County Commission Meeting

Roads

Evert Tensley came in to say that gravel trucks that weren’t covered and rocks flying off had chipped his windshield. There was some discussion about trying to pack the gravel into the dump trucks a bit better and possibly getting tarps ($1000 each) for the trucks.

Executive Session Last Week

The commissioners were asked if they could share the parts of the discussion in the executive session related to the tax sale on Friday that they didn’t feel would put the county at any type of risk. The request was based on the public nature of the discussion and because it seemed that the bulk of the discussion wouldn’t hurt the county’s legal position.

There was some concern that it might not be legal to tell things that were mentioned in executive session. However, Commissioner Warren pointed out that in other meetings members involved in the executive session would come out and tell the public what was discussed. He said it was causing all kinds of problems and confusion.

Note: The Attorney General’s website specifies that discussions made under executive session can be revealed to the public unless other laws apply.

Some other laws, or considerations such as fiduciary duty, personal privacy rights, or contracts, may require or influence such confidentiality. But the KOMA itself does not require that the topics listed in K.S.A. 75-4319 always be kept private. (source)

Chairman Endicott said that since revealing what was discussed  would defeat the purpose of the executive session, he didn’t want to say what was discussed.

County Insurance

There was some discussion about bidding out insurance which is currently held by KCAMP. In previous meetings the commission decided to bid out the insurance, but they were looking for the best way to facilitate the process.

The county attorney is going to check with the city to see how they handle their insurance.

County Map

The 911 map was proofed by an individual at the chamber who is doing an excellent job of helping catch errors to make it very accurate. She has spent hours comparing it to a bunch of other maps. She is putting a great deal of effort into and the commissioner’s were very appreciative of her help.

Fort Scott Chamber Directory

The chamber had previously asked if the county would like to buy an ad in the chamber directory. The smallest ad costs $175. The city and BEDCO have ads. The commission decided to buy one of the small ads. The idea was to include the website and a picture of the court house.

Tax Sale

The county attorney suggested that commissioners compare people on payment plan as to whether or not they had been published for 2006 and 2007. She felt the county should make sure that the properties were bid-in. The county attorney feels that the publication is necessary in order to trigger the bid-in process which is necessary to create a lein agains the properties necessary to forclose.

The commissioners decided to ask for a copy of the publication of delinquent taxes from the past few years in order to see if the names on the list given to the abstracting company were published or not.

 

iPod Winner – Patty Love

Patty Love won our iPod Shuffle giveaway! We generated a random number from random.org and the number matched Patty’s email address in our list of subscribers.

I took Patty the iPod this morning. She was excited to win, said that now she has to figure out how to use it. She wasn’t too worried because she has a daughter who can help her.

Congratulations Patty! Enjoy your new iPod.

FortScott.biz will be doing some more giveaways in the next few months. Be sure to signup for our emails so you’ll be entered in the upcoming contests.

The Buffalo Grill to Close

The Buffalo Grill’s last day with be October 22nd.  The announcement email that went out was signed by Dean & Becky Mann. It cited a statistic that fast food chains have seen a 22% decrease in customer visits over the last five years and that the pace had accelerated at the beginning of this year.

The River Room will still be available for rent as will the space where The Buffalo Grill restaurant is currently.

Where Will The Audit Be Presented?

It was originally assumed that Terry Sercer would complete the audit and then it would be presented to the commission who would make it public. For example, when Terry Sercer was asked to perform the audit, there is no mention of it going to any entity other than the commission.

Jingles Endicott made a motion to authorize Terry Sercer audit the payment plan, per his recommendations and to look into prior years.  Allen Warren seconded the motion and all voted in favor.  Commissioners said that as soon as they know any results, they will be made public. (September 2nd Minutes)

My notes from a week later on September 9th reflected that the commission still held the same view.

The auditor is still going through past taxes and once he is finished, the commission said they would make the results public.

The Fort Scott Tribune talked to Terry Sercer and seemed to indicate that he would be sharing the results of the audit with the commissioners.

Terry Sercer, of Diehl Banwart Bolten CPAs, completed the county’s 2010 audit and was given the responsibility of looking into the Bourbon County Treasurer’s Office following the allegations of questionable and potentially illegal practices by Treasurer Susan Quick. (source)

When I emailed Mr. Sercer to see if he was going to be presenting the audit at the commission meeting on September 30th, he did indicate that the paper was incorrect. However, it appeared that the part that was misunderstood was this:

Results of the audit are expected to be presented to the commission during their Oct. 3, meeting, however, the appointment has not yet been made, Sercer said. (source)

In fact, Mr. Sercer indicated that he expected some type of public announcement once the report was complete.

