Observer Reports

Observer Reports

Riley County Law Board, Aug. 19, 2019

Observer: Greg Wurst

The Riley County Law Board met at noon on Monday, August 19.

The Consent Agenda passed.

Linda Morse mentioned that people need to be aware of school buses now that school has started.

Corporal Sam Schubert was promoted and Gina Scroggs and Patrice Scott received awards for their work on the Community Advisory Board.

Director Butler explained a $125,000 error in the 2020 budget regarding a computer generated COLA for sworn officers.  The shortfall will have to be absorbed and he will determine where cuts will be made.

The Law Board approved an application for the Ed Burn Memorial Justice Assistance Grant which are federal funds ($19,427) to be used for radios and batteries.

A report on the new firearms range indicated a purchase of new land and development was imminent.

In reply to an earlier questions it was reported that there was little impact on the Stampede not being held here.  The Stampede reimbursed salaries and the calls for service were about the same whether it was here or not.

According to a KBI report Riley County compares well as far as crime is concerned with other Kansas jurisdictions.

The Board adjourned to executive session.


USD 383 Board of Education, June 5, 2019

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The board was provided information about the School Mental Health Initiative (SMHI), which would involve the district’s partnering with Pawnee Mental Health Services. The initiative is a newer initiative funded by a grant through special education.  Children who have experienced “adverse childhood experiences” are more likely to have issues with learning. Staff can also struggle with mental health well-being. The socio-emotional realm is another component of the multi-tiered levels of support the district already provides. The board approved signing a letter of support for USD 383’s participation in the SMHI.

The board was also provided with an update on bond-related projects. The projects at Eugene Field, College Hill Preschool, and the new elementary building in Blue Township are progressing to the design development phase.



Riley County Law Board, 3/18/19

Observer: Greg Wurst
The Riley County Law Board met at noon on  Monday, March 18.
The consent agenda passed.
Thanks was given to the police force for a calm Fake Paddy’s Day, especially the retired officers who helped out.
There was a proclamation honoring Public Safety Dispatchers.
“of the Year” and Core Value award winners were announced.
A report was given on Fentynol, a synthetic morphine that has turned up in local heroin overdoses and has caused two fatalities.  RCPD of conducted a media campaign and will prosecute sellers to the fullest.
A preliminary Fake Paddy’s day report was given.  All misbehavior was down, probably due to the weather.  There is a concern that Aggieville bars are collecting a high cover charge which is driving the parties out of Aggieville to nearby neighborhoods.
The budget will be presented on March 29. Executive session.



USD 383 Board of Education, January 16, 2019

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The district’s Facilities and Growth Committee had interviewed several firms for architecture and construction services for the projects associated with the 2018 bond.  The recommendations were presented to the board.  For design services for early learning sites, elementary renovations and a new elementary building, and additions to the middle schools, BG Consultants and Alloy Architecture of Wichita were recommended.  For design services at the high school and for support services, Gould Evans was the recommendation.  Gould Evans had previously worked on the high school for the projects associated with the 2008 bond.  The board approved a motion to direct administration to negotiate contracts with these firms.

For construction management-at-risk services for the early learning sites and elementary buildings, the recommendation was to use BHS Construction and Hutton Construction.  For construction management-at-risk services for the high school and middle school projects, the recommendation was to use McCownGordon Construction.  The board approved a motion to direct administration to negotiate contracts with these firms.

The board also approved a contract to conduct a parking study.  Projects associated with the 2018 bond will potentially change parking needs at many of the attendance centers.  For example, ninth graders will be moving to the main high school campus, 6th grade will move from the elementary buildings to the middle schools, etc.



Riley County Law Board 11/19/18

Law Board Meeting 11/19/18
Observer: Greg Wurst

Erin Freidline was promoted to captain.

The annual renewal of the lease for the Aggieville Substation will be coming up soon.  Cost is $850/month.

Six new vehicles will be purchased.  Old ones will be auctioned.  The two vehicles lost in the flood have been replaced with insurance money.

The board then went into executive session to discuss personnel matters.



