Kansas Wildland Task Force announced

BELOIT – The Mitchell County Commissioners met on Monday. In their first order of business, they announced the formation of a fire task force for wildfires in North Central Kansas.

“The task force is being assembled as part of a statewide initiative and is a response to the two large wildfires in state and to improve readiness,” Mitchell County Emergency Management Director Rick Horn said. “When deploying, the task force members will be utilizing equipment from their local fire departments. Trucks  have to meet certain criteria. The firefighters have to meet certain criteria.”

The North Central Kansas Wildland Task Force (KWTF) includes volunteers from Mitchell, Osborne, Ottawa and Jewell counties. They are one of the first such groups in the state to assemble.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to use them,” Horn said.

– Mitchell County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Director Eric Hamel presented the department’s activity report for the month of February. The EMS responded to 53 calls for the month. Including 37 in and around Beloit, five at Glen Elder, four at Hunter, three at Cawker City and one at Asherville. The service also responded to a call in Osborne County and Lincoln County.

The busiest days of the week were nearly equal between Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Thirty-four patients were treated and transported among the 53 calls. The response time from the time of call received averaged under two-minutes with an average time of arrival on scene of just over nine minutes.

The service conducted five patient transfers to locations including Salina Regional Health Center, Children’s Mercy, and Via Christi in Wichita. The EMS billed a total of $74,110 for the month. After adjustments and payments, the balance due to the department for the month is $16,721.

Hamel reported that they are still having mechanical issues with one of their units. They expected to have it back two weeks ago, but an attempted repair did not solve the problem and it remains out of service.

The commissioners continued discussion about possibly purchasing a new unit for the EMS. Hamel has been gathering pricing options for a unit and passed along to the commissioners, but no official decision has yet been made. Estimates on a new unit range from about $173,000 to $193,000.

– Sheriff Tony Perez appeared before the commissioners to discuss vehicles. He said he will be purchasing a new Chevy Tahoe to serve as the K-9 transport unit. The current unit has 180,000 miles on it and Perez said it is spending more and more time in the shop. Commissioner Jim Marshall commented that a lot of repairs can be made for the price of a new vehicle.

Commissioner Tom Claussen questioned him in depth about the potential purchase. After discussion, the commissioners voted unanimously to allow Perez to exercise his already existing budget authority to purchase a 2018 Chevy Tahoe from for $36,000. The vehicle will be financed through Solomon Valley Bank of Beloit.

– The commissioners then conducted a department head meeting. Extended discussion was held about the new time clock system which is set to go live for the county in the final week of April. The new system will streamline and help better monitor payroll and accountability functions for the county.

– Other items presented and discussed included a courthouse project for moving the district court judge to a new office. Sheriff Perez said they are fully staffed at this time at the jail and sheriff's department. They’re also switching over to a new record keeping system next week.

– Clint Offutt said he is working with Mitchell County Tourism doing mapping work for their website. They have identified places of interested such as old stone arch bridges, cemeteries and Chautauqua Park.

– Weed Department Director Stan Deneke said he recently attended conferences. It is too dry to spray, so he is working on cutting and trimming trees in the county.

– Directory of Public Works Dale Housh said they are working on several county roads. They are expecting delivery of a new backhoe this week, and they started a new employee in the past two weeks. The county took their first load of refuse from the landfill to Topeka last week. The county determined weeks ago that they can transport the waste less expensively than they were paying Dunstan Trucking to do it in the past.

– County Treasurer Yvonne Melton said they are working on the new federally required Real ID system which has been painstaking at times. She said digital plates will go into effect in August. License plates will not be handed out at the courthouse. They will be mailed from the state. Decals for renewals will still be provided by the treasurer’s office.

– Emergency Management Director Rick Horn reminded the group that a burn ban is in effect for all of Mitchell County as well as all the municipalities. Storm spotter training was conducted last week. Horn is also working closely with the fire task force previously mentioned in this story.

– A video explaining the tax appeals process is available online at mitchellcountykansas.com

– Community Development Director Heather Hartman said SVED will travel to a business expo on Thursday this week in place of their monthly meeting. Federal and state representatives will be on hand. March 28 is next Strategic Doing meeting at 7 p.m. at North Central Kansas Technical College.

– A total of $53,000 was distributed in the latest round of grants awarded by the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. The next round of applications are due August 1. A cleanup grant was awarded to Beloit for a city-wide clean-up, and a grant was awarded to put trash cans in public places. No date has yet been set for the city-wide cleanup.

Hartman is also working with a couple of housing programs. These are moderate income programs for new construction in the City of Beloit. It is a grant for 10 percent of the cost for use as a down payment. The other is available county wide for down payment assistance on new or existing homes with no income limitations. Individual grants are available up to $10,000.

– It was announced that the courthouse will be closing at noon on Good Friday.

– County Health Nurse Courtney Murrow discussed grant applications coming due soon for their funding. They are working with Smith County to set things up like they have done in the past several months with Jewell County. The health department has also hired a new employee.

– Jeff Roberg talked about new software at the Sheriff’s Department. He’s also working on servers at the communications center which were in need of address.

– County Communications Directory Becky Snook spoke about the new records system set to go live for the Communications Center next week. INTERPOL will be on hand when the system goes live to help iron out any issues. She also discussed issues which arose for Mitchell County when a fiber-optic line was cut by a farmer in Clay County.

– County Clerk Chris Treaster noted that the new Real ID will not be accepted as proof of citizenship for new voting registrants, regardless of the fact that people must provide a copy of their birth certificate in order to acquire a Real ID.

The next commissioner’s meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Monday, March 19 at the Mitchell County Courthouse in Beloit.

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