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Barton County Commission holds line of extension budget
Fears of state budget uncertainty plague county, extension council alike
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 In other business Monday morning, the Barton County Commission:

• Approved contacting with Huber and Associates to supply the a new computer-assisted dispatching services for law enforcement departments in the county. 

Several years ago, the county undertook a project to connect law enforcement officers with both communications and the court system through integrated computer aided dispatch, records management software and other applications that shared data. However, there are problems with the service and cost related to the company originally selected.

After a search for a less expensive system, with better vendor service, it is recommended that the county contract with Huber & Associates, Jefferson City, Mo., for their Enterpol Software. In addition to improved services, local agencies would have access to a shared data base with 57 other cities and counties in Kansas using the software.  

The cost of the services would be split between Barton County and the Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend and Hoisington police departments.  

There will be more about this in Wednesday’s Tribune.

• Accepted a grant from the South Central Kansas Regional Homeland Security Council, through the North Central Regional Planning Commission. The council awarded a trailer-mounted, four-light Magnum MLT 3060 light tower to Barton County. The light tower may be utilized by local emergency response agencies within Barton County as well as within the South Central Kansas Homeland Security Region. The county will be responsible for maintaining the equipment on inventory, maintenance and insurance coverage, said Emergency Risk Manager Amy Miller.

It has already been used by the Barton County Sheriff’s Office at the County Fair.

• Approved the purchase of a 2015 Dodge Ram 1500 from Marmie Motors for just under $26,000 for the Barton County Landfill. The Solid Waste Department utilizes three pickup trucks. Typical needs include traveling to the various worksites at the Landfill, to perform recycling activities in and around Barton County and for attending meeting and training opportunities across the state. A well-used 1995 Ford F250 has experienced costly mechanical failures and needed to be replaced, said Solid Waste Director Phil Hathcock.

• Reappointed Michael Lang to the Memorial Park Advisory Committee. The committee advises the commission regarding the care and maintenance of the Barton County Owned and Operated Memorial Parks and Cemetery. With not less than five, nor more than seven members, there are two positions open, terming in July, 2019.  

This leaves one spot still open on the committee.

• Heard an update on the Golden Belt Veterans Memorial.

 Although they had nothing but respect and appreciation for the work done by the Barton County Extension Council and its flagship youth program 4-H, county commissioners Monday morning declined the council’s increased budget request for 2016.

The Extension Council sought $222,500, an increase of $5,500 over what it received last year. “That is exactly what we need to carry out what we do,” said Lori Waters, Extension Council Board vice-chairman.

Adding urgency this need is the uncertainty with the State of Kansas budget. Waters said this could impact how much extension councils receive from Kansas State University.

However, “we’re in the same position,” commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer said. The county is facing a potential six mill, $1 million reduction in revenue due to the state’s budget woes.

“We appreciate all you do,” Commissioner Don Davis said. But, with the problems in Topeka and the problems in the Barton County Treasure’s Office,there are a lot of unknowns. 

Commissioner Alicia Straub said she was a veteran of 4-H and sympathized with its the council’s plight. Even so, “this is going to be a tough year.”

Last year, the Extension Council received $215,000. “What type of cut could you withstand?” Straub asked.

The answer was basically none. The $215,000 was the same total as the council received in 2009.

“That would be really tough,” Waters said. They have vehicles that need replacing and want to give raises to council staff.

Last year, council requested $217,250 which was reduced to $215,000. Since 2009, the budget has been reduced by $36,000.

Waters said the hike amounted to 2.5 percent. “That’s not out of line by any means.”

“I feel your pain,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. In a perfect world, the commission could grant all the increases requested.

But, “for every department we have, there are real needs, too,” Schartz said. The county will likely forgo any raises and budget expansions this year.

Davis noted the county helps fund 15 non-governmental organizations which, in all, are requesting $25,000 in additional money. “You are asking for $5,500 of that.”

However, for the council representatives present at Monday’s meeting, the issue was about more than money. “The kids are our future,” said Kelly Wondra, former council board president.

“This is the best way to develop future generations,” he said. Because of this, he said it was more important to help fund the 4-H youth programs than it was to try and please everyone.

Extension Agent Berny Unruh emphasized that the council is different from the Fair Board, which is charged with organizing the Barton County Fair and the costs related to it. Extension deals with the kids and their projects.

Unruh said the 4-H year is about more than the fair. There is the annual 4-H Day school programs.

But, “we have to make decisions that affect us all,” Schremmer said.

Straub moved to fund the entire amount, but that died for a lack of a second. A second motion to keep it at last year’s total then passed unanimously.