Saturday, August 15, 2020

Busy Times!

It has been a very busy week within our county offices. The County Clerk’s office is busy fulfilling the state requirements of a primary election, the 2021 budget is near completion, and add to this list that the allocation of SPARK funds from the state has been submitted for approval.

 

News from the health department reflects an uptick in active cases of COVID in Harper County. 

 

Current case numbers are

Total cases – 23

Active cases – 11

Recovered – 12

Deaths – 0 

Negative test – 540

Total test - 557

 

You are encouraged to wash your hands, keep a safe distance when out, wear a mask and support your immune system with good hygiene and quality nutritional supplements. Be smart about your health! 

 

In March the federal government passed the CARES Act which provided funding to aid in the   country’s efforts to mitigate COVID related costs. In turn, the state of Kansas was awarded $3 billion (as in B), allocating a portion of these funds to each county, according to a population formula. Harper County was granted $1,084,099 to help alleviate the pressure from COVID related costs and challenges in our communities. 

 

A committee of elected officials from each taxing entity was formed to create a plan for utilization of these funds. The plan, approved by the BoCC, divides the monies between county, cities, long term care facilities, and schools.  In turn, each entity was asked to submit a list of COVID related expenses associated with their efforts to diminish the impact of the virus. The county’s portion has been earmarked for reimbursement of expenses related to emergency management, our Public Health Department, and EMS. Limited expenses were also incurred by other departments (i.e. plexi-glass separators in public offices), but overall, the funds allocated to the county were directly connected to health care. 

 

In case you are wondering why Patterson Health Center was not a receiving entity, in the words of their Chairwoman, Martha Hadsall, “We have been blessed and would like to withdraw so other entities can participate more fully”. 

 

The 2021 budget is chugging along….slowly. It has been a most difficult year, with a loss of 16% of ad valorum taxes. As stated before, the reduction of oil and gas value directly impacts most entities in Harper County. We have been working hard to identify ways to maintain the mill levy at 59, where it has stood for the last 6 years.

 

Budget preparations include forecasting building and equipment needs along with staffing needs, including anticipated turnover.  An imminent retirement is that of our current “Comptroller/Internal Auditor”.  This part time position has been filled, in cooperation with Kingman County, by a contract employee for a number of years. 

 

When Cheryl Adelhardt retired, Melinda McCurley, Assistant to the BoCC and Community Development Director, assumed various financial responsibilities within the county, including preparation of the state budget, to avoid the considerable expense of hiring an external auditor.  Due to her extensive knowledge of the financial obligations of Harper County, she will transition smoothly into the position of Comptroller/Internal Auditor, while continuing to perform her duties as Assistant to the BoCC. 

 

As a result of this transition, the county has begun the process of hiring a Community Development Director to focus solely on the success and growth of our local business community.  This position is part time, and preferred candidates will be visionary, forward thinking, big picture people who communicate well and understand the needs of a business owner in a small, rural community. If you know someone who fits that description, please have them apply on line at www.harpercountyks.gov.   

 

Any questions or thoughts email cpence@harpercountyks.gov, text or call 316-215-5050.

 

“Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States.”- Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Update....

That nasty virus is continuing to rear its ugly head so remember stay healthy by washing your hands, wearing a mask if around unknown people and support your immune system with nutrition/supplements.  According to the health department, as of today (12th), Harper County has 

Total Cases - 20

Active Cases - 8

Recovered Cases - 12

Deaths - 0

Negative Tests - 533

Total Tests - 547

 

We are at the end of working out the numbers for the 2021 budget amongst declining values, mainly in oil and gas. 

If you think “cheap gas at the pump” is a good thing, think again! That fifty cents per gallon in fuel savings for you translates into lost jobs and lost value which equates to lost revenue to the county/city/school/hospital/townships/cemeteries and others and eventually means an increase in the mill levy. 

 

In the last ten years we have managed to trim the mill levy from 79 to 59 (25% reduction) mainly due to increasing values. But the last five years as the oil and gas values declined, the overall value of the county declined, thus resulting in making hard decisions to be able to keep the mill levy stable. 

