GREG LOWER

ERIE – Neosho County Commissioners discussed packets, agendas, meeting schedules and ways to make meetings run more smoothly and more quickly at their regular meeting Thursday.

Most of the meeting was simple discussion, which did not require formal votes. One of the changes commissioners are implementing is a consent section on the agenda, where items can be approved without discussion.

The commission voted to approve 911 training requests, although 911 Director Lori Nally did answer questions as part of the discussion.

Commissioners also discussed and approved a job description and advertisement for the maintenance director position, and discussed whether commissioners should be involved in upcoming interviews for Road and Bridge Department employees.

The commission has also discussed whether people who ask to be on the agenda, rather than those who speak during public comment, should be asked to provide information about their comments ahead of the meeting. Since taking office, County Clerk Heather Elsworth has provided information packets to commissioners.

Commission Chair Gail Klaassen said Chanute Regional Development Authority Director Matt Godinez, who is on the agenda for next week, has been the first to provide advance details. Godinez will address the issue of a comprehensive plan for the county as part of discussions on the wind energy project moratorium.

Commissioner Paul Westhoff has approached prospective members of an advisory committee on the moratorium, and he said six people have turned him down. He proposed resident Shirley Estrada to be on the committee.

“I think she’d be unbiased,” Westhoff said.

Commissioner David Orr expressed doubts about that due to Estrada’s obvious opposition of the current project. Westhoff said Orr would oppose anyone who Westhoff picked. 

Estrada has spoken at numerous meetings against the Neosho Ridge Wind electric-generation project, now under construction, and Westhoff said the advisory committee’s purpose is to regulate the wind industry.

“I will never be in favor of picking on one industry,” Orr said. “It’s like being racist.”

Klaassen repeated what she has stated at previous meetings. 

“That’s what’s going to make this committee difficult,” Klaassen said.

Westhoff has previously suggested that the committee have three members from his district, which covers the largest territory, while the other districts, which cover Chanute, would each have one. Orr and Klaassen both said they favored two members from each of their districts.

Estrada told the commission there is a difference between being opinionated and being fair and rational about the county as a whole, and she said that Orr had suggested she would not be rational.

In other business, commissioners:

• Discussed an issue with rock trucks going through Labette County to the southern part of Neosho County. Road and Bridge Director Mike Brown said the rock is being delivered to an Evergy substation project. Although it will connect to the Neosho Ridge electrical lines, it is a separate construction project from the windmill construction. Orr said the issue seemed to be with subcontractors, but the head people needed to be held accountable.

• Debated holding fewer meetings and starting earlier. Klaassen suggested they not meet Feb. 20. She also suggested taking off March 19 during school spring break, May 28 before the Memorial Day weekend, and July 23.

• Scheduled a road viewing at 4 pm Feb. 6, and will hold their business meeting at 5 pm. They will meet at 4 pm Feb. 13, take off Feb. 20 and meet at 4 pm after that.

• Discussed removal of an underground fuel tank containing diesel fuel to power an emergency generator at the courthouse. Brown has proposed replacing the generator with one plumbed for gas, and removing the tank.

 

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