In other business, the Barton County Commission:
• Approved the purchase of four 2012 Dodge Chargers from Marmie Motors for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office at a cost of $77,164 for use as patrol vehicles. Also approved was another $9,727 to purchase the incidentals, such as cages and other special equipment. The deal includes the trading in of the four vehicles dating back to 2007 and 2008 with the highes milage. Cars are rotated out every four or five years assuring that vehicles in use are more reliable and reducing maintenance costs. Sheriff Greg Armstrong recently requested bids from all dealerships in Barton County, receiving bids from Marmie Dodge, Marmie Ford and Doves. Bids were accepted until Oct. 15.
• Approved setting the bonds for all 22 county township treasurers. The total bonds for all townships was $1.4 million. The bond for each township was based on 25 percent of its budget and reserves. According to state law, before entering office, the township treasurer shall execute a bond in an amount determined by County Commissioner. The bonds filed in the office of the County Clerk.
• Approved requiring that a request to receive notices (of regular and special meetings) be submitted to the county prior to the commencement of a fiscal year. As the county prepares for Fiscal Year 2013, the commission may direct staff to request written notification from the public to receive meeting announcements. Such requests would be made of the businesses and persons currently receiving them. State statues allow for this.
• Approved an occupancy agreements with the KSU \ Barton County Extension Council and the State of Kansas Parole Office which are housed in the Barton County Office Building at 12th and Kansas in Great Bend. The proposed agreements, set to expire Dec. 31, 2013, allow each agency office space, as well as use of the county’s phone and long distance services and central office supply. Each agency has a separate agreement for the provided space and services.
• Approved a list of deputy and special deputy coroners for the 20th Judicial District. Under the procedures outlined by state law and county ordinance, Dr. Edward Jones, district coroner, requests the appointment of special deputy coroners. Special deputies, appointed for one-year calendar terms, do not have the necessary credentials to be a deputy, but generally have a medical background. Jones also took the opportunity to make recommendations for deputy coroners, having the same qualifications as the district coroner.
• Boeckman provided an update on work completed by various county departments during the past couple weeks.
Members of the Barton County Commission had their eyes opened Monday morning when Pattie McGurk with Catholic Social Services addressed them about a grant the agency received to help the homeless find homes.
CSS is the recipient of a $188,000 United States Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to help with transitional housing in its massive southwest Kansas territory. The grant involves primarily working with landlords in Barton, Finney, Ford, Seward and Grant counties to rent properties for clients in need of a place to live.
“With the economic downturn, we were surprised at the number of people who are struggling,” McGurk told the commission as it met Monday morning. Unfortunately, the funds will only be enough to help about 14 families.
Between October 2011 and March 2012, CSS worked with 22 families on the verge of eviction.
Catholic Social Services will use the money to target individuals and families now in the various homeless shelters. It will assist them with paying off over-due utility bills, deposits and rent, as well as offer financial counseling and intensive support.
This is a growing problem, McGurk said. The average rent for a two-bedroom home in Barton County is $520 per month. Figuring that housing should take 30 percent of a person’s income, one would have to earn at least $10.32 per hour.
But, many service industry jobs pay less than that. Even if the salary is enough, there are often no time-off benefits, so a worker can’t afford to stay home with a sick family member or miss hours because of medical issues.
“People just aren’t keeping up,” McGurk said. Many families have single parents or have only one income.
The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is that of women and children.
However, there is not accurate count of the homeless in the area. As a condition to receive the grant, CSS will conduct a “point-in-time” homeless survey, she said. Utilizing volunteers and law enforcement, the agency will try to get a count as of Jan. 23.
Homeless can mean living under a bridge or it can mean living with friends or relatives because a person doesn’t have a home of their own. They can also live in shelters, or in cars or campers.
“This homeless thing is worse than we were aware of,” commission Chairman Homer Kruckenberg said.
“We would probably be shocked at the number of people who are just one paycheck away from being homeless,” commissioner Jennifer Schartz said.
CSS has also opened a “non-food pantry” to help the needy. This service provides such items as toilet paper, soap, diapers and baby formula.