ongoing commitment to the 4-H program in this county, the commissioners were given folding picnic chairs complete with carrying bags by the 4-H'ers.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to accept a bid on grading and resurfacing Wellman Road in the vicinity of 13th Street, a bid submitted by King's Construction Company Inc., Oskaloosa. The project is expected to begin sometime between mid-March and mid-April.

The King's bid came in at $217,610, easily beating a second bid, which was supplied by Hamm Inc., Perry. Hamm's was willing to do the necessary work for $245,188.

According to Public Works Director Bill Noll, there was a third bid, but he did not have the contractor's name or the amount of the bid in the papers he brought to the meeting. But all three bids exceeded the engineer's estimate, he said.

The county will be expected to shoulder $23,973 of the project's total cost. The original estimate was for $17,000.

Noll informed the board that he had received three bids on the construction of a 96' x 36' building to be used for storing county-owned vehicles and other equipment at the county shop in Oskaloosa. The apparent low bid was supplied by The Rusty Barn Company, Frankfort, Ky, and was in the amount of $18,800.

The other two bids were submitted by Mast Builders, Oskaloosa, and Morton Buildings Inc., Morton, 111, and came in at $24,895 and $41,000, respectively.

Noll reported that Eric Hull, the mayor of Oskaloosa, had contacted him regarding the city's interest in ensuring that electricity will be readily available around the courthouse square in the future to meet the needs of vendors and others during the annual Old Settlers Festival. The question arises because the new light poles Westar Energy will be installing around the square within the coming weeks will lack electrical outlets.

The Public Works director shared with the commissioners a proposed design for an electrical supply system that would utilize a series of risers, strategically located, to bring power to the innermost portion of the square, all of which is owned by the county. He also indicated that he would be further discussing the project with the mayor and other city leaders.

Other subjects covered by Noll during his weekly report were the results of traffic counts done along both Linn Road and 39th Street in the wake of the closing of Ferguson Road, the status of the bridge replacement project underway on Ferguson just north of US-24, arrangements for soliciting bids on the replacement of the air conditioning system at the courthouse, and the extent to which the old "ambulance barn" needs to be repaired if it is to be used as an office by new Emergency Management Director Keith Jeffers.

Sam Henderson, the county's Planning and Zoning administrator, gave the board a written report covering the issuance of building permits by his office during the third quarter of the year, which ended Sept. 30. A copy of the report was also made available to the paper for publication.

According to the four-page document, the Planning and Zoning Department issued 20 permits for dwellings over the three-month period and has now handed out a total of 42 such permits for the year. "It's been a pretty big quarter," Henderson remarked, seemingly pleased by the numbers.

The 20 permits represent the best third quarter figure the PZD has seen since 2007, and the 42 permits year to date are a seven-year high.

Henderson told the commissioners that in addition to the permits for dwellings, his office issued 37 other building permits, for a three-month total of 57.

"It looks like you've been busy," Luck said to the second-year administrator. "We try," he replied.

For the second week in a row, Jeffers supplied the commissioners with a written report covering the activities of the department he now oversees. He also made a copy of the report available to the paper for publication. It reads as follows:

"Clean-up work has begun on the old ambulance barn to ready it for use as the EM offices. I am also looking at using the space in the basement of the old jail, and considering different options to efficiently use the locations for best access.

"Next Thursday, Oct. 15th, I will be meeting with Chad Omitt, the National Weather Service Chief Coordinating Meteorologist for the Topeka National Weather Service to meet some of the Topeka meteorologists, discuss weather decision support services and other winter weather services that the NWS can provide.

"I will be attending the October 6th County Fire Meeting and the October 20th Fire Board Meeting.

"Work is progressing with Austin Low getting the county Emergency Management vehicle ready. The installation of lights, county markings and other necessary equipment upgrades are planned for this week. Once these are completed, a shell will be purchased and installed, then the slide rack, followed by the vehicle radio systems "Continued discussions with TBS Electronics regarding upgrades to the radio repeaters in the east and west portions of the county to provide better coverage for the county response agencies. Future discussions will need to include other department leaders."

Chris Schmeissner, the county's Geographic Information System/Information Technology director, reported that negotiations involving his office and other GIS offices in nearby counties were underway in an effort to secure the services of a company specializing in aerial photography for 2016. He told the commissioners he was hopeful a contract could be awarded to the vendor, who was not identified, by the end of the month.

Schmeissner advised the board that he would be attending a statewide GIS conference in Wichita later in the week.

On a 3-0 vote, the board approved Resolution 2015-26 at the request of County Treasurer Mary Underwood. The resolution effectively voids the collection of $19,526.91 in unpaid personal property taxes for the year 1994.

"We were unable to collect," Underwood told Ledbetter matter-of-factly when pressed for some sort of an explanation as to why the county never received the money it was owned. "It could be (due to) many things," County Appraiser Tanya Erichsen, who was seated next to Underwood, quickly added, offering her support in a manner of speaking.

At the request of Community Development Block Grant Administrator Bob Hosack, Malm signed two documents pertaining to Lakewood Hills' successful application for a $150,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce to upgrade the park within the improvement district. One document consisted of an Environmental Assessment statement, in which the county maintains that the proposed improvements to the park will not have a significant impact on the environment. The other was a Request for Release of Funds and Certification.

Lakewood Hills will be constructing an open-air shelter house, making improvements to the existing playground and purchasing two new basketball goal posts with the money it is receiving from the KDC through a special round of funding. The overall cost of the project is $166,200.

Three executive sessions took place during the final 45 minutes of the meeting, which adjourned shortly after 2:45. The first lasted 11 minutes and had as participants the commissioners, County Counselor Josh Ney and Topeka attorney Thomas Knutzen. Because both Ney and Knutzen were present, the reason cited for the need for privacy was the attorney-client privilege recognized in the Kansas Open Meetings Act. No binding action was taken when the meeting reopened to the public.

The second closed-door discussion was requested by Noll and lasted 10 minutes. It was held for the stated purpose of discussing personnel matters relating to non-elected personnel. Ney was permitted to remain in the room to facilitate the discussion. Again, no binding action was taken afterward.

The third closed-door discussion was requested by Ledbetter and also lasted 10 minutes. It, too, was held for the stated purpose of discussing personnel matters relating to non-elected personnel. Once more, no binding action was taken afterward.

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: October 8, 2015

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