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County responds to winter blast
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Barton County Office Buildings will be closed Wednesday in observance of Christmas. The Records Division of the Sheriff’s Office, the Health Department and the Landfill will all be closed on Christmas. Emergency services will be in normal operation. 

 A winter blast blanketed the are with snow Saturday night and Sunday morning, and Barton County personnel rose to the challenge, County Administrator Richard Boeckman told the County Commission Monday morning.
“It was a major winter and personnel responded appropriately,” Boeckman said. The official snowfall total as reported by the Communications Office was 13.5 inches, but there were reports of 15.
Boeckman said he had been in contact with 911 and Road and Bridge Department officials over the weekend to check on the response. There had been several vehicles slide off of roadways, but most of the county blacktops had been cleared.
“The county responded well,” said Commissioner Kenny Schremmer. “The county employees did a fantastic job.”
In other business Monday morning, the commission:
• Approved a three-party agreement between the county, the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Ellsworth-based engineering firm Kirkham Michael and Associates for work on the High Risk Rural Roads program. KDOT will pay 100 percent of the service cost, up to $31,501.86. This work involves upgraded regulatory and warning signs which are now required to have a higher level of reflectivity, said County Engineer Clark Rusco.
• Approved the cereal-malt beverage licence applications for the unincorporated areas of the county. According to state statutes, no retailer shall sell any cereal-malt beverage without having secured a license for that business. When a business is located in the unincorporated portion of the County, that application shall be made to the commission.   
Licenses were approved for:
• Eazy Street Restaurant  
• Kaisers Service*
• Kiowa Kitchen
• Lake Barton Golf Clubhouse
• Mo’s Place*
• Odin Community Club
• Odin Store
• Shaneys
• The Rack Billiard Café    
*Also purchased separate licenses for  “consumption on the premises” and “sale in original and unopened containers.”
Schremmer said he had heard of a push to cease the selling of 3.2-percent-alcohol beer in Kansas. This lead to discussion of breweries stopping production of the of 3.2 beer and the possibility of grocery stores and other retailers selling harder liquor.
County officials said this would take the county out of the bar licensing business since the Kansas Department of Revenue Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control handles such matters.
However, according to KDR Spokesperson Jeannine Koranda, there is no specific movement to stop 3.2 beer. There is, just about every year, a bill introduced in the Legislature to allow grocery stores to sell liquor. If such a bill would pass, then the need for lower-alcoholic content beer may go away.
Koranda said there are five states that sell 3.2 beer. In addition to Kansas, it is sold in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah.
• Approved a transfer of $200,000 (from the 2013 budget) from health coverage trust to employee benefits. This transfer will help assure that Social Security, retirement, workers’ compensation, health insurance and other appropriate benefits are funded at a level that is responsible for the county, as both an employer and a taxing agency.
Financial Officer Jessica Wilson said the money in the health coverage trust dates back to the days when the county had self-funded insurance. Enough remains in the account to make a similar transfer in 2014. But come 2015, the lack of a transfer may create a budgeting issue.
• Approved a transfer of $3,000 from the General Fund to Teen Court. This transfer was scheduled to provide support for the Teen Court program, which falls under the Juvenile Justice Authority.   
• Heard the year-end wrap-up on county departmental activities from County Administrator Richard Boeckman.