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Commission responds to Covid-19 crisis
Disaster declaration OKed, courthouse restricted and drive-through service planned
county drive through covid-19
The Barton County Commission Monday morning approved extending the lease for the drive-through facility on Broadway for another six months. - photo by Tribune file photo

To protect Barton County residents and county employees, the County Commission in a special meeting Friday morning took measures in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Approved was a disaster declaration for the medical emergency, restrictions on access to the courthouse that went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, and lease for a drive-through facility to provide services.

“At this time the county has not been notified of a positive case of Covid-19 in Barton County,” said County Administrator Phil Hathcock. “However, with the growing likelihood the virus will appear Barton County, we feel it prudent to take certain precautions as a proactive measure.”  

Although county officials were not aware of a positive case of the respiratory disease, Acting County Health Director Karen Winkelman said they are awaiting the results of tests on a couple local samples. 

In addition to the countywide steps, each department has undertaken its own safety protocols to ensure county operations continue. This includes staggering shifts and screening employees to see if they are running a fever, one of the disease’s key symptoms.

“I think it is prudent of us to be cautious at this time,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. “We are walking a fine line because people still need services and we want to be able to provide those services, yet we want to keep our staff safe.”

The Friday meeting was in lieu of the commission’s regular agenda meeting that would have taken place Monday morning. The next regular meeting will be announced at a later date.

Hathcock said they are still ironing out the details on how they would handle virtual meetings should that be necessary. He did stress they would make sure all meetings would be open to the public and not violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Friday’s action

• On Wednesday, Chairman Kenny Schremmer signed a Declaration of a State of Local Public Health Emergency as a result of the Covid-19 event. The commission ratified the declaration. 

“This is good for the entire county,” Emergency Risk Manager Amy Miller said. It covers all cities, townships and school districts, as well as the county.

The reason for the move is to open the door for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, she said. The resources would cover emergency protective measures, such as equipment and overtime. 

It also cuts through paperwork, she said. “It provides for a smoother, quicker flow of supplies.”

The declaration will be in place for 60 days unless terminated earlier and allows for the rendering of aid and assistance, Miller said. Normally, emergency declarations, such as those for storms, are good for one week and have to be renewed after seven days.

• The commission adopted a resolution restricting access to the Barton County buildings during a public health emergency.

“As you are aware, this past several weeks has seen many changes in the Covid-19 response, not only from the federal but the state level as well,” County Administrator Phil Hathcock said. “County officials have been monitoring the situation and implementing policy and continuation of operation plans this week to ensure the safety of county employees as well as the general public as directed by CDC and KDHE (the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention and Kansas Department of Health and Environment).”

Effective 5 p.m. Friday, the resolution restricts public access to county-owned buildings for the near future. Access to the Barton County Courthouse will be closed to the general public and other county buildings may be closed to the general public, have limited access, or operate by appointment only.

“Elected officials and department heads have worked in partnership to ensure that even with restricted access to its buildings, Barton County will still be able to provide essential services to the public,” Hathcock said.

The closures will remain in place until commissioners lift it. At this time, no end date has been set.

Only the east courthouse door will be open. A Barton County Sheriff’s Office deputy will be posted to make sure the rules are enforced.

• Also on Wednesday, Schremmer signed a lease agreement between J-Kat Corp, landlord, and Barton County, tenant. The short-term lease, ratified Friday, runs through Sept. 30. The county will utilize the office and three drive-through lanes at 2223 Broadway Ave.  

Rent for the first month of the six-month lease will be $1,500, and $3,000 for each month after that. This includes utilities.

“The Treasurer’s Office, with help from Amy Miller, has taken a proactive approach to the Covid-19 issue,” County Treasurer Jim Jordan said. “This facility will be a unique way for us to serve the taxpayers.”

It is planned that county offices will offer services at this location, Jordan said. This will only be used by the Treasurer’s Office for now, but other offices may utilize it in the future.

With a staff of three, this will be for drive-through customers only, Jordan said. There will be no public access to the inside offices.

The site was up and running Friday afternoon, and ready for customers Monday morning. The hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., but there will also be a night deposit box.

Jordan praised the partnership with all the county departments involved in making this happen in just three days. He also thanked the business partners ILS, owner of the building on Broadway.

“This just shows what a good team we have in Barton County,” Schartz said. She said this balances the need to keep people safe with the county’s need to continue to collect money.

“It’s sort of our business to keep everybody else in business,” she said. 

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Friday morning:

• Ratified a Declaration of a State of Local Public Health Emergency as a result of the Covid-19 event.

• Adopted a resolution restricting access to the Barton County buildings during a public health emergency beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, until such time as a change in operations is warranted,

• Ratified a short-term lease between J-Kat Corp, landlord, and Barton County, tenant, to use the office and three drive-through lanes at 2223 Broadway Ave.

Barton County Cle