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County gets wish lists for taxpayer money

Staff writer

County department heads — except county attorney Joel Ensey, who said he had to be in court and could not attend — presented their annual budgetary wish list to commissioners Tuesday.

Each department reported what equipment purchases they anticipated, any expected personnel changes, and any unique situations the office expected could affect the remainder of this year’s budget.

Commissioners spent much of their time with road and bridge director Steve Hudson discussing whether to begin setting aside money to replace county shops.

Several expressed concern about the age and location of the current shops near Marion Elementary School.

Jonah Gehring volunteered that the City of Hillsboro had at one time offered to give the county seven acres to relocate the shops to Hillsboro.

Other commissioners said that it was too early to discuss where to locate the shops but that beginning to set aside money for new shops might be a priority.

Other departmental plans include rebuilding some gravel roads, 23 miles of repaving, keeping staff busy over the winter, and various equipment needs.

Accountant Scot Loyd said having a county administrator might make it easier for the county to quickly purchase used equipment that might become available.

Emergency manager Marcy Hostetler, who asked for $234,844 for 2025, said she wanted money for a weather station to be installed at her department’s new location on the north edge of Marion.

Hostetler also wants a TV antenna there so she can watch weather coverage on Wichita TV stations plus a large monitor to display weather information.

She said she already views KWCH’s secondary channel devoted exclusively to weather online but wants an over-the-air backup.

Commissioners asked about her deputy director, Dan Schaefer, who works roughly 30 hours a week for emergency management and 10 hours a week for the health department.

Jail administrator Jim Philpott asked for $556,281 for jail expenses next year.

The county’s 911 director said her department had had trouble getting people to apply for jobs. The shortage of employees is causing increased overtime.

“The department has eight dispatchers doing 11 people’s jobs,” she said.

The sheriff’s office said it would need additional money to replace vehicles.

Office manager Sarah Cope also said it would cost $1,000 per radio to comply with what she said were new federal standards.

The department asked for $1,082,179, an increase of $111,744 from this year’s budget.

Transfer station director Josh Housman proposed a budget of $968,173.

He wants to purchase a new backhoe and backhoe bucket and a new trailer to replace one that burned in December.

“The backhoe is a vital piece of equipment that we cannot have go down and be down for very long,” Housman said. “Replacing the backhoe would help minimize down time. The current backhoe is five years old and runs almost eight hours a day.”

Housman said the department made $1,500 in revenue on tires and $20,000 on recycling in the last year.

He’d like to have $10,000 transferred from this year into next year’s budget.

Loyd said that if departments saved money during a year, it could be transferred to the next year if they had a reason to do that.

Money can be transferred to a capital outlay or vehicle replacement fund, then back to the department that needs it, Loyd said.

Planning and zoning director Sharon Omstead made a budget request and offered a suggestion.

She asked for $208,722, an increase of $3,572.

She also suggested that the county create an infrastructure budget for maintenance on a newly acquired and remodeled building her department shares with road and bridge and emergency management departments.

“Does that department head know we’re going to reduce her budget by that?” commissioner Randy Dallke asked other commissioners.

Omstead said employees of the departments that work there were getting along well and working together.

Lake superintendent Isaac Hett said electrical upgrades needed to be completed and appliances in the lake hall need to be replaced.

One oven is so old, “some people don’t know how to use it,” Hett said.

His budget request was $363,979, $108,032 less than this year’s budget.

Ambulance director Chuck Kenney told commissioners he wanted to build a new ambulance station in Peabody and staff it with three more paramedics and three emergency medical technicians.

“Building a new station in Peabody and outfitting the station with appliances, furniture, etc. could pose a unique challenge depending on where the funding comes from or if it will happen in the 2025 budget year,” Kenney said.

Kenney asked for $2,419,405, an increase of $345,570.

Health department director Krista Schneider asked for $599,864, an increase of $32,842.

COVID-19 grants will end after June, she said.

“This will dramatically affect our budget,” Schneider said. “We have added new vaccines in the last year that will contribute to expense and revenue. We anticipate the COVID vaccination rates to be less than years past.”

Last modified May 16, 2024

 

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