 

As a board, we are committed to holding the mill levy steady at 59. It is going to take a lot of hard work by staff and some hard decisions, but we believe that the taxpayers can NOT have an increase in the mill levy for property taxes. While that is the County Board’s decision, please remember that the county is just a portion of your tax statement. 

 

A lower tax rate (called effective tax rate) is essential for growth. While the county, by itself, has a lower effective tax rate %, it is the overall “effective tax rate” based on all taxing entities that matters at the state and with businesses looking to expand and for families to build. 

 

In March the federal government passed the CARES Act and gave states block grants. The state is now giving to counties an allotment of those funds based on population and is calling these SPARK funds. We, in turn then help the cities, schools, hospital districts, etc with COVID related expenses. For Harper County this is $1,084,000 to use to meet these costs. This cannot be a replacement for revenue lost (such as county value due to loss of oil and gas) but must be directly tied to COVID-19 expenses and direct aid. The Harper County SPARK committee met this past week and Monday the “plan” will be presented to the BoCC for review. It will then be submitted to the state for a month-long review. 

 

There are certain criteria for these funds and that comes down from the federal level. The most wonderful part this is that the Feds change their “guidelines” weekly. There is this moving target that we are chasing with hard and fast deadlines. Ahhh, the nature of the beast. 

 

 

As always, please feel free to call, text me at 316-215-5050 if you have any questions or concerns. 


"That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves" Thomas Jefferson 

 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Cross Your Fingers 🤞

How are you surviving COVID and the current world events? 

So much information to disseminate and thoughts to arrange makes it mind blowing!
I have not recently been adding anything to this blog for two reasons - 1) what to write and not write. 2) For some reason the last blog article was not viewable on a mobile device. 

I have wasted WAY too much time trying to figure out WHY this happened. So I am now going to just try and post this VERY short and uninteresting blog as a test. 

So, here is to crossing my fingers and hoping Blogger.com has issues fixed. (And yes I tried "community help", "blogger help", "Google", you name it!) 

There is SO much going on in our corner of the world.....I'd like to catch you up! 

Cross your fingers.......

Carla 🤞

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Uncharted Waters

Today (Sunday) as I write this article/blog post I have received over 10 “updates” from various state organizations. In these difficult and uncertain times, yesterday’s up-to-date information is today’s old news.

Like everywhere else, things have moved rapidly in Harper County. A Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) meeting was held Wednesday, offering an opportunity for the various agencies located in the county to provide an update on what is happening in each of their “worlds”. It was a time of education and sharing, as we learned what we can do to support each other and the public. 

Some county specific guidelines from the meeting include - 
Þ   If showing symptoms of COVID-19 – Do not call 911 and DO NOT go to the hospital or clinic until instructed to do so. 
Þ   Call Patterson Health Center at 620-914-1200.  They will screen you over the phone and provide instruction on how to proceed. 
Þ   In the event that testing reveals COVID-19, Patterson Health Center will provide health services and Harper County Health Department will perform the investigation and contact tracking. 

In just a day’s time the state made the call to suspend most state offices and shut down courts, driver’s licensing and other services, severely limiting the state services provided by the county.

A special board meeting was held on Thursday, March 19th to confer with county department heads.  Based on their recommendations along with the Health Department and Emergency Management, the decision was made to close the courthouse and limit public access. 

Harper County is still OPEN for business.  We do, however, now require that you call ahead and make an appointment with the department you intend to do business with. 

Although individuals may carry the virus and remain asymptomatic, in an attempt to be proactive, we now require employees and visitors alike to complete a screening process when entering a county building.   

This approach has created an additional challenge in complying with the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) during our weekly Board of County Commissioner meetings. Per the AG’s updated regulations and best practices issued March 20th, we will begin utilizing technology to allow public access to the meetings.  If you would like to listen in, please visit the Harper County website, scroll down and click the link for “BoCC Meeting Information”.  http://www.harpercountyks.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=492

Not to be overlooked during this uncertain season, on March 16th Sherry Veirthaler retired from the county after 16 faithful years as our Health Department Administrator. Sherry, your timing is impeccable!  Heather Struble, jumped right into 2020 COVIC-19 as our new Administrator, and hasn’t look back.  Sherry, we thank you for leaving a department that is prepared to meet the challenges ahead. 

