Minutes of the Bourbon County Commission on June 3

June 3, 2024                                                                                 Monday, 5:30 p.m.



The Board of Bourbon County Commissioners met in open session with Commissioners Jim Harris and Brandon Whisenhunt and the County Clerk present.



Clint Walker, Rachel Walker, Bo Casper, Katie Casper, Jason Silvers, Michael Hoyt, Larry Martin,  Deb Martin, Vance Eden, Pete Owenby, Brent Smith, Angie Owenby, Teri Hulsey, Deb McCoy, Mary Pemberton, and David Beerbower were present for some or all of the meeting.



Jim opened the meeting with the flag salute.



Brandon made a motion to approve the consent agenda which includes approval of minutes from 5-20-24, approval of April Financials, approval of payroll totaling $283,157.83, and approval of accounts payable totaling $406,658.57. Jim seconded the motion and all approved.



Jim made a motion to amend the agenda to add Vance Eden to the agenda before the public comments. Brandon seconded the motion and all approved.



Vance Eden, Superintendent of USD 235, stated he has been to a few meetings and provided statute to the Commissioners regarding distribution of funds and would like to get an update on the status of his request for Jayhawk Wind funds to be distributed to USD 235. Jim stated legal says it is a donation not PILOT funds which fall under different statues. Jim said he would support a project with USD 234 and USD 235 and Fort Scott Community College on a trades program and that they could possibly use wind money to support the joint effort. Vance handed out the Jayhawk Wind Contribution Agreement and Jim asked if it says PILOT, Vance said no but it does in meetings and on the budgets as well as receipts provided by the Treasurer’s Office. Jim said he wants to work with legal counsel to determine if we have to distribute the funds and asked Brandon if it was ok for him to work with Vance and Justin, which Brandon agreed to.



Katie Casper stated she spoke at the 4-15-24  meeting and that she was told by Jim if an attorney’s opinion was obtained that demonstrated how the Commission could establish and negotiate setbacks on existing contracts that you would amend the moratorium to include all contracts not just those signed and notarized after April 15th. A group of concerned citizens contacted an attorney who has experience in the industry and delivered that letter to the Commission at the April 29th meeting where both Commissioner Beth and Harris stated the letter had no legal merit based on the advice of five attorneys. Katie said when she asked if there was a written opinion from any of those attorneys the only documentation that she received was a print out of a PowerPoint Presentation from December 2023 that was presented at the Kansas Association of Counties meeting from an attorney group who represents NextEra. Katie said her question was since the citizens provided what was asked of them is there a formal response from any of the five mentioned attorneys that specifically addresses the opinion that was provided? Jim said that he has nothing in writing and that legal said we couldn’t because of the signed contracts. Jim said he has spoken to Crawford County officials on what they are doing regarding solar and thinks we can copycat off what they’re doing. Jim said he would ask if he could get a written legal opinion on why we cannot take on the contracts and he said our insurance company would cancel if we did this and we can’t operate as a county without insurance. Katie said she had a local insurance agent contact her who stated property owners who are considering solar contracts have asked if those solar panels are covered under their farm liability insurance and they are not. Katie stated the solar companies are not adding those property owners as loss payees on their insurance policies and thinks that is something the public needs to be made aware of. Katie stated at the May 20th meeting the Commission advised citizens to get a petition signed by constituents if we wish to place limited zoning on the ballot. A petition was presented to the County Counselor for approval before circulating for signatures as required and the response they received was that said petition was invalid as by statute zoning cannot be placed on the ballot by petition but must be done by resolution of the Commission. Katie asked if it was known that a petition could not be used and if they were just sent down a rabbit trail or did no one know the process but we were advised to do it anyway? Jim said he thought that anything could go on the ballot. Katie reminded the Commissioners that they work for all the people of Bourbon County and stated some people don’t want zoning because they don’t understand what it means. Jim said they are going to get a committee together and a comprehensive plan must be in place before they can move forward and that is something they will talk about when Commissioner Beth gets back. Katie asked about conflicts of interest regarding the solar contract negotiations and Justin stated he has no conflict whatsoever. Katie asked Justin if he was aware we couldn’t put zoning on the ballot and he said he spent a good portion of his week researching zoning and that he has advised the Chairman to hire an outside expert like Crawford County has. Jim handed out copies of Resolution 05-22 and read the resolution that was passed by the Commissioners in May 2022. Jim said the Commissioners received the request for the resolution by citizens and that he supported it and it clearly says we don’t support imminent domain. Jim said that they support individual’s property rights and now people are asking them to tell their neighbors what they can and can’t do. Larry Martin asked if his neighbor’s property rights cancel out his property rights. Jim said if it harms you then it is a civil matter. Tim Emerson said it affects everybody in Bourbon County because if there is a hailstorm then the runoff will go into creeks. Jim said he respects Tim’s opinion but said that to his knowledge KDHE doesn’t think they’re as dangerous as he let on. Pete Owenby asked if that means he can do anything on his land and who cares what his neighbor says?



Clint Walker spoke of the importance of a grant writer and referred to an article he read about a resident who was able to get a new roof and said he thinks the County, Cifty of Fort Scott, and City of Uniontown should work together to try to do that.



