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2016 Archived News for Harvey County Independent

Commission Ready To Move Forward On Hospital Sale

Posted 2/18/2016

By Blake Spurney

Due to a publishing error, this story was not printed in full in the print edition. The complete story is reproduced here and will be re-printed in next week's issue.

NEWTON – Harvey County can proceed with a tax sale for the former Halstead hospital building in as little as two months.

Monday, County Commissioners learned about the Kansas Supreme Court’s recent denial to hear an appeal from owner Azzy Reckess.

County counselor Greg Nye told the Board of Harvey County Commissioners that he had spoken with two of Reckess’ lawyers about the sale. Nye anticipated that the sale could be held within two months, and he said the county needed to select an auctioneer.

"I think there's reason to believe we simply should do this,” said County Administrator John Waltner. “There's nothing to gain by dealing with any of the parties."

Reckess, with whom the county has been trying to recover overdue property taxes for years, has until a day before the auction to pay his tax bill and retain ownership. If the sheriff’s sale is held, Nye said Reckess couldn’t bid on the property or have anyone else do so on his behalf.

Finance Director Anthony Swartzendruber said the county needed to determine the maximum amount it was going to spend to hold an auction because the county might not get any money back from the sale.

“Chances are, this thing could sell for a buck,” said Commission Chairman George “Chip” Westfall.

Once an auctioneer is selected, the quickest an auction could be held is about 45 days, Nye said.

"It's only been what, five years by now?" Westfall said.

Another tax-related issue that has been vexing local governments across the state is the tax-lid bill passed the by Kansas Legislature last year. Commissioners passed a resolution requesting the repeal of the of the tax-lid statute. The legislation requires a city or county to hold an election before a budget can be approved in the millage rate increases by more than the Consumer Price Index. The resolution notes that the current legislation is “unworkable due to unavailability of certified property values prior to July 1 of each year and inadequate time to prepare and mail ballots within legal time frames in the event an election is required.”

The Regional Economic Area Partnership of South Central Kansas sent copies of the resolution to counties and cities across the region. According to REAP, the “property tax lid will have a damaging effect on economic development as well as needed social programs.”

Westfall said signed resolutions needed to be sent to Harvey County’s three legislators and those in leadership positions in the Legislature. He also suggested that commissioners invite legislators to county budget hearings so they could see how commissioners approved a budget. He noted that the county was not $700 million in debt.

Terry Jacobs, who grades roads for Lake Township, told commissioners he would like to get others on board for the repeal of the tax-lid law. He learned about its ramifications at a recent township board meeting.

“It was a real eye-opener for me once I sat down and thought about it,” he said. “We have it hard enough out here.”

“My biggest concern is rural America is going to be left behind,” said Commissioner Randy Hague.

Westfall said each county had certain offices it must fund, such as a sheriff’s office and tax commissioner. Parts of the budget that will have to be cut include senior services and conservation, he added.

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved revisions to the county employee personnel manual. The changes include the definition of a spouse, require employees to wear their identity badges and prohibit friends and family from riding in a county vehicle.

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Where To Caucus On March 5

Posted 2/18/2016

By Frederick Bader

HARVEY COUNTY – Harvey County voters will have a chance to participate in one of the more curious aspects of the electoral process during the caucuses on Saturday, March 5.

Each party holds its own caucus, meaning Democrats will vote at a different place and time than Republicans.

If you are registered with a third party or as an independent, you will not be able to participate. The purpose of the caucus is to determine the amount of delegates that Kansas will commit to a candidate at the national nominating conventions this summer. The candidate who receives the most delegates will be named his or her party’s presidential candidate.

Republicans

Harvey County Republicans will caucus at Santa Fe Middle School in Newton. Doors open at 9 a.m., and voting runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Use the Poplar Street entrance. You must have been registered as a Republican as of the beginning of February in order to attend.

Republicans can caucus at any location within their Congressional District.

Republicans will have a whopping 11 candidates to choose from: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum or Donald Trump.

Of these, however, Christie, Fiorina, Huckabee, Paul and Santorum have already dropped out of the race. They will be represented at the caucus because they had filed for election in Kansas before dropping out.

“It’s just like it was four years ago, so if you were there it’ll be very familiar,” Harvey County Republican Party representative Jason Mitchell said. “Everyone will come in and you’ll get a ballot if you want to vote. You can vote right away or wait for the speeches.”

Each candidate will have a representative speak on their behalf for up to 10 minutes. Speeches are limited to one per candidate.

“At the end, we’ll tally up all the votes and send them off to the state office. You can’t vote unless you’re a registered Republican, but everyone is welcome to come in and look around,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell also anticipates that elected officials and candidates for local office will be in attendance to meet the electorate.

This year, your vote could matter more than ever before. “This year is particular, we as a county could have a real effect on choosing the candidate. It’s a fairly tight three-way race right now [among Trump, Cruz and Rubio] and I don’t foresee that changing before March,” Mitchell said. “Our few delegates will be at the national convention. We could have some sort of effect. In years past, the candidates have been so spread out that by the time we get to Kansas’ caucus it doesn’t matter.”

Mitchell says he’s looking forward to an exciting election year. “It looks like it should be a pretty spirited campaign this year, both for the presidency and local offices,” he said. “Lots of seats are up for election. Hopefully lots of people will turn out and vote.”

Democrats

Harvey County’s Democrats will caucus at Memorial Hall on the campus of Bethel College in North Newton. Doors open at 1 p.m. on March 5. All registered Democrats are welcome to attend. Unlike the Republican Caucus, you do not have to register ahead of time: there will be a table available at the caucus for you to register to vote or declare party affiliation. At 3 p.m., the meeting will begin.

“At that time, if someone is there to speak on behalf of a candidate, they’ll get two minutes,” said Harvey County Democratic Party representative Ken Walsh. “There will probably be four candidates represented: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley – even though he dropped out of the race, he’ll still be represented because he had already registered in Kansas – and Rocky De La Fuente.”

After the speeches are over, caucus-goers will be asked to select their candidate. Voting is performed by standing in one of the four corners of the room, with each corner demarcated for a particular candidate. A candidate must receive at least 15 percent of the total number of people present to be deemed a “viable candidate,” Walsh said. “Let’s say someone gets 10 percent. The people who caucused for that candidate will have to commit to a different candidate, declare themselves uncommitted or just leave the room. Then we’ll count again.”

Walsh said he’s hoping for a spirited caucus like the one that occurred in 2008. “800 people showed up in 2008 for the caucus, and it had snowed a foot overnight,” Walsh said. “I don’t think we’re likely to get that many voters this year – or that much snow, hopefully. But I think we’ll have a pretty good attendance.”

 

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HMS Sixth Graders Providing Water To Nigerian Students

Posted 2/18/2016

By Pilar Martin

HALSTEAD – Sixth grade students at Halstead Middle School are trying to make a difference in the world. They have joined the H2O for Life project to bring water and toilets to students in Nigeria.

Ward Willis, sixth grade Social Studies and Science teacher, learned about the project three years ago while attending a middle school conference in Minnesota. “ I have wanted to get the students involved for years, and this year the timing was right,” Willis said.

He and his team of teachers, Devin Maxwell and Emily Schadler, started brainstorming before the Christmas break. They worked on ideas to get the students interested and involved.

When school was back in session, the students were told about the project and shown videos.  “We wanted to have the kids invested so we let them pick whether they wanted their project to benefit Nigeria or Ethiopia,” Maxwell said.

To read more, see this week's print edition.

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