Witt tenders resignation
BY DALE HOGG
It was with regret that Barton County Solid Waste Manager Mark Witt told the Barton County Commission Monday morning that he was resigning with his last day to be Aug. 14.
Witt is getting married July 26 at North Platte, Neb., to a woman from Kearney, Neb. “I will be moving there,” he said.
His fiance lives and works in Kearney, and Witt will be finding a job there.
“This has not been a very easy decision to make,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed working with the county, business and citizens.”
But, he is also excited about the change.
Witt moved to Great Bend in 1994 from Decatur County, Kan. He spent six years with the Great Bend Fire Department before becoming a heavy equipment operator at the Barton County Landfill.
He eventually was promoted to landfill manager, a job that evolved into the solid waste manager position.
“I’ve seen a number of changes over the years,” he said. Among them the development of new landfill facilities, recycling programs for bicycles and electronic waste and the acceptance of contaminated soil.
“We will certainly miss you,” Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer said.
“You will be a hard man to replace,” Commissioner Don Davis said.
County Administrator Richard Boeckman said he will start advertising to fill the vacancy this week.
Barton County Health Director Lily Akings told county commissioners Monday morning some disturbing news.
“As a society, were are getting more obese all the time,” she said. And, “Barton County has obesity rates above the state average.”
She and Health Department Health Educator Janel Rose addressed the Commission on behalf of Be Well Barton County, a county-wide task force under the Central Kansas Partnership. Its goal is to promote policies that lead to healthier lifestyles through better access to walking and biking.
Communities, she said, should be designed to include such active transportation.
Be Well Barton County, through the Golden Belt Community Foundation, received Kansas Health Foundation’s Healthy Communities Initiative grant of up to $75,000 over three years. The team is using the funds to educate county residents about nationally recognized Complete Streets policies and Safe Routes to Schools, programs that encourage local governments to consider pedestrian traffic.
Be Well Barton County is one of 12 grantees in the state to receive funding in the first round of grants.
“We are a group of dreamers,” Rose said of the passionate BWBC members. “We have a vision. Supporting active living through walking and biking is a critical component of creating progressive and vibrant communities. Communities are increasingly looking for ways to make roads, sidewalks, trails and other facilities safer and more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists.”
In communities across the country, a movement is growing to “complete the streets,” Rose said. “City planners and engineers are being asked to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to people of all abilities whether they are families with small children or our elderly neighbors who are walking to local destinations.”
By constructing Complete Streets, communities of all sizes – whether rural or metro – are able to provide quality access to jobs, health care, shops, and schools their residents deserve, while also achieving greater economic, environmental, and public health benefits, she said.
Rose said this type of planning: Promotes reinvestment and economic development in small towns; makes towns safer for all residents; encourages more people to walk and bike, and eases traffic congestion; provides a safer environment for children; helps improve air quality by reducing the number of vehicles; and by implementing such policies before streets are developed, it saves time and money over retrofitting exiting streets.
“The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities,” Rose said. “They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or business owner.”
Too many of our streets built in the last 50 years were designed only for speeding cars, she said. “But our communities have an opportunity to change that.”
A Complete Streets Policy, she said, will ensure that planners and engineers will consistently keep all users in mind.
Although BWBC’s thrust is to support policies that encourage the development of pedestrian infrastructure, the group has been involved in projects. These include soon-to-be-installed bike racks on the Courthouse Square, the planned installation of bike safety signs on county roads and the sponsorship of recent public meetings.
“We are in the beginning stages of public education,” Rose said. “This is a road map for the future.”