July 27, 2021 Tuesday 9:00 am
The Bourbon County Commission met in open session with Commissioner Harris and Beth present, the County Counselor and the County Clerk present.
Also present were the following: (some were present for a portion of the meeting and some were present for the entire meeting), Nancy Van Etten, Clinton Walker, Deb Needleman, Anne Dare, Mr. & Mrs. Richard Clark, Michael Braim and Rob Harrington.
Clifton made a motion to approve the minutes from the previous meetings, Jim seconded and all approved.
Justin Meeks reported that Lynne Oharah was sick with COVID symptoms and would not be at the meeting.
Jim made a motion to approve the installation of a culvert for Jeremy Budy at 1221 240th and for Joseph Yoder in Devon, Clifton seconded and all approved.
Eric Bailey gave the Commissioners a thank you letter from Stephen Plaster – an appreciation letter for his road pavement request.
Eric reported that last week they reclaimed the bad areas on Yale Road.
The County had heavy rain a week ago; Eric said he has been working with Emergency Manager William Wallis, in case they get a declaration regarding the road damage. He said they are low on asphalt chips, but said they are running the crusher 13-14 hours a day to catch up. He said they did asphalt work yesterday on 250th and said that some residents in that area are requesting a 45 mph speed limit on that road; the Commissioners questioned Justin Meeks about this and he said it would be whatever the State Statute is regarding speed limits. Clifton will talk with residents there and this will be discussed again next week.
Eric said they are doing repairs to the asphalt machine, but might be asphalting again today. He said they are close to being done crushing at the Beth Quarry and said the blast resulted in 42,000+ ton of material.
Eric said they would be installing Gordon Parks signs this week.
Eric said they had a speed limit request on a gravel road on 130th between 39 and Arrowhead, he said there is a lot of traffic here due to the bridge being shut, he said 2 residents in this area would like it to be 30 mph. Jim made a motion to allow 35 mph signs up on 130th between 39 & Arrowhead and that Eric report back to the Commissioners on this after the construction is finished, as well as 35 mph on Cavalry between 130th & 7 Hwy, Clifton seconded and the motion passed.
Eric said he and Jim Harris had met with the Bureau of Waste Management regarding the soybeans; he said they have identified an area for a composting site, but said they are still waiting to hear if they will make the County haul the soybeans off.
Eric said the KDOT off system bridge project (80/20) is due by the end of this week and suggested that the bridge at 160th & Fern and 120th & Birch both be bridges for this project. He estimated each of them to be $400,000 projects with the County portion being $140,000 each; Eric asked the Commissioners if they wanted him to submit an application for the bridges. Eric said the bridge at 160th & Fern has a higher traffic count. Jim made a motion to allow Eric to apply for the 80/20 grant with KDOT for the bridge at 160th & Fern if Eric can know by Friday if the County can back out (if the budget doesn’t support it), Clifton seconded and all approved.
Windmill update: Eric said the components are starting to arrive and said they had completed the road use agreements for the components. He said the staging location for the components will be at 30th & 39 Highway. Eric said during the heavy rains the water washed out some County roads and said the Windfarm employees had helped the County out with repairs on a few roads they weren’t using.
Jim asked Eric to come up with a master plan regarding ditches.
Matt Quick met with the Commissioners regarding the Appraisers office; he said that Bob Kent with the State had called him and requested the County to adopt a resolution making Matt Quick the interim County Appraiser. Clifton made a motion to go into a 15 minute executive session for KSA 75-4319(b) (1) to discuss personnel matters of individual non-elected personnel to protect their privacy to discuss salary and employee performance, the Commissioners will meet in another location and reconvene in the Commission room at 9:37, Jim seconded and all approved (the session included the Commissioners, Matt Quick and Justin Meeks). At 9:37, Clifton made a motion to resume the regular session, Jim seconded and all approved. Jim made a motion to adopt Resolution 22-21, a resolution naming Matt Quick the interim County Appraiser for a period of up to 6 months, and to give Lynne Oharah permission to sign the resolution when he is able to, Jim seconded and all were in favor. Justin Meeks suggested the Commissioners make a motion to increase the salary for Matt to $55,000 annually; Clifton made a motion to increase Matt Quick’s salary from the current amount to $55,000, Jim seconded and all were in favor. Clifton said this would be a savings to the County and said he was glad that someone that is from here would be the County Appraiser. Justin said Matt wasn’t going to fill his previous position and would be looking at changes in his office; Clifton made a motion for the Appraiser to re-organize his office, Jim seconded and all were in favor.
Jim made a motion to remove Lynne Oharah and the subject of KCAMP from the agenda and move this item to next week, Clifton seconded and all were in favor.
