At the Butler County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27, the board of commissioners declared the week of March 5-9, 2018 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Butler County.
Each year, the National Weather Service (NWS) – in cooperation with the State of Kansas, media partners and local emergency management agencies – dedicates one week in March to severe weather education and awareness activities for citizens. As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, public training is held, storm sirens are tested and severe weather drills are conducted. This includes a test tornado drill on Tuesday, March 6 at 10 a.m. The awareness week helps remind citizens of the hazards associated with the severe weather season and highlights the steps they can take to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
Participating in the Severe Weather Awareness Week, the Butler County Emergency Management Agency will again host the NWS "Storm Fury on the Plains" training (aka "Storm Spotter Training"). This free, public education event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 8 at the Point Events Center in Augusta. The agency will also be redelivering the program around the county. Other public options include:
Whitewater Legion Building: Wed., March 7 at 7 p.m.
Rose Hill Fire Dept.: Wed., March 14 at 7 p.m.
Andover Police Dept.: Thurs., March 29 at 6:30 p.m.
Tatum Stafford, who runs Butler County's elections, and County Clerk Don Engles addressed the board of commissioners to notify them that the current poll books are being replaced with poll pads from KnowINK. The company that the county bought its current poll books from, Election Administration, was bought out by KnowINK. Those machines are being phased out; support will no longer be provided on those poll books. The initial cost to purchase new poll pads is $77,350, but KnowINK is offering an upgraded discount of $22,880 if Butler County trades in its poll books. The final cost to purchase the poll pads will be $54,470 and will come out of the election equipment reserve fund.
Engles also talked with the board about the county's election equipment, aside from the poll books (and soon to be pads) used to check people in to vote. He told them that the current election equipment is not audit-able, but that will change in the future.
"The machines that Wichita, or Sedgwick County, just implemented this year – and that we will implement in 2019 – do print out a ballot," Engles said.
The print-out is essentially a receipt showing a voter's choices he or she made. Engles further explained that the check-in system is connected to Wi-Fi, but the voting machines are not.
Later in the meeting, the board of commissioners designated April 21-28, 2018 for county-wide cleanup and approved the 2018 Policy on County Cleanup Events, which is essentially the same as the policies used in prior years. Each year, Butler County sponsors a county-wide cleanup program for cities and the county at-large. The program is aimed at giving citizens an opportunity to clean up their properties and dispose of accepted waste at the landfill for a reduced nominal cost. The county at-large cleanup is open to all county property owners and is typically scheduled in the third week of April to coincide with Earth Day. Each city schedules their own cleanup events and coordinates with the county landfill for disposal. The cost of this program is budgeted for in the Butler County's landfill budget and is considered in the tipping fee calculation.
Public Works Director and County Engineer Darryl Lutz then brought a non-agenda item to the board involving a piece of easement he needs to acquire for a drainage project.
"We're doing a drainage project at the intersection of Northwest Meadowlark Road and Northwest 60th. Meadowlark Road is a county-maintained, gravel-surfaced road south of K-196 a couple miles. And we need to get some drainage away from the intersection. We're putting in a larger culvert, and it's along the north side of some of Joseph Brothers Incorporated property. And they're very amenable to the project. They've got some other terracing work that they're going to be doing, and we're kind of coordinating. And we need about eight hundredths of an acre of right-of-way, and it's going to run parallel to Northwest 60th. And they've signed an easement agreement and sent it to us for our acceptance, and we've offered them 500 dollars – the normal amount for damages," Lutz said.
The board of commissioners accepted the right-of-way dedication and related payment.
Afterward, the board approved a one-time reinstatement of Fred and Kristy Bruns and Travis and Jaza Winzer to the Benton Neighborhood Revitalization Plan (NRP) following delinquent tax payment. The City of Benton's NRP is the only one that does not have a one-time allowance for reinstatement back into the program for delinquent tax payments. The Bruns and Winzers both were delinquent on their taxes and petitioned the City of Benton for reinstatement, and the city approved the request. The City of Benton then forward their action and asked for the county allow the two families to be reinstated. This is a one-time occurrence, and they will not be reinstated again if they are delinquent on their taxes in the future.
At one point in the meeting, Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet informed the board of commissioners that the City of Leon's chief of police is in the process of leaving. On another note, he mentioned that Saline County sent about 20 inmates to the Butler County Jail while they're remodeling their own jail. This helps bring in some money to Butler County's jail fund, which has seen a revenue deficit for over a year now.
In public comments, Emergency Medical Services Director Chad Pore presented the board of with a framed article published last April by the national magazine EMS World on Butler County's low-top ambulance that was built last year, which is the first one in the United States. Other countries have already been using those units.
"We just want to present that to you guys and thank you guys for the support with our dramatic change in our ambulances because they've been working and beneficial," Pore said.
The cost savings on the low-top ambulances in comparison to traditional models are about $60,000 a unit up-front, not counting maintenance and fuel economy costs.
There will not be a county commission meeting on Tuesday, March 6 because they won't have a quorum. Commissioners Dan Woydziak and Mike Wheeler will be attending the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference that day in Washington, D.C.