County Commission reorganizes
BY DALE HOGG
The face of the Barton County Commission changed some Monday morning. Don Cates took over as chairman and Don Davis joined the body as its newest member.
“It is an honor to serve as chairman of the board and I appreciate it,” Cates said, adding he looks forward to working with the other commissioners and hopes he can live up to the standard they have set. “My only strength is that I am a hard worker and I will work hard.”
It is easy to gripe about government, he said. “I think we complain more about the government now days than we do the weather, and it is justified in many respects.”
But, Cates cited that Barton County’s 34.8 mill levee is lower than that of 100 of the state’s 105 counties. With that, Barton County maintains nearly 390 miles of paved roads (more than any county except Reno and Sedgwick) and no debt. “Everything in our county is paid for, including our top-notch landfill and our detention center.”
He said his goal for 2013 was challenging, but simple to state. “I want to keep it that way.”
Cates wants to maintain theses quality programs, but doesn’t want to raise taxes or increase government involvement in the lives of county residents. Should the county come into additional revenue due to an upswing in the economy, “it should go back into building up our reserves which have been seriously depleted om recent years” instead of lowering the levee.
He also wants to improve the county’s website to make it “more user friendly for citizens,” modernize the county’s operations and adjust pay scales “to help retain our excellent , experienced and dedicated employees, and attract others.”
Commissioner Kenny Schremmer was named chairman pro-tem. “This is a good position to be in,” he said. “The chairman does all the work.”
He has served as chairman in the past and said he understands the importance of the job. He said it was vital for him to work closely with Cates.
However, “we work for the taxpayers,” Schremmer said. “Every decision we make, we have to ask ourselves ‘what does the boss think.’”
He, too, wanted to maintain the county’s leadership role in the state. But, “there’s always work to be done.”
Davis said he was thankful to be on the commission. “I just pray I do the job that the people who elected me expect.”
In other business, the commission:
• Approved holding the 2013 tax sale. Certain tracts of real estate for tax years 2010 through 2012 with delinquent taxes and those properties not sold during the tax sale held in 2012 to be sold for auction. The money collected will be used to pay the delinquent property taxes on the tracts. It is then distributed to the various taxing entities in the county.
• Named the Great Bend Tribune as the official county newspaper.
• Approved the county’s joining the Kansas Legislative Policy Group, a bi-partisan coalition of 30 rural, western Kansas counties with similar agriculture and oil-gas interests. The membership fee is $4,550 for one year. Barton County had belonged to the group several years ago, but had dropped out of it.
• Authorizing the Health Departments revalidation to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that manages Medicare and Medicaid. This action is a requirement of the Affordable Care Act established for all enrolled providers and suppliers of Medicare and Medicaid services. The health department is involved because of the flu and pneumonia shots it offers. This revalidation will last for five years.
• Named Kevin Kramp as a trustee for Lakin Township. This was effective Monday and it is a four-year term.
It was a busy morning at the Barton County Courthouse Monday as long-time public servants stepped aside to welcome new public officials took their oaths of office.
The day started in the County Commission Chambers as commissioners recognized retiring Registrar of Deeds Marcia Johnson, out-going Sheriff Greg Armstrong and retiring District Judge Hannalore Kitts. “Elected officials must always be available to the public, taking away time from personal commitments,” said Commissioner Don Cates.
All three were honored with a special motion, and Johnson and Kitts were presented with a small, silver-plated decorative coffer. Armstrong was unavailable for the presentation.
“We appreciate all you do,” Cates said of the out-going office holders.
“I’m a doer of good deeds,” joked Johnson, who in two stints as registrar for a total of 21 years. “I’m going to miss it, but I am going to enjoy what I’m going to do.”
The activities then moved to the Barton County District Courtroom, which was packed with officials, and family and friends of those taking office.
Here, as one of her last acts as a judge, Kitts administered the oath of office to returning Chief Judge Mike Keeley, returning County Attorney Doug Matthews, and in-coming Sheriff Brian Bellendir. “I give you your new sheriff,” she said.
Keeley then took over to swear in new Commissioner Don Davis, returning County Treasurer Kevin Wondra, new Registrar of Deeds Pam Wornkey, returning County Clerk Donna Zimmerman and new District Judge Steve Johnson.
Johnson was also presented with his black robe.
Keeley also presented Kitts with a certificate from the Kansas Supreme Court honoring her for her 17 years as a district judge. Kitts teared up despite her best efforts not to.
“I liked what I was doing and I always tried to do my best,” she said. “It’s a good day and a bad day.”
She is looking forward to retirement, but regrets having to leave her post. “We have almost been a family over the years,” she said. “Good luck to all of you.”
Next, in the rotunda of the courthouse, Zimmerman and Bellendir sworn in the BCSO deputies and other staff. That was followed by a reception before the commission meeting resumed.