Marion County decides to reopen county offices

Diedre Serene, Marion County Health Department Administrator, gave her weekly update at the beginning of the May 18 Marion County Board of Commissioners meeting. She stated that it doesn’t make sense to test for COVID-19 if a person doesn’t have symptoms.

“You could be negative today and turn positive tomorrow. Testing negative today does not even tell if you were exposed or not. It just tells if you are growing the virus,” said Serene.

Serene explained how the Governor’s new orders for phase 1.5 impacts Marion County. She said the county is in line to follow the Governor’s orders so she has not added any extra orders for the county but has issued some guidance.

“We will not have the opportunity to move into phase two any sooner than June 1. That does not mean we will automatically move into phase two June 1, but we will in no way, at this point, be moving until June 1,” Serene said.

Serene discussed the guidelines for restaurants and stated that the only controversial aspect appears to be buffets. All of the health department guidelines can be found on the county website as well as the Free Press website.

Serene mentioned that fitness centers can be open but group classes and locker rooms cannot be open. Locker rooms can be open if one individual is working with a trainer one on one. The orders for fitness centers, hair places and other newly opened places can all be found on the KDHE website.

The number for groups remains at 10. People are still encouraged to remain six feet apart, practice proper hygiene including good hand washing, wear masks and stay home if immune-compromised or not feeling well.

“One single action does not take you down to the chance of zero of getting the virus but all the actions together can get you closer to zero,” said Serene.

Serene also shared some good news.

“I received a Blue Health Initiative COVID-19 Response Grant and the maximum of this was $5,000. The requirements of this was that we serve Blue Cross Blue Shield clients and have had at least five cases within our county. I applied for that and got the $5,000 this week. I plan to use it for a portion of the salary for our RN whose hours have increased. She has been doing disease surveillance and investigation. It will also help pay for our contact tracer when we need to use her because typically her salary is paid through the WIC program,” Serene said.

Randy Frank, Emergency Management Director, stated that he received a $750 grant for PPE supplies for the Peabody Fire and Police Department.

Frank explained that most of the towns in the county will be having some type of ceremony to acknowledge Memorial Day and will be following social distancing guidelines. The information for all of those services/ceremonies are listed on the county website.

Frank also stated that his department continues to work on ordering and delivering supplies needed around the county for first responders.

The Commissioners approved the Public Health Emergency Resolution renewal which will remain in effect for an additional 60 days. This allows the response and recovery aspects of all local disaster plans which are applicable to Marion County to remain in place and initiates the rendering of aid and assistance. It also allows so rights or powers lawfully exercised or any actions taken pursuant to local

disaster emergency plans shall continue and have full force and effect as authorized by law unless

modified or terminated in the manner prescribed by law.

Road & Bridge

County Engineer Brice Goebel told the commissioners that last week KDOT announced plans to extend the passing lanes on Highway 50 West of Peabody as well as just outside of Walton.

Goebel presented a KDOT programming request for 190th and Nighthawk in order to split the cost between KDOT and the county in order to make improvements to the intersection since it has the highest number of accidents. The county would be responsible for 20 percent and KDOT would be responsible for 80 percent.

He is planning to start the qualification based system for the selection of a consultant to do the culvert on 290th and Nighthawk.

Goebel told the board that the Road and Bridge Department turned in the federal reimbursement of $121,863.54.

Commissioner Dianne Novak thanked Goebel for his work.

“I appreciate the good work that was done on the mailboxes. I know several people who had theirs repaired. We all appreciate the work. It was done very well. Just wanna thank the people who done (sic) the good job,” said Novak.

“Yep, I wish it didn’t happen when you plow the snow that mailboxes get hit, but sometimes it is just inevitable,” said Goebel.

Commission Discussion – County Office Re-Opening Plan

“I have heard one person ask me when the courthouse is going to open. Otherwise everyone knows they can do things by appointment. Most people say they enjoy doing things online,” said Commissioner Chairman Jonah Gehring.

Goering made a motion to stay closed until phase two, but Novak stated that she would like to reopen since there are no current cases.

Spencer explained a plan that she had if the courthouse did reopen including providing hand sanitizer and masks, health screening checkpoints at entrances, tape marking social distance spaces, some offices remaining appointment only and more.

Commissioner Kent Becker made a motion to reopen the courthouse and Novak seconded it. It passed unopposed.

In other business, the board:

n approved the Last Chance Bait Shop liquor licensing contingent upon them being registered with State entity TTB

n heard from County Counselor Brad Jantz that he is continuing to speak with Diamond Vista to reach an agreement regarding road conditions

n met in executive session to discuss pending litigation

n approved pay estimate #3 of $87,556.59 for the transfer station project to Nelson-Fowles

n met in executive session to discuss employee performance

n expressed frustration over the reservoir still not being fully open and functioning