WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2018
-Proclamation for Read Across Lawrence Program with the Lawrence Library (Brad Allen/Kristin Soper)
(1) (a) Consider approval of Commission Orders;
(b) Consider approval to solicit bids for supply of Rock Aggregates (Keith Browning);
(c) Consider approval to solicit bids for Highway De-Icing Salt (Keith Browning); and
(d) Consider approval to solicit bids for supply of Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) (Keith Browning);
(2) Consider ballot question to be submitted to voters for May 15 mail ballot election regarding proposal for a half-cent County-wide sales tax to fund mental health service initiatives and jail improvements. (additional backup added)
(3) (a) Consider approval of Accounts Payable (if necessary)
-Board of Zoning Appeals (1) positions 10/17
-Building Code of Appeals Board (2) positions 12/16
-Community Corrections Advisory Board (1) position
-Senior Services Board of Directors (3) positions
-JAAA Advisory Council (1) position
(c) Public Comment
January 24, 2018
Thellman called regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 with all Commissioners present.
Kristen Roper, Kathy Morgan and Heather Kerns with the Lawrence Public Library Read Across Lawrence Program passed out this year’s discussion book Wonder and asked Douglas County to help inspire acts of kindness throughout Douglas County.
Thellman read a proclamation promoting the Read Across Lawrence Event February 10 through March 17, 2018.
CONSENT AGENDA 01-24-18
Thellman moved approval of the following Consent Agenda:
► Commission Order No. 18-006 (on file in the office the County Clerk);
► Solicit bids for supply of Rock Aggregates for Public Works;
► Solicit bids for supply of Highway De-Icing Salt for Public Works; and
► Solicit bids for supply of Hot Mix Asphalt for Public Works;
Motion was seconded by Gaughan and carried 3-0.
ADMINISTRATION/BALLOT QUESTION 01-24-18
The Board considered language for the ballot question to be submitted to voters for a May 15, 2018 mail ballot election regarding proposal for a half-cent county-wide sales tax to fund mental health service initiatives and jail improvements.
Sarah Plinsky, Assistant County Administrator, discussed language with the Commissioners saying that most of the language came straight from Kansas Statutes.
Thellman opened the item for public comment.
Brett Hoffman, 3412 Chance Lane, commented that the language for the ballot questions seemed vague. He asked if it is an open ended tax.
Craig Weinaug, County Administrator, responded “yes” because the operating costs of the proposed improvements would be permanent, making a sunset clause unworkable.
Sarah Swain, 2311 Wakarusa, stated she is a criminal defense attorney and has spent a lot of time at the Douglas County Jail. She said she does not support a larger jail, more police officers or any goals of this Commission that lead to people being incarcerated. She is opposed to having the behavioral health and jail expansion as one question on the ballot.
Patrick Wilbur, 521 Durham Court, asked if an eventual increase in property taxes will be in the educational materials regarding the upcoming ballot election and what page the information will be on. Plinsky responded that information will be included in the materials but she cannot answer at this time what page it will be on.
Sue Kristiansen, 1124 Waverly, stated her concern is the ballot question does not specify how the sales tax will be distributed between the two initiatives and feels there is nothing stopping the County from spending all the funds toward the jail.
Thellman responded we do have a clear number of $4 million for the jail and $5.7 million for the behavioral health initiative. Plinsky added the ballot language does specifically say “and” for mental health and jail. All funds toward one initiative would not be in compliance with the ballot language.
Garrett Falls, Douglas County resident, gave examples of people that he knows that are in the Douglas County jail for minor crimes. He doesn’t feel we need a bigger jail.
Thellman closed the public hearing.
Gaughan said we are both an innovative and progressive community when it comes to reform with the criminal justice system and a community in need of infrastructure and capacity in our basic services. The jail is a core function of a county. The personal expense of housing people out of county, from their personal expense, being away from family and their attorney, as well as cost to taxpayers is an inefficient use of resources compared to the wide-range of services we have connected to our justice system in Douglas County. The leadership on both the behavioral health side and the criminal justice side is the key to making this successful. It’s not the brick and mortar. It’s the collaboration and communication that we’ve undertaken in this community to make changes happen. Gaughan said he is supportive of the ballot language, the direction the Board has taken and the continued work that needs to be done to assure this project is successful.
Gaughan moved to authorize the passage of Resolution 18-02 calling of a special question election in Douglas County for the purpose of submitting to the electors of the County the questions of imposing a one-half percent countywide retailers’ sales tax for the purpose of financing the costs of constructing, furnishing and equipping County mental health support facilities and related operating, service and program expenses; constructing, furnishing and equipping additions and improvement to county jail and detention facilities and operating expenses thereof; authorizing the issuance of sales tax revenue/general obligation bonds to finance all or a portion of the capital costs of such facilities and related expenses; and providing for the giving of notice of said election.
