County considers transportation option

County-wide program would allow vehicles to take residents of any age almost anywhere. It would cost about $52,000 to start, then drop to between $20,000 to $30,000 in following years.

By

News

September 23, 2020 - 10:29 AM

Thrive Allen County director of development Jessica Thompson talks with commissioners about funding a new transportation program. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Thrive Allen County CEO Lisse Regehr told Allen County Commissioners that opportunities still exist for local businesses and nonprofits to apply for COVID-19 relief SPARK/CARES Act funds.

More than $135,000 exists to serve small businesses and $160,000 to serve nonprofits within the county.

“We want as many people as possible to apply for these funds,” said Regehr. “That’s what they’re here for.”

The window for this opportunity closes at noon Monday, however, so interested parties should act quickly and contact Thrive Allen County with any questions.

Jessica Thompson, Thrive director of development,  also spoke with commissioners about the possibility of moving forward on a new county-wide transportation system.

Thompson noted that the cost of the program for the county — which would involve new vehicles that take residents of any age to almost anywhere — would run about $52,000 in its initial year, and then drop to between $20,000 and $30,000 in following years.

Commissioners seemed interested, but Bill King said that moving the program forward would depend on “how lean our budget is,” as he was concerned about the county making the $52,000 grant match.

It was a worry shared by commissioner Bruce Symes as well, who mentioned concerns about raising the mill levy, replacing vehicles and other costly items.

He said he was “not by any means ruling out [the possibility of a transportation program, but said] there are things we have to weigh” moving forward.

Of note, this particular grant opportunity is different from the “pilot program” also being pursued by Thrive in relation to public transportation.

Steven Euston of Bukaty provided commissioners with a mid-year overview of the county’s insurance policy for employees.

Euston said that the cost of elective procedures had decreased due to COVID-19, but that the cost of prescription drugs remained about the same.

The Eternal Flame of Freedom burns outside the Allen County courthouse.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

One discussion of interest was that Euston and commissioner Symes spoke about the possibility of encouraging county employees to use more genetic medications, so as to increase usage beyond 83%.

Euston and Symes also discussed the efficacy of county-supported health and wellness programs and whether they ultimately lower insurance costs.

Specifics aside, Symes said the county’s insurance situation was such that “overall, we’re having a pretty typical year.”

Public works director Mitch Garner spoke with commissioners about the possibility of purchasing a new tractor for the county.

The existing tractor in need of repairs is used almost “every single day,” and unfortunately is having problems with the transmission.

Part of the impetus behind buying a new tractor is that repairs to the old one may cost upwards of $30,000, with 80 potential hours of labor involved just to properly diagnose the problem.

The old tractor also already has about 7,700 hours clocked on it.

“It’s been around a while,” said commissioner and former public works director King. “I remember buying it new.”

Commissioner Symes seemed open to the possibility of the purchase as well, but added he’d “like to get a diagnosis before we pull the trigger.”

Garner further discussed with commissioners how an exhaust system had been stolen off a county truck.

“They didn’t break any windows,” or take anything else, added Garner.

Commissioner King pointed out that thefts of this kind are why he recommends that workers park vehicles near someone’s home when not in use.

Another public works discussion involved the Elsmore-Savonburg Road.

Although work has been progressing, and King said “it looks good,” it’s likely the case that the road will not have chip-and-seal repairs made to it this year.

“We’re probably going to take a little abuse over it,” added King, but said he thought Garner was “doing it the right way,” taking the steps necessary to make repairs that would last.

A somewhat humorous discussion also took place regarding white-tailed deer on the roads, following an anecdote by King that he’d recently struck one and done $1,500 in damage to his vehicle.

“You don’t see them coming if the grass or brush is tall,” King added, and asked undersheriff Roy Smith if the sheriff’s office had been receiving any calls about deer.

“All the time,” said Smith. “It doesn’t stop.”

“Just wait until the rut gets here.”

Smith also brought up the problem of people dumping trash in places where they shouldn’t around the county, such as at the intersection of 2200 and Nebraska Road.

This particular issue was being resolved, Terry Call said, but other clean-up projects were not going as well.

The clean-up for certain properties around Mildred, for instance, commissioner King described as “kinda languishing.”

Commissioner Jerry Daniels was not present for this week’s meeting.

Related
September 2, 2020
July 15, 2020
June 24, 2020
June 17, 2020