Riley County Commission, August 2, 2018

Riley County Commission August 2, 2018

Joan Strickler, observer

Commissioners Rodriguez and Wells present, Wilson absent.

County Clerk Rich Vargo reported the new voting machines will have print out ballots available so voters can examine them for verification.  The State is requiring that voting machines be used.  Vargo said he would prefer mail in ballots such as those used in Oregon and Washington.

Greg McHenry, Appraiser, said 18 tax appeals were filed this year.  Some were from the same entities that had appealed last year and who had been granted small claim adjustments.  This year, however, the appeals were all decided in favor of the County.

McHenry said Representative Tom Phillips has been working with him to develop legislation relating to the “black store” concept now being pursued by some retailers.  “Black stores” would refer to stores being taxed as if they were empty of merchandise.

Ron Fehr, Manhattan City Manager, gave a brief update to the Commissioners on issues facing the City. He noted the business park is filling up and the City will be looking for ways to expand or create an additional park.  The airport is doing well, with about 75,000 persons using flights this year.

The airport has been unable to attract a restaurant and will be using vending machines for the time being.



Women in Leadership and Mental Health Care Progress in Manhattan, 6/21/2018

By Catherine Hedge

For those who weren’t able to join us, we would like to share the perspectives of our local leaders from our Lunch with League, 6/21/2018. I apologize for the delayed post, but I know you will find their comments valuable.

We are very appreciative of the civic commitment of Representative Sydney Carlin, Kansas House of Representatives, Mayor Linda Morse of the Manhattan City Commission, and former mayor and Manhattan City Commissioner, Usha Reddi.

Women in Leadership and Mental Health Care progress in Manhattan

Rep. Sydney Carlin:

There are rewards and challenges.  The rewards outweigh everything.  They are often small, like a thank you from people I have helped.  Though I have received an award from a state social work organization, there is little state-wide or community-wide recognition.  Still, it is not rewards I seek.

On Wednesday morning, I worked on six projects, some finished, some on-going.  Satisfaction comes knowing what I do makes a difference in the lives of other people.  Since I have been in office for I while, I have connections and people listen.

Earlier, I had to listen to old tapes to learn about working together. One described Power…reverent power.  People have elected you and that is what gives you authority.  People come to me more when I am campaigning, so I still campaign, even if unopposed.

So, the rewards are genuine.

There are challenges.  Every day is something different.  Being in session is like being in college…an hour and a half here, then off to somewhere else.  You can never be too prepared, so you learn to listen.  We don’t know everything, so we spend a lot of time learning.

To sustain, Karen McCulloh and I started a local group, Women for Kansas.  We did get several women in power and supported their candidacy. Our goal was to get women in the running. We let them know there are women who will support them as candidates, but especially once they are in office.  That is needed as sometimes it gets lonely.

It is important to get people involved, such as on local boards.  Then, they rise up as leaders in the community.  They learn how government works.

I was part of a family growing up…a farm family.  At 8, I drove a tractor.  It was important I had brothers and never thought I wasn’t a guy. That helped me deal with men.

I learned, “Things might get done faster by men, but not better”

For example: The Women’s Caucus in the House had great success, so much that some representatives were told not to do that again.  At first, it was hard to get the information we needed, but once we did, we invited in men, especially the freshmen representatives, to learn with us.

It is important to know that leadership works both ways.

Mayor Linda Morse:

(She pointed out LWVMRC should review our position on growth as there are many upcoming changes. One thing to realize is many communities around us have a County Government manager)

Leaders come from many directions. I needed to be involved in political activity.  League was a path to learn.

There are fewer women candidates in County offices, though it is good to have 3 women who ran and won positions on the USD 383 school board (Supported by Women for Kansas local group)

In the past, positions have been male-dominated.  For 12 years befor Karen McCulloh, the planning board was all men.  Now with Sue Maes and Ellen Johannson, they will engage and ask questions.

(Usha Reddi commented on the need for asking questions.

I needed to be backed into a corner to run for office. (Sydney Carlin adds:  You had support) It is important to have people who reassure you and pat you on the back.

