KVSV

Commissioners Host Multi-County Meeting

The Mitchell County Commissioners hosted a meeting of the Multi-County Commissioners Monday noon at the Plum Creek meeting room. This group includes Commissioner and County Clerks from Mitchell, Jewell, Smith and Osborne County's who meet together every three months to discuss items of interest and concerns they have in regard to their positions.

Commission Chairman, Mike Cooper, Commissioner Tom Claussen, and County Clerk, Chris Treaster, attended the meeting for Mitchell County. Kathy File and Jan Slate from the Clerk's office attended as guests. Commissioner Jim Marshall was not able to attend. Representatives from Smith and Jewell Counties were also present but Osborne County was unable to attend.

Following the lunch served by Brett Wicher's and his staff, Chairman Mike Cooper called the meeting to order and introduced Sherry Koster, County Sanitarian, who gave a report on the 2012 NCK Local Environmental Program for July to December. This is an organization that addresses water related environmental issues. Koster works with Mitchell, Jewell, Osborne, Smith Phillips, Rooks and Republic Counties. This is an affiliate of the National Environmental Health Association.

Up until a few years ago this program was funded by the State but they have since canceled the grant that funded it and counties now have to provide their own funding in order to retain a Sanitarian services and continue this mandated program. The four counties represented in the Multi-County group have been able to have enough funds on hand to cover this cost without increasing their membership fees of $1,200 a county per year. Koster told the group they are in a lot better shape financially than a lot of other Kansas counties.

Among other services, Koster's duties include overseeing and issuing permits for private well sites, both established and new wells, wastewater, septic tank and lagoon permits in the rural regions of these counties. She also approves systems in homes in certain areas. She has no jurisdiction over cities but if they request her help she charges time and mileage.

Commissioner Claussen asked if there are enough funds on hand right now to continue the way they have in the past. Koster said, at the present time they do not have enough funds but this is the time of year when she starts getting increased calls for permits, requests to check wells and review wastewater concerns around the area. She expects to have more well drilling and wastewater permits and contractor/pumper registration fee requests this year. The dollars brought in thru permits and other fees have covered the expenses in the past so no money needed to be taken from the existing LEPG funds that total $24,696.40. The county fees are also due the first of April. The possibility of having to increase these fees to $1500 a year to assure they won't run out of funds as discussed. If any county does not agree to this raise in cost they would have until April 1, to withdraw from the group.

Buying a group owned car for Koster to drive instead of her having to use her personal vehicle was discussed. Smith County Clerk, Sharon Wolters, has checked into two low mileage, fuel efficient, state surplus vehicles that are available at the present time. She has worked out a plan for Smith County to purchase the vehicle and come to an agreement with the multi-county group on how to handle the cost of the use of it. The group determined they could save money in the long run if they purchase a car for Koster to drive. Since not all of the counties in the group were present no decision could be made right now. Wolters is to contact the clerks in the two counties that were not present and get input from them.

Other topics of discussion included the way each county handles courthouse closings when necessary due to bad weather and found each of the county has different rulings on how to do this and how employees are paid during that time.

The other counties present were interested in Mitchell County's successful use of the Neighborhood Revitalization Rebate Program. Both Chairman Cooper and Commissioner Claussen explained how this county has benefited from this program and how it works. While the other counties felt Mitchell County has a larger population and business base they seemed impressed with the information they received.

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