Commission hears budget proposals

The Marion County Board of Commissioners met for their weekly meeting on Monday, June 22. All of the commissioners were in attendance as well as County Clerk Tina Spencer and County Attorney Brad Jantz. The meeting was open to the public on location as well as virtually.

The meeting opened with administrative business including approval of last week’s meeting and work session and other memos. Spencer also shared about the CARES Act and other funding that Emergency Director Randy Frank had been working on.

The State Finance Council approved the distribution of $400 million in funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to local Kansas governments to help combat the health and economic challenges COVID-19 has brought on their communities, and to help prepare for possible future outbreaks of the disease.

The initial funding proposal came from Governor Kelly’s Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Taskforce Executive Committee, which is charged with distributing over a billion dollars in federal funds Kansas received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Under the first round of funding, each county will receive resources based on their population, case rates and unemployment rates. Funds will be provided to counties for both reimbursement and direct aid for eligible expenditures under the CARES Act.

The State Finance Council today also approved reimbursement for COVID-19-related costs for state agencies totaling $16.7 million, as well as FY 2020 expenditures for the Office of Recovery.

Road and Bridge

County Engineer Brice Goebel gave an update for his department.

“I did receive confirmation from KDOT last week that they did approve our traffic engineering assistance application to study the intersection of Pawnee and Old Mill just east of the reservoir right there. We won’t get any more information until they get more funding but we met all of their criteria,” said Goebel.

Commissioner Dianne Novak asked Goebel for an explanation on the rock in Florence mentioning that too much money has been spent and there isn’t any hard rock left.

Goebel attempted to answer, but Novak cut him off before he could answer all of her questions.

Novak later stated that the rock had been grounded down to powder causing dust all over homes and porches.

“I will give kudos to Brice because he did bring sand out for the roads as soon as I called him,” said Novak.

Goebel explained some of the different methods that he has tried and reasons for them, but said it was ultimately up to the commissioners.

“If you want me to haul hard rock from now on, I can do that. If we are gonna spend the extra money and haul half as much based on the round trip times, that is a decision that comes out somewhere,” said Goebel.

“I’m thinking there is a middle ground. The base rock material doesn’t necessarily need to be speck but just try to break through the mud holes and cover it up. Get that at a cheaper price and then we can afford to cap that at a higher price,” said Chairman Jonah Gehring.

“That’s at your decision. In the past we have always said state approved rock,” said Goebel.

Novak argued that it didn’t make sense to use cheap rock for the base. She stated that the foundation is the most important so should be quality.

“We need to be smarter. We need to work smarter and not harder,” Said Novak.

“Shouldn’t we have the expert tell us what we should be doing and not us lead him?” asked Commissioner Dave Crofoot.

Goebel responded, “I appreciate that. What I am trying to do is get the road covered. I know a lot of people say ‘I don’t care what kind of rock it is, I just want rock’, but it is more complicated than that,” said Goebel. “Commission, tell me what you me to do and that is what I will do.”

Novak suggested only spending budget on rock and not on equipment for the next year.

Crofoot explained that this could lead to other issues as it is imperative to maintain equipment and replace as needed in order to eliminate further damage as well as prolonged downtime.

“I just think we need to trust the expert that we have asked to do the job,” said Crofoot.

Prairie View

Jessie Kaye, Prairie View President and CEO did a presentation on the 2021 budget.

She explained that ensuring access to mental health and substance use interventions will result in fewer 911 calls. Local law enforcement has estimated that one-third to one-half of all 911 calls have a mental health or substance use component. Earlier identification and intervention will reduce the number of mental health crises that occur in our communities. Protecting the availability of mental health crisis response will direct the need for such services to the provider agencies, rather than to law enforcement or emergency services.

“Marion County’s investment in mental health will improve the overall quality of life in our communities, strengthening relationships among families, professional colleagues, and in our neighborhoods and schools. This leads to enhanced contentment and satisfaction, and an improved sense of well-being. These protective factors help reduce substance misuse, and reduce anti-social behavior, improving community safety,” said Kaye.

Kaye was able to offer some data:

According to the Kansas Association of Counties, Comparison of County Funding to CMHCs across the 105 counties of Kansas:

Marion County came in at # 74 at $5.37/capita across Kansas.

• State Hospital Screens Last year, in our region, Prairie View Qualified Mental Health Professionals performed 270 evaluations to determine the need for hospitalization at a state mental health hospital. 47 of these were in Marion County. We successfully diverted (prevented) the need for state hospitalization for 180 individuals from this tri-county area. 24 of these were in Marion County. Prairie View incurred a cost of $12,398 to transport these patients.

• Number of Patients Prairie View served 427 residents of Marion County last year. 264 of those, or 62%, of them were underinsured or uninsured. The unreimbursed cost to provide these services to Marion County residents was $166,684. This covered diagnosis and evaluation appointments, therapy, medication management services and community-based services for children and adults to help maintain independence and productivity, rather than dependence on public assistance.

• Services in the Community In addition to services in our outpatient clinics, Prairie View staff provide services in client homes, neighborhoods, businesses, four nursing homes and thirteen schools in Marion County.

“As with other essential services and emergency response organizations, Prairie View continued to serve the people of Marion County throughout the coronavirus pandemic. We transitioned our service delivery system to incorporate technology to provide telemedicine services to our clients. With the increase in unemployment and resultant loss of health insurance that we are already experiencing due to COVID-19, Prairie View anticipates significantly larger numbers of uninsured patients in the months to come. Our society is grieving the loss of what life was before the coronavirus. This, coupled with distress and anxiety complicated by the global pandemic, is expected to multiply the demand for crisis and emergency behavioral health services, as well as ongoing mental health and substance use treatment. We sincerely hope that you will consider increasing the per capita investment in community mental health services to make Marion County an even better place to live. We urge you to support mental health at least at the average funding level for the state of Kansas and award Prairie View $93,798 for the coming year,” said Kaye.

“Unlike the rock that you see, you as commissioners may not see the results of the mental health services that Prairie View provides, but we as a school do see that. We have lots of families struggling with job loss, child care concerns, virtual learning, day to day challenge of raising families and I can’t think of a more critical time to support Prairie View’s services. Those of us who work with these families, we do see it on a day to day basis,” said Hillsboro Elementary School Principal Evan Yoder. Yoder also serves on the Marion County Prairie View Advisory Committee. “If we don’t continue to provide a good base, we are going to continue to see issues down the line.”

Kaye thanked the board for their financial support as well as their support for mental health services in general in Marion County.

In other business, the board:

n heard a $4,000 budget request from Kansas Legal Services in order to eliminate the burdens of poverty on low income Kansans.

n heard a 2021 budget allocation request from Harvey/Marion County CDDO

n discussed recycling; the city of Marion is also on board to continue curbside recycling as well as at the transfer station. The fees for the transfer station will be 4 cents per pound ($82.00/ton) for recycling brought to the facility and the rate for Construction/Demolition waste disposal at the Transfer Station will 2.5 cents per pound ($50.00/ton.)