Please keep in tune with local guidelines by using social media or the county website. In the event you do not use the internet, feel free to call or text me at 316.215.5050 to have your questions answered. 

As we navigate these uncharted waters, please pray for the health care workers and EMS on the front line, for those who are providing essential services, such as truck drivers, and for our leaders tasked with making these decisions. At best, these are difficult times.  Let us continue to pray and check on our neighbors to share a joke, or ask if they need anything when venturing to the store.  Remember to encourage each other to stay strong and exhibit grace with one another. 

Until we can all physically gather together again, please wash your hands, practice social distancing, and take your ‘made in the USA’ supplements.  

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” 
― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 
Frankenstein

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Spring is in the Air!

Spring weather this weekend, time change coming, and wheat is greening up, such a beautiful time of the year! 

As a person who recycles it has been difficult weighing the cost of recycling vs the benefits. Added to that is if no one wants the recycled materials, then where does it end up? 

The business of recycle has been discussed at BoCC meetings as we began to see less, and less revenues with an increase cost to the taxpayer. 

Over the last several years as I attended various meetings in the state it was interesting to learn what other communities were doing. Most counties are not subsidizing recycling, it has been either a private enterprise or a city sponsored project. 

Recycling has been tossed around county board meetings for the past two years. I have checked with neighboring counties and not a one of them subsidize recycling. Yet for years, and at taxpayers’ expense, Harper County has covered the cost for labor, buildings, utilities, and equipment maintenance. I also called the recycling company in Hutchinson to see if they would be willing to come do a community pickup. The answer was no. 

“Harper County” is not closing the recycling center. Harper County is willing to donate the equipment to the recycling group, but they must find a new location. The reason for this IS to save taxpayer money. 

It has come to our attention that a R&B building in Anthony as being unsafe.  Rehabilitating this 100-year-old building is cost prohibitive. 
Harper County is trying to save money by utilizing existing buildings of ours instead of having to go all out on new buildings.

On a different note - This past week value notices should have been received. If you have a question about your valuation now is the time to call the Appraiser’s office and ask questions. Much better to resolve any issues NOW than later when the tax statements arrive. 

 Feel free to email me at cpence@harpercountyks.gov, call or text to 316-215-5050

“Every family in America knows they have to do a budget. Every small business in American knows they have to do a budget. Every local government, every state, knows they have to do a budget.” 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Introducing Road and Bridge Supervisor

Trust your Thanksgiving was full of family and fellowship. 

For months the search for a Road and Bridge/Public Works Supervisor went on and on.  After countless applications and many MANY interviews, we were able to hire an experienced Supervisor! 

Pleased to introduce Curt Logsdon most recently of Woodland Park, CO. 
Curt brings to Harper County over 25 years of upper level management experience in county government. 
Curt has previously successfully reorganized Road and Bridge departments in three counties in Colorado, making them efficient and effective. 

In 2011 Curt received PWLF National Professional Designation from the APWA Donald C. Stone Center for Leadership Excellence in Public Works.  (One of only 96 individuals selected throughout North America to receive this Designation.) 
Curt previously served as president, vice-president, director and secretary/treasurer for the Colorado Association of Road Supervisors & Engineers (CARSE).

Curt and his lovely wife, Teresa, also owned and operated Long Branch Construction from 2006-2019. 
Curt enjoys hunting in his spare time! 

Curt has been on board in Harper County for the last three months. Curt and Teresa are making their home in Attica. 

Welcome to Harper County! 

Feel free to call or text at 316-215-5050 or email at cpence@harpercountyks.gov

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 
― 
Albert Einstein

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Ballot Question That Matters!

Most Kansans are unaware of a constitutional question on the ballot for our November elections.
This question is VITAL for Rural Kansas in the upcoming census and how we will be represented. 
Representative Adam Smith of Wallace County wrote a letter expanding on this ballot question. 
Here are a couple excerpts.

