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County's struggle with transfer station funding continues

Staff writer

County commissioners continue to search for ways to pay for a new transfer station or update the existing one.

Commissioners initially planned to put a sales tax question on the ballot for the November election, but a blunder in the language of a bill passed by legislators forced commissioners to change their mind on putting the tax to a vote. Commissioners had asked for “up to ½% sales tax,” but learned in August the bill legislators approved was for ½% sales tax.

Commissioners Monday discussed four options. They could seek a revision of the initial bill when the new legislative session starts, get an attorney general’s decision on whether the legislation could be used to collect only a portion of the ½%, fund the transfer station by taking money from other departments and using the transfer station’s operation funds to repay them, or see if banks would loan the money with a 10 to 15 year repayment term.

Commissioners have long discussed the poor condition of the transfer station’s floor and how much longer it will hold up.

County clerk Tina Spencer suggested going back to the legislature and asking for a special action to correct the language of the bill.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he thought voters would approve a sales tax if they understood the need.

Another option, Dallke said, is to put the amount needed out to bid and see if banks would be interested.

Commissioner Dianne Novak said the county could find funds to pay the cost without a loan.

“I think if we could put our heads together, we can find enough money to pay for this,” Novak said.

Dallke said he doesn’t want to dip too far into reserve funds.

Commissioners agreed to look into the amount of interest the county would pay on a loan for the work.

Delinquent taxes, another financial woe for the county, came up right after that discussion.

Treasurer Jeannine Bateman said in recent years, delinquencies have shifted from county to city properties.

Novak asked if there is a way to incorporate how many years a property has been delinquent into the delinquent property tax list published by the county.

Bateman said when an owner is behind on taxes for three years their property is moved to the tax sale list.

Every opportunity is given to owners to catch up on their unpaid taxes, even monthly payments, Bateman said.

“Is there any way to offer some incentive?” commission chairman Kent Becker asked.

Novak was quick to disagree.

“I’m not in favor of offering bonuses to people who don’t pay their taxes,” Novak said. “I’m more in favor of saying buck up and pay your share.”

Dallke said he thinks owners who will pay, do pay, and those who won’t pay, don’t.

County counsel Brad Jantz told commissioners he wants to see the county clarify what he called “a little bit of a hole” in planning and zoning regulations because of upcoming transmission line placement if Expedition Wind Farm is granted building permits.

Kansas Department of Transportation controls rights of way along US-77 and US-50, and the county cannot grant permission to place transmission lines on the state’s right of way.

Commissioners voted unanimously to send the issue back to planning and zoning for a closer look.

Last modified Sept. 26, 2019

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