Archive for Thursday, November 20, 2008

County rehires counselor-at-large on contract

Commissioners full of questions over contract with Kansas Sampler Festival Committee

November 20, 2008

The former counselor-at-large for Leavenworth County is back.

The Leavenworth Board of County Commissioners approved at its Thursday morning meeting a contract for professional services with Keyta Kelly, who was informed in August that her position was being reduced to a part-time one for 2009.

Kelly will perform “professional services to take care of tax matters,” County Administrator Heather Morgan said, including all duties related to annual real estate tax foreclosure auctions, the collection of delinquent personal property taxes, legal work related to the Court of Tax Appeals, bankruptcy proceedings and the collection of delinquent EMS payments.

For her work, Kelly will be paid $43,590 annually.

Also discussed Thursday was the accounting practices for the Kansas Sampler Festival steering committee for the planning of the 2010 and 2011 festivals, which will be in Leavenworth’s Ray Park.

The county has designated $25,000 for the purpose and the two commissioners present — J.C. Tellefson was absent — said they were concerned about the accounting practices of the commission.

Morgan recommended that the money be placed in a stand-alone account that would be accessible only with the signatures of three members of the commission.

“I want to see the minutes,” Commissioner Dean Oroke said of the group’s meetings, and he asked whether the commission would be subject to Kansas Open Meetings Act requirements.

David Van Parys, county counselor, suggested forwarding a list of the commissioners’ concerns to the steering committee and Commissioner Clyde Graeber said he thought the committee “members realize their responsibility” when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money.

On Monday, the commissioners took another look at an interlocal agreement between the county and county entities involved in the festival.

Morgan brought to the commission a list of concerns about the agreement that was made in July. The agreement outlines the funding needed to run the festival and who would be in charge of organizing the event.

“Things have changed this much since the signing of this document,” Morgan said. Among the list of changes Morgan wanted to see made to the agreement were the creation of a separate account from the county’s general fund to fund the festival, the creation of by-laws for the committee and establishing when and how much the festival’s director gets paid of the budgeted $35,000 salary. Morgan also wanted the county to have a representative with voting power on the steering committee, something that is not spelled out in the current agreement.

Morgan said Kelly, the festival’s director, was no longer going to represent the county on the steering committee.

Currently the committee is made up of representatives from the cities of Tonganoxie, Lansing, Basehor and Leavenworth; the Basehor and Tonganoxie chambers of commerce; the Lansing Historical Museum; and the Leavenworth Main Street program.

This did not sit well with the commissioners, who voted in July to pay for approximately $138,000 toward the festival’s projected $240,000 price tag.

“We need to have representation and they need to recognize that we are paying more than 50 percent of the entire project,” Tellefson said.

The commissioners wanted to set up a time with the steering committee to hash out its concerns before it gets closer to the six-month period prior to the first sampler festival in May of 2010.

In other business the board:

• Approved a change order not to exceed $10,000 for the kitchen expansion project at the Leavenworth County Justice Center. The change order was necessary because the drain on the south kitchen entrance design as planned would have been inadequate to properly function, Van Parys said.

• Heard a quarterly report on the Juvenile Detention Center by Robert Doyle, director.

“I believe we’re in very good shape,” Doyle told the commissioners, in part because state funding made up for the refusal of local school districts to pay a share of the costs for the truancy officers provided.

• Met in executive session for 10 minutes with Van Parys, County Clerk Linda Scheer, County Clerk-elect Janet Klasinski and Morgan to discuss potential litigation. After the session, the commission unanimously voted to amend the tax statements and reduce the tax for property owners in Sewer District No. 3 who recently had their taxes increased by $100 for grinder pump improvements.

“The funds raised by that special assessment will not be needed until the fiscal year 2010,” Van Parys told the commission. “The staff somehow jumped the gun as it were.” The increase will be placed in the 2009 tax statements.

Van Parys said all of the 180 affected residents would soon receive an amended tax statement that reflects this reduction.

• Heard from Morgan about the county courthouse’s reaction to a bomb scare Thursday. Morgan said she met with Chuck Magaha, emergency management director, to discuss what went well and what didn’t go well during the evacuation.

She said they agreed much went well, but some areas of improvement were discovered, like employees not taking personal items with them during the evacuation.

“That was probably our biggest disappointment in the evacuation,” Morgan said. “People didn’t take what they needed to take so they had to return to get their stuff.”

She said Magaha would send out the county’s evacuation plan to all of the county’s department heads.

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