County bans open burning

Sheriff Bryan Murphy requested the countywide burn ban as drought conditions and high temperatures could lead to dangerous wildfires. He also gave commissioners an update on the nearly completed communications tower project.

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September 20, 2022 - 2:08 PM

Allen County Commissioners Bruce Symes, front, David Lee and Jerry Daniels (not pictured) review a photo of an intersection at 1250th Street and Delaware Road. They approved adding a stop sign for northbound traffic on 1250th to improve safety, as traffic is using the route as a detour during highway construction on U.S. 169 between Humboldt and Chanute. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Drought conditions, a return of high temperatures and a request from the sheriff prompted county commissioners to issue a countywide burn ban on Tuesday.

Sheriff Bryan Murphy asked commissioners to implement the burn ban as a safety measure, as his department and firefighters across the county have been called to multiple grass fires recently. He wanted to limit the risk of a larger fire that could put structures, livestock and people at risk.

Commissioners immediately agreed.

The ban prohibits all ​​controlled burning of grass, brush, weeds, trees, trash or debris as well as campfires and fireworks. An exception is made for outdoor barbecue grills. The sheriff could grant exceptions for other types of burning, but given Sheriff Murphy is the one who requested the ban, commissioners said they thought exceptions would be unlikely.

A violation of the burn ban could result in a misdemeanor citation.

The burn ban will remain until rescinded by commissioners.

A chance of rain and cooler temperatures are expected Thursday. That’s unlikely to make much of a dent in the precipitation deficit, which is 5.42 inches for the year so far. In September, just .07 inches of rain has been recorded at Iola.

The new communications tower south of the landfill near LaHarpe is already showing improvement in tests of radio “dead spots.”Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

MURPHY also updated commissioners on construction of a wireless communications tower south of the landfill near LaHarpe.

The tower is about 90% complete and testing has started with very positive results, Murphy said.

The tower was needed to improve radio “dead spots,” especially in the far corners of the county. It will be used by law enforcement, dispatchers, fire departments and Public Works crews.

Recently, Murphy stationed people with radios in each of the four corners for a test. 

“To say we improved communication would be an understatement,” Murphy said. 

Finishing the project will take another week or so, as alarm systems are installed and other details completed.

Murphy said the tower was still under construction when he was contacted by a vendor who might want to rent space on the tower. Commissioners hope cellular companies or others might rent space, providing revenue for the county.

The tower was identified years ago as a need to improve emergency communication, but the $875,000 price tag prohibited commissioners from pursuing it. That changed last year, when the county was awarded $2.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and made the tower its top priority.  

“It’s been a long process,” Murphy said. “Thank you for sticking with it and finding the money.”

AND speaking of ARPA, commissioners gave the go-ahead for the Rural Water District No. 8 to start working on improvements to their water system, which includes new water lines around the Allen County Regional Airport.

The airport was awarded nearly $3 million in a state grant for infrastructure improvements. The county needed to come up with another $1 million; most of that will come from ARPA to improve the water district.

But RWD No. 9 representative DeWayne Jarred said they hadn’t been formally notified by the county to proceed with the project. He attended Tuesday’s meeting to get approval.

Commissioner Jerry Daniels said he assumed the water district had been notified, and commissioners gave their blessing.

“As far as I’m concerned, you can get the ball rolling and start sending us invoices. The funds are there,” Daniels said.

Trash collects against the fence on the north side of the Allen County Landfill.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

THE KANSAS Department of Health and Environment visited the Allen County landfill recently after complaints of trash blowing outside the perimeter.

Inspectors did not issue any citation, Public Works Director Mitch Garner told commissioners.

“They said it looks better than it ever did, they just had to come out because they’d gotten a couple of calls,” Garner said. 

He shared photos with commissioners, who agreed buildup of trash along the north fence looked much improved than it has in the past.

It’s a constant battle to keep trash from leaving the pile, Garner said. It’s worse with dry, windy conditions such as it has been this summer. Crews will often add water to try to keep trash tamped down, and will walk the perimeter of the fence to pick up stray trash. 

COMMISSIONERS approved adding a stop sign for northbound traffic on 1250th Street at Delaware Road because of safety concerns caused as traffic detours around highway construction on U.S. 169 between Humboldt and Chanute.

Road and Bridge Director Mark Griffith made the request.

He also updated commissioners on equipment. A distributor truck was back in service, helping with chip and seal work in Humboldt. He plans to seek bids for another piece of equipment that could be used for patching roads. 

Crews also were helping with the renovation of a parking lot at the Medical Arts Building.

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