Bourbon County District 1 Commissioner Lynne Oharah is optimistic for the future.
“I am seeing major endeavors in economic development, improved infrastructure, and continued cost savings to the taxpayers,” Oharah said in response to questions from fortscott.biz.
“One of the major accomplishments that was achieved in 2021 is the mill levy was reduced by 1.68 mills for the 2021 budget year and 2.43 for the 2022 budget year which is a total reduction of 4.11 mills or approximately $440,000 taxpayer dollars, which is a trend that the commission is dedicated to continuing.”
A significant success this year was the asphalt program for roads.
“Our Public Works Director and his crews were able to lay 14 miles or 28 lane miles of asphalt at the depth of 2 and ½ inches which has never been accomplished in at least the last seven years,” he said. “If this trend continues through a vigorous chip and seal program coupled with increased asphalt application we are in a position to improve all of our asphalt roads.”
Additionally, the public works crews are increasing gravel production which will mean more gravel on county roads, he said.
“Although COVID-19 hit our community hard this year, the residents continued to support our local economy, “Oharah said. “Sales tax receipts were up this year, allowing us to do more projects in the road and bridge department on hard surface roads.”
“2021 saw the reorganization of BEDCO (Bourbon County Economic Development Council, Inc.) into a county-wide economic development board which was able to consolidate economic development for the county and cities, as a whole,” he said.
It is now called Bourbon County REDI (Regional Economic Development Inc.) and a new economic development director was hired, Rob Harrington.
“One of Rob’s first tasks was to provide a roadmap to a successful economic development program,” he said.
“Just to name one of these successes is the introduction of a $125,000 granting program that awarded grants to the smaller communities to improve quality of life in these communities, plus a bike recreation project in Gunn Park,” he said.
Harrington, along with other individuals, is working to increase access to healthcare, which is one of the keys to the growth of Bourbon County, he said.
Oharah said the results of the hospital feasibility study will be released on January 31.
For the Bourbon County Courthouse, there have been many personnel changes.
The commission has hired Susan Bancroft as the financial/human resource director, which has been needed for many years, he said.
This position has resulted in an ability to provide the financial tracking and oversite, budget planning, program implementation, and human resource services that have been lacking, he said.
Additionally, Bancroft is working part-time for the City of Fort Scott until they can find a replacement finance director.
A new county appraiser was hired, Matt Quick.
“Matt is very good at what he does and very good at public relations,” he said.
The commissioners also hired a new county clerk, Ashley Shelton. “Ashley has hit the road running, is personable, and a fast learner,” he said.
The county’s information technology department has been busy, as the City of Fort Scott and the county signed a contract to share the services and their costs, he said.
“The IT department worked with the 911 dispatch center to move dispatch into the old jail area at the courthouse which increases safety for this essential group,” Oharah said. “IT is continuing to work on providing broadband access to areas of Bourbon County that are poorly served.”
“Lastly, I’m sure that you have noticed that the front steps at the courthouse have been replaced,” he said.
A few anticipated Bourbon County Commission 2022 projects:
- Start repairs on the Elm Creek Lake dam.
- Move all budget responsibilities under directors and elected officials.
- Move to electronic time reporting.
- Implement public works to handle public works projects and work orders.
“As we wrap up 2021, I want to wish our residents a happy new year and I look forward to a more prosperous year in 2022,” he said.