“If the ballot question passes and the adjustment requirement is removed from the Kansas Constitution, many Kansas counties without a college institution will lose 2-5% of their official population. Nearly 80% of the adjustment gains come from Riley and Douglas counties – Kansas State University and Kansas University, which would gain approximately 23,000 residents. These two counties would effectively gain an entire seat in the House of Representatives, and about two-fifths of a Senate seat. Other counties with colleges would see an increase, as well.”

“If you feel that removing the adjustment and counting students where they attend college is an accurate representation of the state, you should vote in favor. 
If you feel college students should be counted at the place they consider their permanent residence, you should vote NO on your ballot.”

Rep. Adam Smith’s letter in totality - 
A popular credit card advertisement uses the tag line "What's in your wallet?" While I don't have a Hollywood celebrity to deliver my message, I do have a similar question… "What's on your ballot?"

Kansas has an important vote coming up this November, and it doesn't have anything to do with any candidate for office. You probably haven't heard much about it, but the result could significantly impact rural Kansas! This has motivated me to provide Kansans with some facts behind the topic and how it could affect our state.

When you vote in this year's general election, be prepared to answer a question that will change our Kansas Constitution. The question will ask to remove the current requirement for adjusting the Federal Census data.

In a nutshell, the decennial census counts everyone where they live at the time of the census.  This includes those who may be at that location only temporarily, such as college students or military personnel. The required adjustment, added to the Kansas Constitution by the people in 1988, is performed by the Kansas Secretary of State (KSOS) which contacts all of these temporary residents to determine their permanent residence.

Why was this adopted in the first place?

The adjustment attempts to count residents of Kansas in the location they consider their permanent home, and subsequently where they are - or would likely be - registered to vote. The results of the adjusted census are used to draw the boundaries for legislative and state board of education districts, which must be created with relatively equal populations per district.

What exactly happens as a result of the adjustment?

Analyzing the data from the 2010 Census Adjustment Report*, the discussion really comes down to college institutions; Fort Leavenworth, Fort Riley, and McConnell AFB make up merely 940 of the 42,113 adjusted population.

If the ballot question passes and the adjustment requirement is removed from the Kansas Constitution, many Kansas counties without a college institution will lose 2-5% of their official population. Nearly 80% of the adjustment gains come from Riley and Douglas counties – Kansas State University and Kansas University, which would gain approximately 23,000 residents. These two counties would effectively gain an entire seat in the House of Representatives, and about two-fifths of a Senate seat. Other counties with colleges would see an increase, as well.

Why is the adjustment removal being proposed?

The reason for wanting to remove the adjustment can probably be boiled down to two things – time and money. No doubt the entire department looks forward to this process like they would multiple root canals, but is it still important enough to continue?

Let's look at some facts.

Yes, the adjustment certainly takes time and money. In 2010, nearly 120,000 individuals out of our state population of 3 million needed clarification on their permanent residency. Over 70,000 of those did not need adjusted – in other words they opted to have their permanent residence recorded where they were counted. (Many military fall into this category.) More than 42,000 required an adjustment for their permanent home, and about 6,000 had unresolved phone/address problems and could not be contacted.

Information from the KSOS claims the adjustment only impacted 13,000 people. I assume that number comes from the 2010 report that subtracted 13,836 people completely – meaning they stated their permanent residence was somewhere outside the state of Kansas. (Most of which were college students.) Subtract that number from the total adjusted, and there were over 28,000 residents of Kansas directly affected by the adjustment.

Last February, the KSOS estimated the cost of the adjustment to be approximately $834,000. However, the 2010 total project cost was under $200,000 and that included the salary of existing staff that worked on the project, which accounted for $77,731 of the total reported cost. This expense also occurs only once every 10 years.

Is that enough people to matter? Is the monetary savings worth it?

That's the exact question each of us must decide before we vote this November!

Some proponents claim the adjustment is antiquated, but I would say it is more about accuracy in your representation in the Capitol. If you feel that removing the adjustment and counting students where they attend college is an accurate representation of the state, you should vote in favor. If you feel college students should be counted at the place they consider their permanent residence, you should vote no on your ballot.

*The full 2010 Census Adjustment Report can be found online at: http://www.sos.ks.gov/forms/elections/2010CensusAdj.pdf


Adam W. Smith
State Representative, 120th District