Commissioners and sheriff butt heads on budget overruns

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Sheriff Lee Becker came in to discuss other things Monday, but members of the Marion County Commission also were ready to talk to him about their budget fears.

With a possible landfill suit settlement drawing near, commissioners expressed concern that his department is the one most in excess of budgeted amounts.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta pointed out that a report from County Clerk Carol Maggard at the start of the meeting placed the current county general fund balance at $456,000 when the expected county pay-out at the end of each month comes close to $600,000.

Commission Chairman Howard Collett said that in spite of the state’s failure this year to pay funds it owed to cities and counties-$400,000 to Marion County-it will still be a “cash violation” that will have to be explained to the state if the county goes over budget.

He said the county established a risk management fund a year ago, which is the only place from which commissioners can draw funds to cover a sheriff’s budget over-run.

But, he said, the case of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment versus the County Commission, which has been remanded to district court by the Kansas Supreme Court for reconsideration, “is winding down rapidly. The risk management fund may be needed for that soon.”

Collett questioned why the budget is showing about $100 per sheriff’s officer overtime in November when Becker had told commissioners he would try to have officers taking compensation time instead.

Becker said officers are calling in to him to see if they should lay off for compensation time, or if they should delay on vehicle repairs.

But, he said, he can’t get away from some overtime-such as when the court orders his officers to make a prisoner transport at the end of a month.

Commissioner Bob Hein said he felt if the sheriff keeps working on using compensation time, it can “be made to work” to keep the budget more in line. Hein said he didn’t want repairs to squad cars to be ignored because “we have to keep it safe.”

Hein noted the shortfall from the state will be the same next year, and the sheriff and commissioners need to remember that the same situation will have to be looked at again the first of the year.

Collett said he frequently is asked by the public why sheriff’s cars patrol state and federal highways when that is the Highway Patrol’s job.

Becker said he is asked by the public why the county commission has funds for “nearly a million-dollar” solid-waste transfer station when money from it could have been used on the budget.

Collett said the transfer station is running at 85 percent of budget for the year, and is funded from its own assessment specifically for trash disposal, and the commissioners aren’t free to take money from it to make up shortfalls in other areas.

Wetta said transfer station money doesn’t come from mill-tax money. If it has a surplus, it must be used to lower the county-wide trash assessment.

Earlier in the meeting, Becker told commissioners his department often houses inmates at the jail for the Kansas Department of Corrections-usually parole violators from the local area being held on appeal. These take officers’ time for such things as medical attention in one recent case, he said.

Becker said the county is receiving $25 a day from KDOC for these prisoners when $56 a day is allowable. In one example of an 18-day, Becker said the difference in charge could “mount up.”

The commissioners hesitated when Wetta suggested going to $50, and Becker saying they could compromise at $45. When Marion County has to house extra prisoners in Chase or Lyon counties to avoid overcrowding, it costs $35 to $40 a day.

Hein moved for a compromise of $45, and the commissioners decided on it 3-0.

Becker said he is getting a $1,661 local law enforcement grant which can be used for stop sticks tire deflators.

His office is also being named as a site in the Homeland Security Homeland One First Responder Network, which will bring in encrypted information from secured satellite link with government leaders. It will only cost Marion County the use of an existing television and some electricity, Becker said.

Becker said his office is cooperating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks in an animal welfare case between Peabody and Burns involving confinement of tigers, lions, cougars and coyotes. There may be issues of health, pen size and proximity to chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia, he said.

Maggard said, overall, the county budget is at 91 percent for the first 11 months, which Collett noted is “where it should be.”

Hein noted that all departments are in line with an expected 6 percent budget reduction except for the sheriff’s office and county attorney’s office. Road and Bridge is at 7.7 percent, he said.

Collett announced the reappointment of Eileen Sieger to another three-year term on the County Planning Commission.

The commissioners approved two planning commission resolutions, one for a conditional-use permit in section 13-22-3 southeast of Peabody to operate an auto repainting and body shop provided it stay within Environmental Protection Agency guidelines and Kansas operational permits for hazardous material requirements.

The second one was for a change of zoning from agricultural to rural residential in section 13-18-4 1.5 miles east of Lincolnville on 290th.

Darryl Thiesen, emergency medical services director, reported 56 ambulance calls for November: 29 from Hillsboro, 24 from Marion, 12 from Peabody and none from Tampa.

He said these calls included eight transfers, six cardiac, 16 medical emergencies, nine stand-by, three vehicle accidents, seven falls, five transports and two for the rescue truck.

First-responder calls included seven at Goessel, two at Lincolnville, two at Durham, three at Burns and one at Ramona.

Thiessen said a new automatic external defibrillator received through a state board of EMS grant will go to Ramona Dec. 15 for placement there and volunteer training.

Thiessen expected Marion County personnel to receive anti-terrorism emergency training in Wichita Dec. 10.

As the new director, he said he is attending crew meetings around the county as well as taking calls with Hillsboro, Marion and Goessel crews.

He said the Hillsboro ambulance, with some help from Peabody, is responding well to covering needs for Goessel since service out of Newton for that area ceased.

Commissioners met with Thiessen 15 minutes in executive session to discuss personnel, and later in the session with JoAnn Knak, retiring EMS director, also in executive session.

After the second meeting, they announced the EMT class scheduled to begin Jan. 6 with Knak teaching is postponed indefinitely to comply with KPERS 30-day retirement regulations.

Dale Snelling, park director, reported both expenses and income at Marion County Lake slightly down from expectations but still within budget.

The commissioners selected a bid for $17,665 from Hillsboro Ford-Mercury over a bid of $18,590 from Wright’s Chrysler-Dodge for a new four-wheel drive pickup for road and bridge.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director, presented requests for pipeline to new oil wells being laid along county right of way near 290th and Alamo, and for road crossings by Tri-County Telephone installing new fiber-optic lines near Tampa, both of which the commissioners approved.

Kelsey said Tom Holub, county garage supervisor, has finished welding one brine tank for road applications, and is working on the second. He said pre-treatment was not to be applied in advance of the storm predicted this week because rain expected first might wash it away.

He presented paperwork for engineering agreements on a bridge at Durham to be built next year.

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