Darryl Lutz, county engineer and Public Works director, met with the Butler County Board of Commissioners at the meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 2 to recommend an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Company for the installation of automatic railroad crossing signals and gates at the BNSF railroad crossing located on NE 140th St., just south of Cassoday.

KDOT has submitted to Butler County a standard form, three-party agreement. The county's obligation is to install and maintain the advance warning signs on each approach to the crossing. The signs will then be maintained by Sycamore Township. The cost of the crossing improvements, which totals about $387,000, is being completely paid with federal funds administered by KDOT on behalf of the railroad.

The board of county commissioners approved the agreement.

Next, Lutz requested authorization to solicit bids for annual commodity purchases for the Highway Division, the Noxious Weed Division and the Landfill Division of the Public Works Department.

Public Works makes annual purchases of several, large-volume materials. These include (with estimated costs):

tire purchases for all public works divisions ($55,000) uniform shirts for public works employees ($7,500) liquid asphalts for highway maintenance program – about 650,000 gallons ($1,500,000) culvert pipes – varies (up to $25,000) herbicides and application products for noxious weed department use – varies (up to $240,000) sign materials as needed (up to $50,000)

Those items are budgeted in the respective annual operating funds.

The board of commissioners authorized the Public Works Department to solicit sealed bids for the purchases.

Lutz also recommended appointments to the Butler County Solid Waste Management Planning Committee. Each year, the county commission approves the appointment or reappointment of approximately one-third of the members of the solid waste management planning committee. A total of 15 members serve on the committee in three-year staggered terms.

Five Term C positions on the committee expired Dec. 31, and members for those positions need to be appointed or reappointed for a new three-year term. Two of the positions are city-filled positions for Augusta and Whitewater, Potwin and Elbing. Three positions are county-appointed and represent unincorporated areas, public schools and the county recycle coordinator. The only new person for Term C is Josh Shaw, representing the City of Augusta, who is filling a position vacated by Jamie Goehring. The Term C appointments are for three years, expiring Dec. 31, 2020.

The board of county commissioners accepted the city positions and approved the county positions for reappointment.

Afterward, the board approved a cooperating agency agreement with Tabor College for nursing students obtaining clinical nursing skills at the Butler County Health Department. This agreement allows students to obtain clinical experience in a public health setting and gives the county a chance to recruit future nurses for its health department.

Then, the board of commissioners approved the 2018 Butler County Legislative Agenda. A meeting in Topeka is scheduled to meet with legislatures and present the county's priorities for the 2018 session. Currently, that meeting is projected to be Jan. 31.

In other items of business, county commissioner Dan Woydziak mentioned the recent vandalism at Richland Cemetery, located west of Douglass.

"The vandals went in and knocked over over 50 headstones .... Not only did they destroy them, they, you know, did other things – urinated on them and this, that and the other .... Some of these date back to the 1800s. So, hopefully the sheriff will get to the bottom of that and see that the kids involved will get caught," Woydziak said.

The destruction was discovered Friday morning, Dec. 29.

"We were requested 50 veterans markers to go back and replace those that were destroyed out there," Don Engles, county clerk, said.

Butler County has some markers in storage to replace the damaged ones.

"It's just a little, old, country cemetery – a nice, little cemetery," Woydziak said.

William Johnson, county administrator, reminded the board of commissioners that the county commission will be reorganized at the next Tuesday meeting. Woydziak said he would be chair, and county commissioner Marc Murphy added that he would be vice chair. Yet, it's possible that county commissioner Ed Myers might be chair.

Before the meeting adjourned, Johnson and the board talked about the continuing problems with the Butler County Jail.

"We can't continue going down the same path, and the inmate count just keeps decreasing," Johnson said.

As of last week, the jail was making $5,200-$5,300 in daily revenue – which is a decrease from about $6,000 earlier in December. It needs to be hitting $6,500. Housing more revenue inmates would get the jail on budget.

"We may not like having to house KDOC [Kansas Department of Corrections] inmates, but we may need to. We've got that much capacity. Or we need to start cutting some staff – trim some expenses," Johnson said.

They agreed that some discussions on jail issues need to take place with Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet.