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McPherson County Commissioners Discuss Security Issues at Feb. 26 Meeting


By Lucky Kidd


McPHERSON COUNTY, Kan. — Security issues at the McPherson County Courthouse were a major topic of discussion during Monday’s County Commission meeting.

Sheriff Jerry Montagne said this came up as a result of some recent incidents at the courthouse that raised some concerns. Undersheriff James Bergstrom has obtained quotes from three private security firms in the area, who have experience in this.

Private security firms are currently used for courthouse security in a number of area counties, including large counties such as Reno, Saline, Sedgwick and smaller counties such as Dickinson and Marion.

As an interim measure, Montagne said they are having their transport officer spending as much time as possible at both the Courthouse and County Building. While this is now an answer to everything, he described it as a “band-aid” until they can get something more concrete.

McPherson resident Russell Mowrey addressed Commissioners on the topic, saying there has been a recent trend that has shown up a few times locally where people will video themselves going into a governmental facility, trying to get law enforcement to engage, and then asserting 1st, 4th and 14th Amendment rights saying they can’t be forced to leave the building.

Mowrey, who has experience in security issues for the Department of Defense, suggested what really needs to be done is to have armed officers in the Courthouse and, once some county offices relocate, at the County Building at 122 West Marlin. Mowrey also suggested that access to the Courthouse be limited through limiting entry and exit for the public to one entrance.

Proposals from the three private security firms are currently being reviewed, with action on how to proceed to come at a later date.

Commissioners approved a change order on a CDBG funded project for Rural Water District 1. The change order includes an extension in project days approved earlier this month related to delays in receiving a number of items needed for the project, which in some cases is preventing other work from being completed.

As of earlier this month APAC Kansas has still not received delivery dates for some items, one of which has seen a price increase, and weather also delayed completion of the final painting of a new water tower. Current anticipation is that the project could wrap up around the 4th of July, but that depends on when the remaining items are shipped.

Commissioners reviewed the purchase of a new fuel system for Public Works. The system quoted has a current price of around $640,000 through Hoidale in Wichita. Public Works Director Tom Kramer said the price could vary depending on cost for new tanks, delivery of which could take a year or more.

The current fueling system, which is also used by several county departments along with the McPherson Police and Fire Departments and EMS and USD 418, is some 30 years old. Approval of the bid was delayed as commissioners want to see if there are other potential bidders for the system. The Commission also authorized Kramer to purchase up to 23 tons of cold-mix asphalt for repair work on various county roads.

The Commissioners approved on-call surveyor agreements with Garber Surveying Service and Earles Engineering and Inspection. The county’s surveyor retired last year, and Kramer said it may be difficult to find a replacement. Among other things, a surveyor signature is required on subdivision plats, one of which is pending for the city of McPherson which will be handled in this case by Saline County Appraiser Wayne Scritchfield who has the required credentials Commissioners approved quotes for grass seed and fertilizer for County projects this year through Graber’s Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply, Bomgaars, Sharp Brothers Seed and MKC subject to availability from each vendor as the county purchases the material as needed due to lack of proper long-term storage for these materials.

The Commission approved leasing a one-acre site along Pueblo Road south of the County’s Landfill to New Gottland Township. The township will be constructing a building on the site which voters approved construction of last fall. This is a 25-year lease agreement with a total cost of $500 with a renewal option.

Commissioners approved a step increase for a sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office and an end of introductory raise for an employee in Emergency Communications. The Commission authorized Public Works Director Tom Kramer to solicit proposals from consulting firms to provide engineering services, in the wake of the resignation of an in-house engineer and approved signing Rural Hospital Innovation Grant applications on behalf of McPherson Hospital and Mercy Hospital in Moundridge presented to Commissioners earlier.