The Stevens County Commissioners met in regular session Monday, September 19 in the Commissioners’ Room at the Stevens County Courthouse. Present were Commissioners Pat Hall, Dave Bozone and Joe D. Thompson. Also present were County Attorney Paul Kitzke, County Clerk Pam Bensel, Clerk candidate Amy Jo Tharp, Commissioner candidate Tron Stegman and Marie Austin with The Hugoton Hermes.
The commissioners moved to pay the bills after discussing a few items. At 9:00 a.m., Jim Rice with the Kansas Natural Resources Coalition came in to give a report about his group’s activities. The KNRC had their policy meeting recently and opted to postpone their Planning 2.0 initiative. Jim then talked with the commissioners about a prairie dog issue in Comanche County and the possibility of an environmental group suing for the lesser prairie chicken’s endangered status again. He also said the KNRC is opposed to the Waters of the United States act.
Tony Martin was next up, and he reported the grader is nearly repaired after a bill of approximately $23,000. His crew has about one day of patch work left, but the cool wet weather has prevented them from finishing. The commissioners and Tony then talked about the crossing permits with Black Hills. The timeline has been moved up for Stevens County, as Black Hills will start here and proceed toward Seward County instead of vice versa. Two Black Hills representatives came in to ease any concerns the commissioners and Tony had regarding safety at the crossings. Both men assured the group that concrete – and a much hardier pipe – would be as safe and more cost-effective than casings, quoting the figures of $12,000 per crossing for concrete and $20,000-plus per crossing for casing. The commissioners along with Tony reiterated their concern for the safety of county residents and employees.Tony and the commissioners opted to allow Black Hills to issue the permits with amendments including a stipulation that Black HIlls would be financially responsible in the event of an accident and that the line would be six feet deep. The Black Hills reps agreed to that. Tony then discussed roads in Moscow needing upkeep. He said his group would likely help them out with a pothole near the highway, and then they would winterize the asphalt plant.
Next up was Darla Mirabal and quite a few supporters of the Fitness Center. The room was filled to near capacity as the commissioners tackled the tough issue of spending cuts. The group brought up several options for the Center to continue, including moving the equipment to the Bob Sosa Building at the Hugoton Recreation Commission and turning the Center into a co-op, where members buy the facility and provide upkeep. They also suggested pay cuts or eliminating a position. The commissioners brought up time and again the issue of keeping taxes lower while providing needed services for residents. Pat reminded the audience the county has only been responsible for the Center for a few years, and that’s because the hospital’s budget couldn’t bear the expense. Now taxpayers are subsidizing the Center for 200 people who use it out of 5700 people in Stevens County.