While saying he is willing to go to Topeka to pursue the financial incentives for getting the county Courthouse listed on the historical register, Kiowa County Commission Chairman Gene West also made clear at last week’s meeting he’s not interested in doing so if it means unduly delaying the remodeling of the structure.

   While saying he is willing to go to Topeka to pursue the financial incentives for getting the county Courthouse listed on the historical register, Kiowa County Commission Chairman Gene West also made clear at last week’s meeting he’s not interested in doing so if it means unduly delaying the remodeling of the structure.
   “I was told it would be August before the preliminary application (for achieving historical status) could be done and I was hoping to have half of the work (on the courthouse) done by then,” West told Anne Dixson and Carmen Stauth.  “I don’t want us to back up from letting bids March 27 and opening them on April 24.  But I’m willing to go to Topeka to talk to them to get some straight answers.”
    Getting the building listed on the State’s historical register would mean being eligible for tax credits for annual maintenance expenses, as well as heritage trust grants, which can total up to $90,000 in a year.
   “Where I’m interested in the historical part of it is in maintenance help over the years,” West commented.
    Pointing out that in addition to House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney being from Greensburg, Kent Stalik reminded the commission the Senate President and House Speaker are also from southwestern Kansas, prompting him to assert, “I think we could use the political connection of them to influence this (getting courthouse named to historical register) to move quickly.”
   Dixson then suggested doing the remodeling work “in phases,” in order to accommodate the timeline of achieving historical status.
   “That would be difficult to do with our contractor,” Emergency Preparedness Director Ray Stegman answered.
   “Even if we could do it in phases I see it as prolonging the completion of the project,” West added.  “With what I see with USDA raising their maximum level of (gap grant) funding to 60 percent, I want to get going with this while as much funding as possible is available.  Plus, with FEMA having upped the allowance for projects I don’t think the commission is wanting to go after the historical money if that’s going to muddy the waters with those other agencies.”
In other matters…
•Stegman reported the $1 million in State conditional grant funds for basic operating expenses has been received and is sitting idle until possibly needed.  He explained the County would be liable to pay four percent interest on the total amount once it draws and spends any of the allotment, although “We might not have to pay it back down the road, depending on the County’s financial status at that time.”
•Dixson noted that six individuals from the Community Recovery Action Team and Can-Do Team plan to go to Topeka this summer once the legislative session’s completed to “tell the story of the recovery’s progress and our need for long-term assistance.”  She also said the group’s preference would be for at least one of the commissioners to attend the trip as well.
nIt was disclosed that former County Appraiser John Colclazier’s attorney Kurt Campbell had given his approval to the County beginning the process of advertising for applicants to replace Colclazier.
   West later told The Signal finalization of a financial settlement with Colclazier was imminent, meaning the former appraiser’s appeal of his firing by the commission would not proceed further.  A hearing for next month in Greensburg had been scheduled.
•Rogene Heugetter of the State’s Property Valuation Department said that while she’d hoped to have “some preliminary valuation figures” for the commission, she’d have to wait until the March 31 meeting to present the numbers.  She also said valuation notices would be mailed to taxpayers soon.  Heugetter has been fulfilling basic appraisal duties in Colclazier’s absence and will continue to do so until the County hires a replacement.
•The commission agreed to donate the land on which the County Fire Department had been located prior to the tornado back to the City.  Originally owned by Vic and Jamie McElwain, the ground was originally given to the City by the two, the City in turn giving it to the County for the fire station.  The City plans on developing the land as part of its parks complex.
•County Extension Agent Pam Muntz’s request for the County to take over paying the salary and providing benefits for an office manager was finally approved with documentation as a resolution providing for the change was given the thumbs up.  Though the new employee’s pay will come out of the extension office’s budget in 2008 as it has in the past, the expense will be borne in the County’s budget starting in 2009.  The extension office’s 2009 budgeted allowance will, therefore, be less that amount.
•The commission also gave the okay for the contractual placement of a temporary County Health Department employee to assume part of the duties formerly managed by departed employee Jessica Sutton.  County Health Nurse Mitzi Hesser said the temporary worker would primarily “see new mothers,” and that the part-time pay would not include benefits.
•Alana Goodman and Bob Mosier appeared to announce GHS’s Green Club plans to expand on its recycling effort to ask local businesses to begin maintaining recycling bins on site as they’ve been doing recently on campus.
   West responded to Mosier’s inquiry as to whether the County had yet settled on a location for the new recycling center by saying, “We’re still looking at sites.  Right now we’re playing phone tag with a couple of people (owning property being considered for the spot).
•In other recycling matters, Road and Bridge Superintendent Doyle Conrad reported the 44-foot semi trailer he’d been looking to purchase to haul recyclables to Pratt will likely cost the County less than anticipated.  Saying he’d discovered EMC, the County’s insurance carrier, had failed to “take seriously” reimbursement of the trailer used for the same purpose before May 4, his contact had prompted “them to give us $2,350 in insurance money for it,” meaning the $4,800 he’d planned on spending for the replacement trailer will now be reduced to $2,450.
nHaving been thwarted in replacing the recycling baler by prohibitive shipping costs, Conrad told commissioners he’d hauled the tornado-damaged model to Hutchinson’s B&B Hydraulics.  “They said they could refurbish it for $3,500 and that sounded pretty good to me,” he said.  While he’d found a couple of good used balers at either end of the county for $4,800, Conrad said the freight for either would have come to “at least $2,400.” 
   He also reported having found a used 10-foot pull-type mower from the State for $1,600, which he said would have cost $14,000 new.
•The north landfill has now been closed for good, as of March 14 according to Conrad.  The landfill had been receiving solid waste the last 30 years.  Such agencies as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Corps of Engineers signed off on the closure.
•Conrad’s request to reinstate the former landfill schedule of being closed on Mondays was put on hold for the time being.  “I’d like to get it closed on Mondays fairly soon to work on getting it (south landfill) back into compliance with KDHE,” Conrad said.  West, however, said he’d prefer to “wait another four to six weeks” before doing so because of a likely “push to clean up some more around town now that spring’s here.”