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Second county fire district formed
Board members named by County Commission
new deh county commission fire district pic web
Barton County commissioners Kenny Schremmer, Jennifer Schartz and Alicia Straub discuss applications for the Fire District Number Two Board during the commission meeting Monday morning. Commissioners approved the formation of the district and named board members. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Barton County Commission meeting at glance 

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Following a public hearing, approved the formation of a Fire District Number Two, and appointed members to its board of trustees.

• Approved a resolution regarding vaccination of certain domestic animals, rescinding resolution adopted Dec. 30, 2013. County officials have participated in several discussions reference the county’s rabies resolution. Under the new resolution, rabies vaccinations would be required to be current for dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. Observation and testing for animals suspected of rabies is more thoroughly covered, said Health Director Shelly Schneider. 

• Rejected a resolution allowing the discharge of fireworks in the unincorporated area of Barton County for an extended period in 2018, at the request of fire chiefs from around the county. Independence Day falls midweek in 2018, and under the resolution, the commissioners looked at extending the discharge period. 

• Approved Sunflower Diversified Early Childhood Intervention Program funding at $15,000. The program provides individualized services to children ages birth to 3 with a developmental delay or disability. Sunflower’s professional staff serves the child in the home setting, thus including the family actively in the educational process. The funding was included in the 2018 Barton County Operating Budget, Sunflower Executive Director Jon Prescott said.

• Heard a report from Prescott on the 2017 outcomes of the local recycling grant awarded to Sunflower. In 2017, the commission granted Sunflower $15,000 with an understanding that the funds would be utilized for local recycling programs. The funding was paid, in full, from the Solid Waste Budget.  

• Approved the purchase of a 2014 Nissan Maxima at a cost of $10,663 from Manweiler Chevrolet in Hoisington for the Juvenile Services Department. The department accepted bids for the replacement of a 2013 Dodge Caravan until May 3, 2018. The bid request was for a mid-sized car in good mechanical condition with less than 25,000 miles. While a van met business needs prior to new legislation regarding juvenile placement, a mid-sized car will better serve the department at this time, Assistant Director Mike Daniel said.

• Heard an update on the Workforce Investment Board and the Chief Elected Officials Agreement from Commissioner Don Davis, Barton County’s representative on the board. As required by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the membership of the Local Workforce Investment Board consists of representatives from business, labor, economic development, education, rehabilitation services, public assistance agencies and public employment services. Barton County is included in Local Workforce Development Area I. 

The commission also renewed the Local Chief Officials Agreement. The agreement defines the local designated area, establishment of the chief elected officials board, responsibilities and term agreement.  

 Following a lengthy public hearing, the Barton County Commission Monday morning approved the organization of a new fire district in the county. Fire District Number Two consists of Albion, Eureka, North Homestead, South Homestead and Union townships, and the cities of Hoisington, Olmitz and Susank.

In addition, the resolution called for the creation of a board of trustees to consist of from three to nine members representing each township and city in the district. The board is empowered to conduct the district’s business,including making an annual tax levy, not to exceed nine mills, upon all the taxable tangible property within the district, County Administrator Phil Hathcock said.

Upon initial appointment, four members were selected to serve for a term ending on Dec. 31, 2019, with five serving one full calendar year later (2020). All terms are uncompensated.  

The only party to the district that has not put forward a board nominee is Union Township.

Named were: Sarah Younger, Albion Township, term to 2019; Michael McCurry, Eureka Township, to 2019; Richard Lacey, North Homestead, term to 2020; Brandon Yeakley, South Homestead, term to 2020; Shannon Donovan, City of Hoisington, term to 2020; Curtis Peterson, City of Olmitz, term to 2019; and Jackie DeBusk, City of Susank, term to 2019. 

“We are one of the cities that has expressed support for this,” Hoisington City Manager Jonathan Mitchell said. He noted that the project has been in the works for a year and half.

In fact, all of the eight entities involved back the idea, he said. “We have heard no concerns.”

However, Commissioner Kenny Schremmer said he has heard grumbling about the potential for a  nine-mill tax to fund the district. “My phone has been ringing off the wall.”

Mitchell said he understood, saying the intention is to keep the mill levy around three mills. “But, that is up to the board.”

Still, he said the folks involved are pretty conservative. “We’re not going to have a runaway governing body.”

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who goes out and fights fires,” commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said. But, she added, she is a little gun shy regarding the taxation, recalling Barton Community College that first promised only three mills and is now at 30.

“This is out of our hands,” she said. 

Mitchell assured commissioners the district board must adhere to the same rules as any governing body. Budgets will require public hearings and input, as well as publication before approval.


A long time coming

The matter has been on the on the commission’s plate for over a year. “I know this has been a long process,” Mitchell said.

But, it was important to act as soon as possible so the board could meet and get the budget set.

State law requires that the board have a minimum of three members and maximum on nine. This district already has seven and there is no deadline to fill the final opening.

This resolution follows one passed in March setting the date for the hearing. After it was published three times in the Great Bend Tribune, there was a public comment period.

In addition to the county, each of the communities in the district had to OK a resolution to join.

The fire district was a topic of a meeting last February at the Hoisington Fire Department that included fire chiefs from the impacted area. Mitchell and Hoisington Fire Chief Jerry Stricker, who spoke then, have advocated for this change since.

According to information presented at that meeting, the Hoisington Fire Department now falls under City of Hoisington. The city provides most of the funding but, in addition, the department also has five-year contracts to serve Albion, Eureka, North Homestead, South Homestead and Union townships covering over 150 square miles.

In a district, the department would no longer be a part of the city. Instead, it would be a function of the district which would be a stand-alone taxing entity within the county budget.

Claflin has been a part of Claflin Fire District Number One since 1956, and it encompasses the far northeastern corner of Barton County. It takes in Beaver, Cleveland, Independent, Cheyenne (and Cheyenne Bottoms) and Logan townships, and also the communities of Beaver, Hitschmann, Odin and Redwing.

The County Commission serves as the board for District Number One.

In the cases of the other communities that are not a part of a district, such as Ellinwood and Great Bend, they contract with the townships.