Mary Pemberton said it irritates her that you don’t take the time to educate yourself before you take action. Mary said that property owners have nothing to do with setbacks. Jim asked why Mary wanted a committee formed then. Mary said that the setbacks are determined in  the contracts the County Commissioners sign with the developers. Mary said to look at what was done in the past and not make the same mistake in the future.



Pete Owenby asked Jim if he looked at the solar farm in El Dorado Springs, Missouri and Jim said no, but he looked at one by St. Louis. Pete said he got out and walked near the one in El Dorado Springs and that he could feel electricity in the air that made his hair stand up. Pete asked if they are sure there is no conflicts of interests in the negotiation of the solar projects and Jim said he can’t speak for Brandon or Clifton but that he has no conflict of interest. Pete asked what is going to happen when his insurance rates are going to go up due to the solar farm that will be next to his house and property. Jim said that would be a civil matter.



Eric Bailey, Public Works Director, presented the monthly culvert report for approval and stated the fuel report was emailed to them. Eric said they are currently mowing hard surface roads and main arterial roads. Eric and Dustin Hall, Assistant Public Works Director, discussed the storm cleanup and stated due to the amount of damage it could take one to two years to get everything back to how it was. Eric and Dustin have driven all the roads in the county and marked damage on the map and their estimate of damage is 9.5 million dollars and that includes debris removal, washout repairs, gravel, culverts, and putting the roads back in the condition they were. Eric asked to be allowed to purchase through SourceWell a mini excavator in the amount of $46,408.27 by lease purchase to use for the storm cleanup. Eric said he feels they will be reimbursed for the work through FEMA. Eric said if FEMA doesn’t cover the cost, they have enough in their equipment fund to cover the purchase. Brandon made a motion to approve the purchase of a Sany SY35CU with our first payment due next February at a rate of 4.05%. Eric said if they are reimbursed by FEMA, they plan to pay it off before they pay any interest on the machine. Jim seconded the motion and all approved. Eric asked for a 10-minute executive session for non-elected personnel. Brandon made a motion to go into a 10-minute executive session under KSA 75-4319 (b)(1) to discuss personnel matters of individual nonelected personnel to protect their privacy to include both Commissioners, Eric Bailey, and Justin Meeks and they will return at 6:43. Jim seconded the motion and all approved. Jim made a motion to resume normal session with no action at 6:43. Brandon seconded the motion and all approved.



Teri Hulsey, EMS Director, said she posted their stats online and received a lot of questions regarding it so she would like to answer those tonight. It was asked what constitutes a dry-run and Teri said that could involve blood draws for the Sheriff’s Office or Police Department after CHC is closed, lift assists for the elderly who fall but are not injured and sign a refusal form. Teri said they are dispatched to all car versus deer accidents when airbags have deployed even if the caller said they are not injured and they will obtain a signed refusal form. Teri said it can also be if a patient calls EMS but then decides they don’t want to be treated. EMS had 98 dry runs last month. Diabetic emergencies with low blood sugar can usually be treated on scene and billed because the paramedics give medication to help raise the blood sugar while the other dry runs listed are not billable. Teri said that they could be cancelled in route due to an OnStar crash activation when the Sheriff’s Department or Police Department get on scene and state there is no need for EMS. Teri said they respond to all structure fires and remain on scene until released by command. Events such as the rodeo and sporting events are examples of standby calls where EMS can bill for their services. When employees are notified to come in for an all call, they are reimbursed their normal rate for a minimum of two hours. All 911 calls with transport are billable and Teri said she does not have the number of those that don’t pay. Teri said they are going to start using the State Setoff Program to try to recover some of the EMS bills that have not been paid. Teri stated they received a $3,000 grant from Wal-Mart and she thanked REDI for their help obtaining that.



Jennifer Hawkins, County Clerk, presented an Office365 quote from the IT department for the Commissioners to approve. Brandon made a motion to approve, sign, and pay the Office365 quote as presented. Jim seconded the motion and all approved. Jennifer stated she received a public notice from KDHE regarding an NPDES permit renewal for a rock quarry at 521 55th Street in Uniontown. The public notice is available for view in the Clerk’s Office.



Brandon said the longer he sits in the Commission seat it seems that residents are getting angrier about solar projects and urged residents to reach out to their neighbors. Brandon said that there is a lot of anger and discontent that solar has caused in the county and he let residents know that they can call him and discuss things so cooler heads can prevail. Jim stated a lot of people are opposed to zoning and that some want solar and that there are people in the county who still didn’t know anything about it. Jim said he talked to two companies who spoke about putting up evergreen trees around the projects and said arguing won’t settle anything.



Michael Hoyt asked how long before the Commissioners hired outside council and if it would be just for zoning or for wind and solar power. Jim said his opinion is he would like to discuss next week going forward with an outside consultant to come in and help us move forward including solar panel farms and any type of special use permit. Michael asked if it was going to be a consultant or legal counsel. Jim said he would like to have work session with the Commission where the public would be invited and they would sit down with a consulting person from a firm that has done this before. Jim said Crawford County is going to let him know who they will be using. The deadline for an individual who is interested in submitting a letter of interest for the solar panel farm committee is June 12th.



Jim made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 6:58. Brandon seconded the motion and all approved.





___________________, Chairman


ATTEST:                                                                                                    ___________________, Commissioner


Jennifer Hawkins, Bourbon County Clerk

6-10-2024                               Approved Date


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