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County website creating a positive image
Commission approves renewing agreement with online partner
new deh county commission websited screen shot web
Shown is a screen shot of the Barton County website. The County Commission Monday morning approved an agreement to continue partnering with the organization that redesigned the site three years ago.

In other business Tuesday morning, the Barton County Commission:

• Held a 20-minute executive session to discuss the lease for a radio tower near Susank. Called to protect attorney-client privilege, present with the commissioners in the meeting were Alan Glendenning of the county’s on-call legal firm Watkins-Calcara and county 911 Director Dena Popp. 

Commissioners emerged and no action was taken.

• Approved the purchase of a power washer for the Noxious Weed Department at cost of $5,250 from Pistol Pete’s of Great Bend. The department’s current power washer is 16 years old and is malfunctioning. It will be traded in for the replacement. 

• Approved the removal of second floor equipment. In order to meet the requirements of the Driver’s License Office, a White 2000 Records Storage/Retrieval System needs to be removed. The system has been in place since the early 1980s. Because of the expertise required for the dismantling the system and for safety considerations, Gary Bruner, Facilities Leader, requested a quote for the removal from Records Retrieval Systems, Wichita. 

The $2,150 cost of the removal will be offset by selling the system for scrap to Acme Scrap of Great Bend, Bruner said. Acme is buying the metal at $92 per ton and providing the container to haul it away at no charge.

• Decline rejoining the League Of Kansas Municipalities for 2017. The $1,200 fee includes copies of the Kansas Government Journal and other services include legislative advocacy, municipal training institute and annual conferences and events. However, the dues have gone up and commissioners didn’t feel it was worth it.

The county will retain its membership with the Kansas Association of Counties.

• Appointed physician’s assistant Shawn McGowen of Ellsworth as a special deputy coroner. Under the procedures outlined by Kansas statutes and a county resolution, Dr. Edward Jones requested the appointment of Special Deputy Coroners. Special Deputies, appointed for one-year calendar terms, do not have the necessary credentials to be a deputy coroner, but generally have a medical background. McGowen was appointed at the request of Ellsworth County.

Barton County is the home county of the 20th Judicial District. So, it is the Barton County Commission that makes these appointments covering Barton, Ellsworth, Rice, Russell and Stafford counties.

 Noting the importance of a good online image and the positive improvements to the county’s website of the past few years, the Barton County Commission Monday morning approved renewed an agreement with the organization responsible for that presence.

Three years ago, Barton County partnered with Simplified Online Communications System, a Lincoln , Neb.,-based a non-profit website developer, to improve to the county’s website, In the spring of 2013 the county went live with this new website and over the summer of 2016, an additional update was completed.

Now, it is time to renew this agreement for an additional three years, said Judy Goreham, county environmental manager.  “The county has been very pleased with the website and the feedback that has been received.” 

“We completely rebuilt it,” she said. It is now more user friendly and each department has the ability to update their portion of the site on their own.

The annual cost for the first three years was $5,500, Goreham said. However, that included SOCS’s work on developing the county’s Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway site as well.

So, the new contract calls for a yearly payment of $5,225 for the county site. The byway site, which is up for renewal next year, has a separate license agreement but will cost significantly less.

“It does get hit on a regular basis,” county Cartographer Bj Wooding said of the county site. Between the two, there are hundreds of thousands of visitors.

But, “next year, we will be looking at ways to trim expenses,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. She asked if there was some way the two could be rolled into one.

Wooding didn’t think that would be feasible since each site has a unique audience. Besides, the byway site covers not only Barton County, but also Stafford County and part of Reno County, and the wetlands information would get lost if the two were combined.

The changes in the presence came along at the same time the county was switching over to new administrative software. The county’s Community Development Advisory Board saw this as a necessary economic development tool, and it developed from there.

That led to a five-member committee that looked at design and content ideas. They spent a lot of time studying color schemes and other ideas to market the county.

Cheyenne Bottoms and the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway led to the blues and earth tones selected. They also tap the area’s agricultural roots.

The choice of wildlife photographs, shots of community festivals and pictures of residents enjoying the outdoors add to this image.

Each department has an in-depth link on the site which include forms, documents (including the county budget), codes and regulations. Features also include a clickable county map that links viewers to communities or other entities that have their own websites, a county-wide calendar of events, the ability to translate the site into another language, links to schools, and links to area and state economic development agencies.

In addition, there are connections to demographic data from the University of Kansas and the U.S. Census Bureau.