Tiana Mcelroy the new Bourbon County Attorney met with the Commissioners; she said the County Attorney position had been part time and said she wanted to make the position full time. She said with the other changes she plans on making with the other attorneys, the budget would accommodate this change. She requested an annual salary of $85,000 for her position. Justin suggested a 10-minute executive session for non-elected personnel. Clifton made a motion to go into a 10-minute executive session for KSA 75-4319(b) (1) to discuss personnel matters of individual non-elected personnel to protect their privacy, regarding possible changes in the Attorney’s office, the Commissioners will meet in another location and reconvene in the Commission room at 9:57, Jim seconded and the motion passed, (the session included the Commissioners, Tiana, Justin Meeks and Angel Wilson). At 9:57, Clifton made a motion to resume the normal session with action, Jim seconded and all were in favor. Clifton made a motion that Brandon Cameron (the current full time Assistant County Attorney) be moved to a part time position on September 1, 2021 without benefits, Jim seconded and all were in favor. Tiana asked the Commissioners to make a motion to clarify that the County Attorney position is a full-time position and the wages be $85,000/year; Clifton made a motion to clarify that this is a full-time position, Jim seconded and all approved. Jim made a motion that the Commissioners increase the County Attorney wages to $85,000/year, Clifton seconded and all were in favor. Clifton said she would remain under budget by reorganizing her office. Clifton made a motion to make the full time start date as of July 26, 2021, Jim seconded and all were in favor.
Justin Meeks asked the Commissioners to have an executive session regarding the 3 hospital employees; Clifton made a motion to go into a 5 minute executive session for KSA 75-4319(b) (1) to discuss personnel matters of individual non-elected personnel to protect their privacy to discuss job duties and job performance, the Commissioners will meet in another location and reconvene in the Commission room at 10:05, Jim seconded and all were in favor, (the session included the Commissioners and Justin Meeks). Clifton made a motion to resume the regular meeting at 10:05 with action, Jim seconded and all were in favor. Clifton made a motion to allow Susan Bancroft to fill a position at the hospital and to negotiate the pay, Jim seconded and all approved.
Justin Meeks reported the tax sale publication will be in the newspaper this Wednesday; he said there has been substantial redemption for these properties.
Justin Meeks discussed the equipment for the Cress Building (17 S. Main); he said that Rob Harrington and Kendell will have the receipts for items purchased with the Spark funds. The Commissioners are accepting bids on the property, Justin said the Commissioners don’t have to accept all bids, but said hopefully the building will sell.
Justin said he would clarify comments regarding Lynne Oharah concerning the County Facebook page; he said they have never deleted anybody from the page and never censored anyone on that page, he said they are only fact checking their Facebook page and said more than one elected official can post on their Facebook page. Michael Braim suggested having a written policy for fact checking. Justin discussed the gravel incident where two shovels of gravel were spilled on the road and it was reported as a semi load of gravel. Jim said the goal is to have the facts as we know them.
Clifton made a motion to take a short break, Jim seconded and all were in favor. Jim made a motion to return to regular session, Clifton seconded and all were in favor.
Public Comment: Clifton said they would limit the time for this and asked that they try not to use non-elected personnel’s name, Jim asked that the public comment remain professional. Michael Braim said he planned to discuss a few of Lynne Oharah’s things, but said he wasn’t here and said he didn’t feel right discussing this since he wasn’t here. Mr. Braim said he thought that both Jim and Clifton were doing a great job. He asked the Commissioners to give some understanding with what happened with the grocery store and the contract that was violated, he also said he felt that the executive sessions were being overused. He suggested transparency so that people knew what was going on. Regarding the Cress Building; Clifton said there were two bad options out of a really bad situation, he said they had a decision to make to call the grant/note back since it wasn’t performing under the MOU & at that point Baja Investments would have basically went bankrupt and left the building empty for 2 years since the Federal court is backed up. Michael Braim asked why not get the money back and let them deal with selling the building, Clifton said the building would’ve still been in bankruptcy, he said by taking it they can get it back on the tax roll quicker. Clifton said Rob was doing his job. Mr. Braim said Mr. Michaud has assets, Clifton said Baja Investments is an LLC and a business. Mr. Braim said he felt the business owner should’ve been held accountable as per the contract and should’ve let the bank deal with it; Clifton said the Spark money of $450,000 was spent unwise. Mr. Braim said the State had a lot of concerns due to this being a high risk. Clifton said his opinion was that they had two options and they took the lesser of the 2 options to put the building back on the tax roll as quick as possible. It was stated that Baja was going to walk away free and clear with the easy way out.
Anne Dare regarding the County Facebook page; asked the Commissioners to rescind their previous motion and make a better motion that says they were going to fact check the Bourbon County Facebook page. Clifton made a motion to amend the previous motion and stated that the fact checking is for the Bourbon County Facebook page and social media pages, Jim seconded and all were in favor. Anne suggested that all departments put information on the website.
Clinton Walker suggested that the notification of meetings be placed on the radio. He also asked for an update on the HR officer; Jim said he had been involved in the interviews and said they had some excellent candidates and said they were close to a decision.
