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March 28th, 2020

seward logoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

Last week, Seward County issued a press release stating access to certain county buildings would be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, those limitations were part of a resolution passed by county commissioners, along with increased authority for emergency purchases and to authorize Administrator April Warden to promulgate, adopt and enforce emergency employment policies.

The resolution was passed unanimously at a special meeting Monday morning, and Commission Chairman Nathan McCaffrey said it formalizes the limited access and purchasing policies for the county.

Before reviewing what the resolution contains, McCaffrey updated the public on local efforts concerning coronavirus.

“We do have the emergency operations center up and running,” he said. “It’s fully staffed. We’ve got what’s called the designated incident command team that helps to oversee it.”

Emergency Management Director Greg Standard and EMS Director John Ralston are working out of that EOC, and McCaffrey said administrative support personnel have been assigned to the center.

“The health department has also been there,” he said. “We’ve taken the unique step of actually appointing a public information officer to handle the information side of that. That’s Eli Svaty.”

McCaffrey said the EOC is coming in useful in many ways, namely with having meetings with people from different areas of the community and other entities.

“I’m glad we took that step to set that up,” he said. “I think it’ll help us move forward. At this point in time, I’m not anticipating any changes to what we’ve done in so far as closing county facilities or altering the governor’s executive order on the 50 people.”

McCaffrey said there are still no positive cases of COVID-19 in Seward County.

“I don’t believe we have any in the connecting counties, and I don’t know that we have any in what we would consider Western Kansas, at least as far as the updates I got in the past couple days,” he said. “I’d also like to congratulate everybody in our community for what they have done to comply with the 50-person limit and the social distancing. It’s good to see our community is voluntarily following those guidelines, which makes it easier to not have to go to something more strict. I would just encourage people to continue to do that as much as possible. Observe the 50-person limit. Observe the social distancing guidelines, and just follow the recommendations of whatever employer you work for in so far as how they want to handle your day to day duties. All of that helps us do our jobs as well.”

Discussions then turned to Resolution No. 2020-05, which McCaffrey said adopts specific provisions regarding county operations, access to county facilities and addresses some specific facilities, including the Seward County Landfill and the Seward County Courthouse.

One section of the resolution give authority to Warden and Human Resources Director Maria Aguilar to adopt policies that may be needed quickly to comply with changing state and federal laws.

“There is honestly no way to keep track of that until it’s out there and we have it in our hot little hands,” McCaffrey said. “It’s hard to know if we would actually need to do that, but we felt that it was necessary to loosen the restrictions on that for April and Maria to comply with any changes quickly they needed.”

Another section deals with purchasing policy, specifically an existing resolution which allows purchases of less than $5,000 to be approved without a formal bid process. The section in Resolution 2020-05 temporarily increases that amount to $50,000 with Warden’s approval in consultation with McCaffrey and Vice Chairman Ada Linenbroker.

County Counsel Nathan Foreman said the limitations outlined in the resolution was something that needed careful consideration.

“It’s a balancing act of allowing people to access the facilities and also allowing our county officials to do their statutory duties while still protecting the public and the employees themselves,” he said.

Foreman said the county’s landfill will continue to be open, as will the courthouse.

“Business will be conducted through the scales,” he said of the landfill. “The Seward County Courthouse will be open for limited services pursuant to a Supreme Court order. As a county, we can’t control the court statutorily.”

Foreman said the resolution will remain in effect only for 60 days unless terminated earlier.

“It is only during the disaster,” he said. “When the disaster is over, it is no longer in effect. The purchasing policy is only for emergency purchases. It’s not for just any purchase.”

Warden, who joined the meeting by phone, praised the efforts of Foreman for putting the resolution together.

“I had gone over it with Nathan as he was preparing it, and I greatly appreciate all the work he put into it,” she said.

The resolution will be available on the county’s Web site at www.sewardcountyks.org. McCaffrey said for now, county meetings will go on as usual.

“It’s still my intent to keep these meetings as open as much as we can to comply with KOMA, which is still in effect,” he said referring to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. “Certainly, if we would start to have more than 50 people show up or we can’t observe the social distancing recommendations for people attending in person, we might have to look at some way to limit those numbers. Otherwise, I just plan to continue as needed. We may have a few more instances where we’re using the phone conference system for individuals who need to participate but are sick or just aren’t comfortable attending right now. We will try to make use of that as much as possible while still complying with the Kansas Open Meetings Act.”

Linenbroker said first responders and others have done a great job of keeping people safe from the spread of COVID-19.

“I just want to thank all the emergency management and all the emergency personnel and hospital and medical people,” she said. “They’re the ones who are still getting out and making sure people have their services. Also I want to thank all the people at the grocery stores and restaurants and businesses in town that are still supplying the supplies and everything else people need. When you go out in the public, please be nice to these people because they are working really, really hard, and we need to appreciate the effort they’re putting out for us so the community keeps running.”

“I want to also thank all the truck drivers,” Commissioner Randy Malin said.

After the discussion and approval of the resolution, the meeting was adjourned after about 20 minutes.

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