Property issues were a key topic of discussion at the Harvey County Commission meeting on Monday for two very different reasons.

Community Service

The first item discussed brought the Public Building Commission and the Communications Department before the commission to address a potential sublease of some county land to KanOkla Communications LLC (internet/phone provider out of Caldwell).

In 2015, the PBC helped the county facilitate work on the 800 MHZ radio towers by issuing bonds — which were eventually leased back to the county. To put any additional equipment on that land, though, the agreement states that the PBC must provide written consent before subleasing —specifically with a non-governmental entity.

Seeing it as an opportunity to obtain revenue (which was confirmed to go into the general budget), the PBC consented to the agreement to allow for a sublease on county property at East Lake and Camp Hawk. Current rates provided would see the subleasing agreement generate just over $800 per month for the county. PBC members Randy Hague, Bob Nattier and Gary Voth were present to vote on the issue (as well as officers for 2017 and approval of 2016 minutes).

Usage of the property will allow KanOkla to offer internet services to rural areas. Services would also be provided at the offices in East Lake Park at no extra cost, though there was discussion on the matter of park patrons being charged a nominal fee. It was noted that initial talks with KanOkla have broached the possibility of offering wifi to campers for free.

"These wireless internet services for rural residents is a big thing right now," said Communications Director Don Gruver. "We're happy to allow them to use our land to allow them to provide these services."

Providing that service at East Lake would require some additional work (with other companies) setting up an infrastructure, but commission members were very interested in trying to secure wireless internet to campers for free if possible. County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber stated how the services are offered still needs to be discussed, but the commission ultimately approved both co-location agreements with KanOkla at East Lake and Camp Hawk, with Swartzendruber to sign. The initial agreement is for 10 years, with the option for three additional, successive five-year terms.

Seeking Assistance

Action on the other property issue was not as easily resolved, as the commission continued to address the plight of Sedgwick resident Fred Bright, who is still seeking financial assistance as erosion of the Sand Creek banks threatens his land.

Swartzendruber looked to the commission for direction on any potential action. While the group was not opposed to offering Bright some help in the situation, they were not in favor of acting as a sponsor in Bright's efforts to secure funding through the National Resources Conservation Service to alleviate the erosion issue — suggesting the Sand Creek Watershed, local township and city of Sedgwick as alternative sponsors.

"It's the city's responsibility, as far as I'm concerned," Hague said.

When Bright initially approached the NRCS following flooding in 2015, Sedgwick was in line to be the original sponsor in the project. For financial reasons (both in terms of the costs coming in over estimates and the city's own situation), Sedgwick ultimately removed itself as sponsor, leading Bright to approach the county commission.

Numerous questions remain about the issue, but there was a consensus among commissioners not to act as a sponsoring entity on this project. However, they were in agreement to help Bright seek out an appropriate sponsor, as that is the next step to be taken before any progress is made.

In other business, the county commission:

Recognized the Harvey County Sheriff's Office for awards received last week from the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, including a gold award for the whole unit for its response to the mass shooting incident in Hesston and Newton occurring in 2016. Deputies Brandon Huntley and Robert Guest also received individual awards for life-saving efforts in the incident. The commission honored staff for their work in this incident and thanked them for their day-to-day service as well.
Was presented overhead photos of all the properties included in the upcoming tax foreclosure sale so the commission can discuss which properties the county is interested in purchasing prior to the sale.
Learned that final packets for next week's budget hearing will be put together by the end of the week. The budget hearings with the commission will take place next Monday through Wednesday.
Heard from Health Department Director Lynnette Redington about a new grant opportunity the department is pursuing in partnership with Mirror Inc. The grant would help establish a drug-free youth coalition and include funds ($80,000 in total) for an additional staff member, to be hosted by Mirror Inc. Redington noted the health department would receive some of the grant funds for help with planning.
Approved Terry Fruechting as county representative for the South Central Kansas Economic Development District, waiving second reading.
Approved the 2017 Hot Mix Asphalt Overlay contract with Cornejo and Sons.
Was informed of a busy weekend at the county parks, with the Food Truck Festival at East Lake on Saturday and a good amount of traffic at West Park as well. Director Kass Miller also notified the commission about the family fishing clinic coming up this Saturday.
Heard a report on the community health assessment from Redington, who noted the core team will be meeting this week to finalize the plan.
Learned of plans by the sheriff's office to test out bike patrols at East Lake over the Memorial Day weekend.
Gave county clerk Rick Piepho authority to purchase new polling software equipment at a total cost of $18,600, waiving the purchasing agreement. With the clerk's tech fund and money in equipment reserve, Piepho noted the purchase was well within budget and he felt it was necessary because of issues he sees with the current software's supportability in the near future. He also noted the savings in maintenance of the new software ($6,000 annually vs. $10,000) would led to a net increase in cost of just over $200 total over the next three years.
Received an update from the Harvey County Extension on work that has been going on over the past year, including the progress of the farmer's market, recruitment efforts with 4-H, programs in the schools, etc.