Nancy Van Etten said she had spent time with the Sheriff and other law enforcement personnel regarding their budget; she suggested to consider a budget for them to include an additional deputy for the Sheriff’s department to help cut down on the overtime. Nancy attended a FSCC meeting; she discussed a pay raise that was approved for some there with no discussion, Jim said people need pay raises, he said a salary increase is a good thing, but a mill increase is not. The COVID cases are rising again, Nancy encouraged people to get the COVID vaccine.
Mary Pemberton (regarding the fact checking issue), questioned if you could turn off comments; Clifton said if someone wants to comment on the Facebook page they can. Mary said if they wanted to fact check, she could name a lot of statements made by officials in Commission meetings that were not accurate. Jim said their point is to inform the public of issues and make it better; Mary asked if they needed to spend time and money to fact check, why not have someone just clarify it. Mary suggested being more open during a meeting and addressing someone when they ask questions. She said previous Commissioners wouldn’t respond or give answers. She said previous Commissioners didn’t do a good job of overseeing these things or looking at contracts before they signed them, making a lot of bad deals. Regarding the Spark money; she said there was no way $625,000 should have went to the one building in the first place – she said this was done by the economic development person, but said the Commission had oversight to this. Jim said as a Commission they spend a lot of time discussing items; he said this is a nice building that they want back on the tax roll. Regarding budget, Mary said she appreciated hearing that a few offices were streamlining, becoming more efficient and not increasing their budget. She said salaries make up 36% of all the money spent by the County and said for every dollar spent on wages it costs .70 cents in benefits. She said she had heard that the County doesn’t attract people based on salaries, but attracts them on benefits. Mary suggested giving employees a benefit statement so they know the true cost of their benefits. Mary discussed what she had heard regarding the amount of time off employees get at the County; she suggested cutting time off and increasing pay. Mary said she felt an advisory committee to look at the health insurance would be a good idea. Mary said the County lost a lot of money in the agreements signed on the wind project; she said those agreements were not good for the County. Mary suggested looking at the details on the budgets and said to look at where the money is being spent and look for areas where they can increase the efficiencies. She said at times, it might be better to contract some work out.
Commissioner Comment: Clifton said he agreed that they needed to look at the paid time off and said the County time off doesn’t make a lot of sense. He said he was more concerned about his check than his benefits. Clifton said there were some mistruths/misunderstandings regarding the agreement (reopening study of the hospital) with Noble Health and the Commission meeting held Friday; he said that meeting was held for a clarification regarding a motion. Clifton said he had heard that some people think the study could be done much cheaper; he said trained officials will be doing the study to get the needed information. Clifton said they are listening to the experts and said they weren’t spending property tax money to do the study, but rather were spending money that was intended to be used for healthcare or broadband, (grant money the County received was used to pay for the County portion of the study). Jim said he felt that Clifton and Rob Harrington had done an excellent job working with Noble Health. Jim said as the Commission it is their job to do the best they can for the County and said he felt we need a hospital here.
Lora Holdridge stated that many employees only work a 35-hour week; she said years ago hours were cut from 40 to 35 instead of a pay raise in an effort to save money. Employee time off was clarified. Regarding executive sessions and transparency; Lora said there were a lot of things that couldn’t be discussed in open session. Regarding the downtown building – Cress Building; she said if a property goes into bankruptcy, it could take 2 ½ years.
Mary Pemberton said there is no law that requires the Commissioners to go into an executive session, but said they are allowed. Mary said the Commissioners had the ability to discuss some of the items regarding the windmills in open session and said not everything had to be discussed in closed session. Mary thought the study being done regarding the hospital is valuable. She said if employees are only working 35 hours a week, then the hourly cost of their benefits would be higher. She suggested finding out what a majority of the employees feel about their salary being better than their benefits. She suggested setting pay structures that reward performance and not longevity.
Richard Clark said avoidance is not a successful trait and said going into an executive session can be an avoidance.
Michael Braim, regarding Noble Health; asked if the Commissioners were aware of or able to offer clarity on the multiple breach of contract suits against them and aware of the officer that had a fraud issue; Clifton said he was aware of this and said this wouldn’t affect us.
Jim made a motion to cancel the 1:00 budget work session scheduled for today since Lynne and Susan were both absent, Clifton seconded and all were in favor.
Clifton said scheduling the RNR hearing allowed the Commissioners more time to go through the budget. Jim said his goal is to reduce the mill levy and said he wouldn’t vote for a tax increase.
At 11:24, Jim made a motion to adjourn and Clifton seconded, meeting adjourned.
THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
OF BOURBON COUNTY, KANSAS
(ss) Lynne Oharah, Chairman
(ss) Jim Harris, Commissioner
(ss) Clifton Beth, Commissioner
Kendell Mason, Bourbon County Clerk
August 12, 2021, Approved Date