The challenge is getting women to run this time.  Usha Reddi points out:  18 candidates for governor and only 1 a woman.

There is a culture change happening and more of a challenge.

Leadership-wise, it takes doing your homework and sometimes moral support.  It is wonderful when 3 women were on the City Commission.

Basic philosophy:  Government is different when women are involved. They have a different way of approaching others.

(We had an interesting discussion on whether or not a mill levy point should be designated for social services.  On-going discussion.)

Even with Manhattan changing, (2,000 lost in last 2 years from KSU and 3,300 deployed from Ft. Riley, we still have a robust economy. Working our way through 1 issue at a time. Building projects, tax lid budget, social services, etc.

Goal is to make Manhattan the best community we can be.

Leadership is rewarding/ Glad people feel free to talk to me and what to know what is happening.  The downside is energy…just trying to keep up!

Usha Reddi

My focus is different, on Mental Health, but I would add that because of people like Sydney and Linda, I don’t feel alone.  I also have friendship.

Thanks to Linda for being at so many meetings to get first-hand information. (Linda adds, Usha does the same.) Because of the relationship, I get to share information.  Even if we don’t always agree.  I have learned to listen more than talk.  I’ve found that others have their own things they are facing in their lives. I’ve learned not to pit them against each other, which happens too often.  After all, it is all taxpayer money.  We need to learn how to manage the small treasure chest we have.

Mental Health:

There have been positive changes with Pawnee Mental Health and County organizations.  Karen McCulloh brought together many into a task force to look to see what resources we had and to find solutions. 

This is important because mental illness does not discriminate.

Results: We have a great relationship between Pawnee Mental Health and the police.

We have hired two co-responders.  3 years ago, the funding was from a combination of police department and City Commission, but now part of RCPD budget

The co-responders have been here long enough the Riley County Law Board has data:

For example: In one studied period, of 231 individuals, with co-responder help in situations that would have formerly led to arrest or emergency room visits:

55% didn’t know they had a mental health problem or know where to seek services.

20% were suffering from substance abuse

25% did not have to go to the emergency room.

77% were referred for follow-up help.

They do get follow-up calls from the co-responders which decreases repeat incidences.

The results are keeping people out of jail.

One issue is a lack of beds at Via Christi. That is being reconsidered and other approaches are being taken. (See below)

Another improvement is that the Manhattan City Commission has a mental health goal.  In the past, that was non-existent.

The Commission has been working with Pawnee Mental Health for 2-3 years because of the recognized need for a stabilization center. That is a place where individuals could be held fore 23-72 hours instead of going to jail or the emergency room.  This way, they don’t get a jail record or hospital bill.

At first, the goal of getting a house to remodel and staffing was overwhelming with a 1.5 million dollar budget.  Robin Cole, executive director of Pawnee County Health submitted grants and was awarded $725, 000. This is important because now other counties can be contacted for support.  So the wheels are moving. The cost to renovate is high, special furniture is needed, so in-kind donations would be helpful.

The County Commission has agreed to front-load the money, as grants are paid in increments.

This is giving us the opportunity to have great conversations with local counties. Legislators will also be tapped for funding. A caution is that often state monies are at the start, then dry up, leaving the local government to pick up the tab.

This can only be done because of the work of all the parties.

(On the Lawboard, there is no such thing as a stupid question.  We need to search for the next law board leader. )


Riley County Commission July 26, 2018

Joan Strickler, observer

Commissioners Wells, Rodriguez and Wilson present.  Rodriguez chaired.

County Attorney Barry Wilkerson reported two attorneys in his office successfully prosecuted a murder case.  Also, Manhattan recently hosted a conference on Human Trafficking.  Approximately 180 attendees were from outside Manhattan and seemed to be very positive about the facilities and the restaurants and attractions available.

County Attorney Clancy Holeman asked the Commissioners to check their calendars to set a date to attend a “fence viewing”.  It is the responsibility of the Commissioners to make decisions regarding disagreements between land owners over their fences.