Derusseau stated she had received questions about the Commissions’ intent on the issue. She said she wants to be very clear and concise so there is no misunderstanding of facts or the issues regarding County spacing. Kansas Statute K.S.A. 19-104 states “Each county organize for judicial purposes shall at its own expense provide a suitable and sufficient jail. K.S.A. 19-1919 says “All prisoners shall be treated with humanity and in a manner which promotes their reform.” K.S.A. 19-004.001 states “The Board of County Commission or any county may establish a mental health center or community facility.” Derusseau said all three Commissioners took an oath to discharge the duties of a county commissioner and doing so we don’t get to pick and choose what duties we want to fulfill and which duties we don’t want to fulfill. The County has a legal obligation to the jail and to those in our custody. It is not optional. The County does not have any legal obligation to mental health services. That is optional. While mental health services are optional the County currently provides $2.5 million per year for a mental health center plus an additional $1.98 million budgeted this year for new services. As a commission we are trying to go above and beyond the services that are already provided. In terms of mental health services this Commission thanks to the hard work of staff and many community stakeholders has presented a project that is everything the community has asked for and much more. We have a statutory obligation that must be funded. We have a funding mechanism in place to meet that obligation. It’s the funding mechanism that allows us the opportunity to also include the mental health project. That funding mechanism, the half-cent sales tax, will give us the opportunity to meet our legal, as well as, moral and fiscal obligation to the jail and to provide additional mental health services for our community. There is no other funding mechanism that allows us to do both of these projects together. Make no mistake, the County’s first priority is to fulfill our legal obligation. Derusseau said, just to be clear the jail expansion will be done. The only question to voters, as you see, is how to fund it. So what it comes down to is, “Do you want to fund the jail and with that include the mental health project?” Derusseau then asked,” Do you want to fund both projects in the least expensive and most efficient way possible, or do you want to fund the jail in a long expensive process that does not include the mental health project?” There will be no new conversations regarding the jail project while moving forward with the mental health project. Separating the two projects or the use of any other funding mechanism than the half-cent sales tax will not only increase the cost to taxpayers by several million dollars but it will also delay the mental health project indefinitely. Derusseau said she supports this ballot language and is prepared to move forward.
Thellman said she struggled with how to say this. What has always been the case but not understood is the jail or mental health narrative has never been an either/or proposition. The jail is our obligation. The jail is not what it should be. The jail as it was designed was lacking a lot. The jail as we hope to make it solved design problems, population problems, as well as, creates space appropriate for the kind of people that will be housed there. Our programming and diversion programs are alternatives to incarceration and these programs have grown dramatically in the last couple of years. Rather than sending 60-80 people to out-of-county jails, we could be sending 160-180 people out. We have a substantial pretrial release program/diversion program and will continue to grow those programs over time. Our commitment is to keeping people out of jail that can be done safely and provide appropriate services inside the jail in the way a community like Douglas County should want to do. But it has always been the case that the jail would be remodeled and expanded. The questions were how much, how large and when. We did stop and learn about the mental health and drug addiction needs. We added that to our initiative to try and balance both needs in the community. To be honest, the one overtook the other. We now have the majority of the money in the sales tax dedicated to mental health. Some will go to brick and mortar, but $5 million will go to new and expanded services in mental health and drug addiction; not just crisis, but prevention, intervention and recovery services; not just in institutions, but on the street and in the homes; not just in Lawrence but all over the county. Those services are what is really at stake. To be crystal clear is that a “no” vote on this referendum does not mean the jail remodel and expansion won’t be built. It means we will proceed with the jail with different funding, likely cutting services in the County budget, and raising the mill levy to fund operations. The mental health/drug abuse side of this initiative will go by the wayside. Thellman said that is just the hard, cold fact of our situation. We are convinced of the need to fix our jail and make it not just a bigger jail, but a better jail with the vision of having better services all across the community. The kind of services folks need and deserve. We are trying to fill enormous needs in some very critical areas of our community. We’ll work our tails off to educate the community to the advantages and benefits of getting both these initiatives done at once on one half penny and will commensurate a mill levy increase when the operations of the jail are required. Again, she said this is not an either/or; it’s a both-and. If this fails, the Commission will move strictly to the jail. That comes at enormous cost to the initiative toward mental health and drug addiction service we envisioned in terms of any new funding. It likely means that social service agencies, which count on us for substantial funding, will see cuts to help pay for the core service that we have to provide. Funding social service agencies is what we do because we think it is right, but is not a core service.
The motion was seconded by Derusseau and carried 3-0.
ACCOUNT PAYABLE 01-24-18
Thellman moved to approve accounts payable in the amount of $731,236.68 to be paid on 01/25/18; and payroll in the amounts of $300.00 paid on 12/22/17, $966,082.97 paid on 01/05/18, and $1,030,541.27 paid on 01/19/18. Motion was seconded by Gaughan and carried 3-0.
Thellman said there are three legislative efforts where Douglas County is involved she wanted the other Commissioners to be aware of.
1) Representative Eileen Horn is taking proposed legislation through Tom Sloan to try and create legislation to promote the public process for the Kansas Corporation Commission resulting from public discomfort on the Eudora Saltwater Injection Wells permits and the struggle with rural Baldwin oil well drilling;
2) Tom Holland is proposing legislation on poultry processing as a result of Leavenworth County and Douglas County residents involvement in the outcry of the Tyson plant by looking for ways to give the public a voice in the process; and
3) Boog Highberger is taking up legislature to try to change the speedy trial law.
Gaughan said there is legislation being considered that will suspend Medicaid to those incarcerated and/or in a mental health hospital as opposed to cancelling it. As part of the Reentry programs, staff does help inmates with the application process to refile for Medicaid. Gaughan said he would be supportive of this legislation.
Gaughan moved to adjourn the meeting. Motion was seconded by Thellman
and carried 3-0.
Nancy Thellman, Chair Michelle Derusseau, Vice-Chair
Jamie Shew, County Clerk Mike Gaughan, Member