However, on October 3rd, the commission seemed unsure of how the report from the audit would be handled and where it would be sent.

Terry Sercer has yet to provide the commissioners with a timeline for when the audit and report will be completed. The commission wasn’t clear if the report would come to them or go to the county attorney or the attorney general. Jingles Endicott will contact Mr. Sercer and have an update on the timeline for Friday’s meeting. (Notes from October 3rd.)

At the meeting on October 7th, the commission said that the report would be going to the KBI and the Attorney General. Terry Sercer will be presenting it to them on October 17th. I asked if the change  to present to the KBI and Attorney General before being presented to the commission  was based on what the audit had found. The commissioners said “no” and that regardless of the findings it would not have been presented at commission meeting before being presented elsewhere. Commissioner Coleman pointed out that the commission isn’t in a position to determine if there are any criminal implications so it wouldn’t make sense to give it to them first.

The other thing that seems a bit odd is that on Monday (October the 3rd) the commissioners didn’t know when the report would be complete and Jingles Endicott said that he would check with Terry Sercer to find out the status.  However, on October the 7th, they all seemed to be familiar with the fact that the report would not be presented at a commission meeting. Update: It appears that commissioner Endicott had answered the same question before I came into the meeting, so the other commissioners may have just been explaining what he had originally said. Also there may have been more details given when the question was originally asked.

This raises some questions.

  • If the plan was to give it to the KBI and Attorney General all along, why was everyone confused about it until October 7th?
  • If the commission knew it was not going to be presented at a commission meeting, why wasn’t that mentioned to the numerous people who showed up on Monday’s and Friday’s to ask about it?
  • If audit was ordered by the commission to be presented to them, who changed these instructions to have it presented to the KBI and Attorney General?

It is unclear if this was an actual change of plans or if it was just a misunderstanding as to how these sort of matters proceed.

I called the KBI and the person I spoke with couldn’t find a record of any meeting planned for October 17th regarding an audit.  The Attorney General’s office said that if there was some type of investigation, they could not comment on it one way or another.  I asked if that meant if there was presentation of the audit report on the 17th, it would be closed to the public and was told, “Under that hypothetical situation, that would be correct.”

By the way, if you see anything that I misunderstood or any errors, please leave a note in the comments.

 

Old Middle School – New Owner

The previous owners of the Fort Scott Middle School gave up on their plans to turn it into an art center after partially renovated some of the rooms into a very modern looking apartment.  The fate of the building has been uncertain for some time.

If you’ve driven by the old Fort Scott Middle School in the past few days, you’ve probably noticed a “Sold” sign in the yard.  The property was purchased by Paul Feeney and his wife. Their goal is to turn the building into a large entertainment venue. They plan to start off with indoor electric race carts and eventually add a video arcade, rock climbing wall and a restaurant. They would also like to look at renovating the auditorium so it could be used for events.

Paul said it is a long term project, but they are moving to Fort Scott in the next few weeks and plan to live here full time. The initial attractions probably won’t open for two years because there is going to be a lot of work necessary to renovate the building to accomodate the planned changes and he is expecting some regulatory hurdles particularly concerning retrofitting an older building for handicap access.

The work will be self funded and they are not seeking for outside investors. However, they are open to partnering with local businesses. For example if a local restaurant was interested in opening a location in the building once the attractions are running, they would prefer to partner with an existing business rather than opening up competition. Paul said, “The last thing we want to do is to step on anyone’s toes.”

The big difference between some of the other failures in this type of building is that we are going to be in the town and living in the building. This isn’t going to be an offsite project done remotely. ~ Paul Feeney

Paul is 43 years old and a veteran of the automotive industry in California. He said his goal is for the project to support itself. He and his wife are very excited to being part of a smaller community like Fort Scott.


Here are some photos of the middle school from the real estate site where it was offered for sale. These pictures are several years old, so there has probably been some deterioration.

Fort Scott Professional Building

The old Newman Young Clinic is now the Fort Scott Professional Building. It was purchased by David Gibson in 2006 and renovated to convert it from a medical facility to a multi tenant office building.