Health Department Director Jennifer Green requested approval of a contract with the health insurance provider Aetna under the County’s KANCARE contract.  Aetna replaces a previous provider once authorized under KANCARE.

Tami Robison, Budget and Finance Officer, led a work session to discuss projects and purchases that should be decided prior to the close of the fiscal year. Among the items discussed was the need to purchase hardware and software to replace existing equipment used in voting.  The old system is described as “falling apart”.

There is a need for a new ambulance as well as enlarged sleeping quarters in the building housing responders.  Apparently men and women must share the same sleeping quarters.  By enlarging the space separate rooms would be made available.

Among other items considered were shooting range improvements, completion of the Courthouse Plaza Master Plan and vehicle replacements.



USD 383 Board of Education, June 27, 2018

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

During public comment time, Debbie Nuss addressed the board and suggested that a portion of MHS East Campus be used as a center for community social services.  The school board is considering moving ninth graders from East Campus to MHS West Campus and using proposed bond funds to add onto West Campus, which would free up space at East Campus.

Lew Faust, Dir. of Business Services, updated the board on the Kansas Supreme Court decision on school finance.  The Court found the latest formula to be unconstitutional but was also complimentary of the Legislature’s efforts.  The formula still needed to account for inflation.  Schools will be allowed to open in the fall, and the Legislature will have until 2019 to tweak the formula.  USD 383 will be able to move forward with negotiations and planning the budget.

Mr. Faust also provided board members with information about year-end fund transfers.  The board approved 7-0 to transfer $1.5 million from the general fund to the contingency reserve fund and capital outlay.  The board also approved transferring $450,000 to special education funds.

The board approved a proposal to begin offering Chinese at the high school in the fall. USD 383 is partnering with KSU to offer the course, and students who wish to take it for college credit will need to pay their own tuition.



USD 383 Board of Education, June 6, 2018

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

Work session:

The focus of the work session was the proposed $130 million bond.  Items in the bond include a new elementary school, expanding the middle schools in order to move 6th graders to the middle school level, expanding MHS West Campus in order to move 9th graders to the building, and renovating MHS East Campus and using it for administration.  Eric Reid, Asst. Superintendent, also said administration had taken the direction provided by the board at a previous meeting to develop a plan to move the district’s central kitchen to the transportation building and expand it, and then raze the current central kitchen facility.

Greg Vahrenburg, with the firm Piper Jaffray which is providing financial consulting for the bond, discussed with board members a plan of action for financing the bond.  An application is required to be submitted to the State Board of Education for review and also to the Kansas Dept. of Education.  The Kansas Legislature passed legislation that imposes a cap on the amount of school bonds that can be approved in a given year, which is based on how much principal of school bonds was paid off the previous year.  Mr. Vahrenburg said the dollar amount in bonds being considered by Kansas school districts currently exceeds the cap. He advised the board that if there are more applications submitted than would fall below the cap, the district should present all scenarios that would put the bond in the best possible light, e.g. emphasizing the need for additional space due to increased enrollment.  Mr. Vahrenburg also discussed with the board the differences between a 15-year and a 20-year repayment of the bond.  A 15-year repayment schedule would have a 3% interest rate, and the mill levy would be set at 22 mills through 2023 and could then be lowered to 17.5 mills.  A 20-year repayment schedule would have a 4.14% interest rate, and the mill levy would be 18 mills through 2025 and could then be lowered to 13.75 mills.

Budget hearing:

The board held a public hearing for the adoption of the amended budget.  No members of the public commented during the hearing.  During the regular meeting, the board approved the adoption of the amended budget.

Regular meeting:

The board was provided a review of the accelerated math program at the secondary level.  A task force was formed to examine recent research and provide information to the board.  With the accelerated program, advanced students skipped ahead to harder courses, and teachers noticed that students who had skipped 6th and 7th grade math had gaps in their knowledge.  “Compaction” became the focus, which exposed students to all of the material and skills at a faster pace.  Two courses were proposed at the middle school level, which allowed students to take three years of math over two years, and an accelerated course was also proposed for the high school level.  The review was for information only.


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