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Keeping the public safe
County honors emergency personnel
new deh county commission pic
Amy Miller, Barton County emergency risk manager, second from left, is joined by Barton County Commissioners, left to right, Don Cates, Jennifer Schartz, Kenny Schremmer and Homer Kruckenberg Monday morning. Miller and Barton County were honored recently for their work during a tornado outbreak in April. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Just as the East Coast braced for the impact of hurricane Sandy Monday morning, Barton County Emergency Manager Amy Miller and her department were honored by the County Commission for their efforts at keeping residents safe during a tornado outbreak this past April.
“Amy, this recognition is well deserved,” said commissioner Don Cates. From twisters to accidents involving radioactive waste, “you have a lot to be prepared for.”
At the September Kansas Emergency Management Association Conference Awards Banquet in Wichita, Barton County Emergency Management received a Special Recognition Certificate for actions during the April 14 outbreak. It was one of 13 agencies honored at the event.
“A lot of what we do as emergency managers is gather information in the field,” Miller said. This is forwarded to the National Weather Service and other state offices to be compiled with data from other sources.
“This enables them to provide better warnings,” she said. That was the case on April 14, a day that involved many long hours and two conference calls with the NWS.
Looking at the area targeted by the hurricane, “we don’t have a week to prepare,” Miller said of tornadoes. “We may only have an hour.”
 The idea is to offer as accurate of information to the public as possible, she said. Then, they just hope the public heeds the warnings.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved signing a letter of support requested by Sunflower Diversified Services  for its Kansas Department of Transportation grant application. Monies provided by KDOT would be used to continue the operation of the General Public Transportation System.
Sarah Krom of Sunflower told the commission the letter signed in 2011 helped the agency secure funding for four new vehicles to increase the program’s capacity. In 2011, Sunflower provided nearly 60,000 rides and has provided over 32,000 so far this year. As fall and winter set in, she said there will be more students riding since USD 428 doesn’t offer school bussing.
In 2011, Krom said their vehicles logged 382,000 miles at a cost of over $500,000.
• Approved the renewal of an interlocal agreement with the City of Great Bend to provide assistance on the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. This program provides tax rebates for qualified new improvements. In order for the city to continue to offer this incentive, the county must continue to perform the administrative tax functions. The provisions of the program are outlined in the interlocal agreement and in the City’s Revitalization Plan. The plan would be effective for another three years and would be renewable at the end of that time, said Barbara Konrade, county appraiser.
Bob Suelter, Great Bend city attorney, said the program has worked well, helping with the progress of the Amber Meadows housing development and in the refurbishing of some run-down homes.
•  Approved the renewal of a contract with WorkFit which provides medical examinations and physical capacity profile testing for pre-employment purposes. The pre-employment test determines the abilities of the potential employee to perform the essential functions of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation.  This reduces the risk of placing an individual in a position where there is a substantial risk of injury to the person or others, thereby reducing work-related injuries and potential workers compensation claims. Under the agreement, the service rate would be $105.00 per referred candidate.
“This really has been a good program for us,” said County Administrator Richard Boeckman. In hiring people who have the ability to do the work they are hired for has lowered the county’s workers comp rates.