County staff debate off ballot
Administrator position OK’d without public referendum
Leavenworth County commissioners agreed Tuesday to draft a job description and advertise for a county administrator without putting the issue before a public referendum as originally planned.
In January, the commission voted to put the issue to a vote in an April 3 referendum before agreeing to delay the vote until the August 2008 primary.
Tuesday the board voted, 2-1, with Commissioner J.C. Tellefson opposed, to remove the question of hiring a county administrator from the 2008 ballot and voted 2-0, with Tellefson abstaining, to get the ball rolling on bringing in an additional staff member.
"I would like to have an administrator in place, working for the county, prior to when the budget-setting process starts again : in May 2008," Commissioner Dean Oroke said.
Although the specific duties of an administrator were not spelled out Tuesday, Oroke said the person should "be really strong in finances."
In earlier talks, commissioners described the administrator - also referred to as a chief of staff and staff director - as a sounding board and a go-between between the commission, other elected officials and department heads.
All three commissioners made campaign promises of some sort in regard to creating a county administrator post.
In the 2006 election, Tellefson said he favored creating the post but promised to forego his position on the issue in favor of bringing it to a public vote.
Oroke and Commissioner Clyde Graeber both expressed support for a county administrator when running for office in 2004.
"That's the pesky promise I made," Tellefson said. "The reason I made that promise is the people have spoken twice."
Tellefson was referring to the two previous times in the past 10 years when the issue of a county administrator was brought to a vote before Leavenworth County residents - in 1998 and 2002. Both times, voters turned their backs on the proposed position.
Tellefson, who was a strong advocate of creating the post in meetings earlier this year, did not vote in favor of action now.
"My problem with the whole thing - and I've made no secret that this is something I want - (is) I made a commitment to put it on the ballot," Tellefson said.
Oroke, who said, "I feel I've been somewhat the opposition to creating this position," changed his mind after "a lot of time soul-searching."
"I feel it's probably appropriate we create this position at this time," he said.
In the coming weeks, commissioners will define exactly what the position will entail and will have an opportunity to include input for staff and community members.
"As we develop a job description, I would like to have meetings with department heads and other elected officials for interfacing and to see where we want to go with this," Oroke said.
In other business Tuesday, the board:
¢ Discussed what to do with county documents and equipment being stored at the Abernathy Building in Leavenworth.
The landlord there, Louis Klemp, notified commissioners Thursday, Aug. 30, that they needed to remove all materials by Oct. 31, when, he announced, the lease between Klemp and the county will end.
Currently the county clerk, human resources, register of deeds, treasurer and Emergency Medical Services Department rent more than 4,500-square-feet of space in the Abernathy building at $3 per square foot per month.
Graeber suggested working quickly to define exactly how much space is needed, particularly how much of that must be climate controlled, and in two weeks, putting out requests for proposals to other storage facilities.
Most of the materials being stored are documents, but they also include county voting machines.
County Clerk Linda Scheer urged the board to find a permanent storage solution.
"I just hate to see us move and move," she said. "It'd be so nice to move one time."
"It'd be nice to get a long-term solution in a short amount of time, but I'm not that optimistic," Tellefson said, adding that a temporary solution might have to work for now.
¢ Voted, 3-0, to authorize using more than $9,000 in the Community Corrections Department's carryover reimbursement to fund programs assisting offenders with drug treatment and counseling and providing emergency housing.
The unexpended funds came from funds collected for advancement treatment, probationary fees and urinalysis, Community Corrections Director Mikel Lovin said.
¢ Reviewed the results of an independent audit conducted by officials with Cochran, Head & Co., a Kansas City, Mo.-based financial consulting firm.