Courthouse graphic

The Brown County Courthouse.

Brown County and Hiawatha City officials met Monday morning to discuss dispatch services — which have been combined under the county’s jurisdiction for the past several years.

One of the matters discussed was that the City of Hiawatha does not contribute monetarily toward the dispatch services and Sheriff John Merchant was concerned about continuing to provide competitive salaries to his employees — that include dispatchers — to keep quality people in place.

Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill clarified for the group gathered — which included the county commissioners, Sheriff Merchant, City Administrator Mike Nichols and City Attorney Andrew Delaney — that dispatch services were combined in 1990.

Hill said that an agreement was reached at that time between the city and the county, providing for payment of a certain amount each year for dispatch services. This was based on the number of employees. However, in 2017, the existing county commission agreed via letter to suspend payment under the agreement and asked that the savings be used for law enforcement purposes.

Delaney said instead of putting money toward the dispatch services, the city agreed to fund an additional officer, along with providing 24-hour patrol coverage within city limits.

Sheriff Merchant — along with other county departments — have asked the commissioners to consider increased budgets so raises can be implemented for county employees. Sheriff Merchant told commissioners it is a very real concern that his employees are leaving for other counties in Northeast Kansas or for neighboring counties in Nebraska for higher wages and better benefits.

Funding was found for some raises for next year due to additional Capital Outlay funds that have not been used, but Sheriff Merchant told the group gathered that he needed to plan for the future after this next year. He said he would like the city to put funding toward dispatch services in order to keep quality employees in his department.

“I’ve got to keep good people and we spend a lot of time helping the city,” he said, pointing out that what if a resident were to call 911 and there was no one to answer because there was not the wages to pay them?

While he acknowledged the city provided 24-hour police coverage, he said “the buck stops” with him and the sheriff’s department provides services to all cities within the county — including Hiawatha and Horton.

Commissioner Richard Lehmkuhl told Nichols and Delaney that the county also provided housing for the city inmates at no cost. Delaney mentioned the county also receives benefits from the city forensics examination program at no additional cost.

Nichols told the commissioners and Sheriff Merchant that he felt that all city residents pay for dispatch services through taxes. Commissioner Bill Pollock said the rural residents paid more taxes, but Nichols pointed out that valuation was different when comparing an $80,000 house in town to a $600,000 farm.

“This is a hot topic among county commissions,” Lehmkuhl said, pointing out that some counties charged for dispatch services while others did not.

Monday morning’s meeting was an initial meeting for information only, Commissioner Lehmkuhl told the group. He felt that it was better to sit down and talk in person. No action was taken, but he said the county was interested in continuing discussions about the dispatch services.

In other business at the Monday, Aug. 2 meeting

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The commission held a 15-minute Executive Session on non-elected personnel with the three commissioners, Solid Waste Director, George Bruning, and County Attorney, Kevin Hill present to discuss legal matters with legal counsel, to protect the Boards privilege and communication with an attorney. This was extended 5 minutes. No binding action was taken.

Nancy Gafford, RDA Director, presented the minutes of the Brown County and Nemaha County Solid Waste Management and Disposal report for the commissioner’s review, which was approved by the commission.

The commission voted to approve the Notice of Hearing for the Revenue Neutral Rate and the 2022 Brown County Budget Hearings for publication. The hearings will take place on August 31, 2021, at the Brown County Courthouse in the commission room.

Brown County Clerk, Dawn Boyles, presented a letter from KCAMP indicating there would be an increase in premiums for 2022.

The commission went into a 5 minute Executive Session on non-elected personnel with the three commissioners, and County Clerk, Dawn Boyles present to discuss personnel matters of non-elected personnel with executive session necessary to protect privacy interests.

July 30 Minutes

The commissioners met Friday, July 30 for the end-of-month bill-paying session. Among items considered and approved:

Wanda Davis, Services for the Elderly Director, gave an update on the Hot Meals Program.

Brown County Liberty Alliance requested use of courthouse square on Sept. 11, 2021, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. for Patriot’s Day. The commission approved the request.

Brown County Clerk, Dawn Boyles, presented a letter from NEKES for the commission’s review.

Brown County Clerk, Dawn Boyles, discussed the elevator clarifications the commission requested from the bids. Boyles will discuss with County Attorney, Kevin Hill, about the clarifications.

The county budgets were discussed. Some budgets were cut while others remained the same. The commission voted to move $200,000 from the Commission Capital Improvement fund back to the General Fund.

The July 30, 2021, month-end claims were approved as follows: General 82,791.06; Road & Bridge 838,846.57; Historical Society 4,375.00; Employee Benefit 75,608.23; Election 352.49; Extension 8,500.00; Mental Health 5,850.00; Developmental Services 2,254.33; Capital Improvement 7,858.94; Appraiser 857.79; Ambulance 21,250.00; Noxious Weed 9,202.83; Diversion 550.87; 911 SB50 6,133.85; ACC 3,267.27; JJCR 4,106.29; Reinvestment Grant 50.00; Services for Elderly 1,518.25; Solid Waste 65,240.97; Payroll 172.90; Total: 1,138,787.64.

The July 28, 2021, payroll was approved as follows: General 85,303.78; Road & Bridge 23,054.38; Election 1,400.00; Technology 344.88; Appraiser 7,684.50; Noxious Weed 3,470.18; ACC 7,567.09; JJA Core 8,348.30; Services for Elderly 3,005.25; Solid Waste 6,220.95; Special MVT 1,760.00; Employee Ben FICA 9,500.69; Employee Ben KPERS 10,386.60; State Unemploy/Work Comp -140.52; Insurance -9,010.32; Total: 158,895.76.

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