Current tenants include:

  • Kansas Social & Rehabilitation Services
  • Foxx Apothecary
  • Choices Psychological Services
  • Hudson & Mullies Law Office
  • Life Touch National Studios

There are a number of “move-in-ready” suites. David said he offers three months of free rent for those suites with a 24 month lease agreement. He can also build out suites to a tenant’s specifications with longer term lease agreements.

The building features a Red Cross approved storm shelter, ADA compliant access, and both covered and uncovered parking. Tenants have access to a shared conference room and there is a larger meeting room available by the day that will seat up to 100 visitors.

The website has photos of a number of the suites and common areas. Leases include electricity, gas, water, and janitorial services for the common areas and common bathrooms. There are suites available that can accomodate everything from a small one person office to a 10,000 sq. foot business.

AT&T has recently installed 100 fiber optic cable lines into the building, so it is one of the few places in Fort Scott with pre-existing fiber. This alleviates the worries and hassle of getting fiber pulled to the building for companies that need data services provided by fiber.

The Fort Scott Professional Building pays a $500 referral fee to individuals or businesses who suggest a lead that ends up signing a lease. If you know of a business that is looking for space, give David Gibson a call at 856-669-8634 or email dgibson@dmgholdingsgroup.com. You can also contact the offic manager, Kim Reagan, at kim.reagan@dmgholdingsgroup.com

 

County Commission Meeting

Audit and Report

Terry Sercer will be presenting a report on October 17th to the KBI and Attorney General. Eventually there will be a report that will come to the county commissioners.

On August the 30th, the Bourbon County Attorney requested that the KBI and Attorney General investigate the allegations made against the Bourbon County Treasurer.

When asked if the report would have come back to the commissioners if everything looked clear, the commissioners said “no” because the KBI and the Attorney General is the one who will make the call as to whether anything criminal occurred. According to the commissioners at the meeting today, Terry Sercer was never going to present directly to the commission.

Tax Sale

Dan Meara requested a 30 minute executive session for the tax foreclosure case with the commissioners, the County Treasurer (Susan Quick) and the County Attorney (Teri Johnson).  Teri Johnson was in a hearing and unable to come. The commissioners were unclear if she could join once an executive session was started. Joanne Long (County Clerk) said that she could.

Questions were raised about the purpose of the executive session and whether or not it indicated that the county was facing a potential lawsuit related to the tax sale. Dan Meara said that the commissioners were allowed to talk to their lawyers (Mr. Meara is representing the county for the tax sale) privately as part of attorney/client privilege and the litigation was the tax sale–not a pending lawsuit against the county.

Executive sessions can only be held if they fall within an exception to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Some of the exceptions used in the past have been discussion of the employment of non-elected officials, non-elected officials salaries, attorney/client privilege, lawsuit settlement and pending litigation. Tax sale issues were all discussed openly up to this point (to the best of my knowledge). In looking at previous meeting minutes, I cannot find an instance where an executive session was used to discuss tax sale matters. However, it could have been discussed under the umbrella of “attorney/client” privilege and the actual purpose not noted in the minutes.

At the last meeting Dan Meara attended, there were questions raised about what properties could be sold and whether properties not listed in the paper had actually begun the redemption period which must expire before they can be sold. Mr. Meara was going to look into these issues. If those topics are not addressed in an open forum, it seems likely that they were discussed as part of the executive session although it isn’t clear why an executive session would be necessary.

According to the Attorney General, the attorney/client exception to the Kansas Open Record Act (see 5 b of this pdf),  only applies when the information is actually privileged. Privileged information is defined in KSA 60-426.

Before the end of the executive session, Teri Johnson joined the commissioners, Susan Quick, and Dan Meara.

After the 30 minutes were up, Dean West spoke with the commission for a few minutes and then they went back into executive session for another 30 minutes. I had to leave before the meeting was opened up again.

Dean West

Said that 12% of his social security was going toward property taxes for his small house. He doesn’t want to have to sell his house and move into a nursing home.  Joanne Long said that there had been some people trying to get tax rates locked in for senior citizens, but that law has not passed yet.

Grinder Pumps in New Sewer District

Pam Franklin expressed concern that where the grinder pump was placed at her place at the lake would flood. She didn’t want to have to replace a $1,500 pump every spring. Jingles Endicott said the pumps are submersible and it wouldn’t hurt them to be under water and would use a lot of electricity. Pam Franklin was concerned that they would be pumping water out of the lake.

Jingles said that they talked to the company that was putting the pumps and they are going to move their pump.