County leaders take charge

David Lee fills a county commission seat vacated by Bill King as county officials take the oath of office for their next term.

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January 12, 2021 - 10:38 AM

New county officials took their oaths of office Monday. From left, Cara Barkdoll, register of deeds; David Lee, county commissioner; Bryan Murphy, sheriff; Jerry Hathway, county attorney; Bruce Symes, county commissioner; Sherri Riebel, clerk; and Daniel Creitz, district judge (not pictured). Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

On Monday, Judge Daniel Creitz administered the oath of office for multiple county officials, most of whom were renewing their positions.

Included were: Cara Barkdoll, register of deeds; David Lee, county commissioner; Bryan Murphy, sheriff; Jerry Hathaway, county attorney; Bruce Symes, county commissioner; Sherri Riebel, clerk; and Daniel Creitz, district judge.

Prior to the ceremony, outgoing commissioner Bill King remarked on the gravity of the gesture, saying “when a person assumes a position of public trust, he should consider himself public property.”

King likewise shared a few thoughts about the anomalous nature of 2020 and the specific challenges county officials had faced.

“This board has had to deal with things we didn’t expect,” he said.

For one, King suggested that we’re currently inhabiting a different world or “new normal” in comparison to how the year began.

He noted that county officials and public health workers had faced harsh scrutiny for simply trying to enact measures to combat COVID-19, for example, and emphasized that they’d been subject to some “pretty hateful” things, despite it not being anyone’s intention to limit the rights of others.

That said, he called serving as commissioner “a privilege,” and said he looked forward to the accomplishments of his successors, especially on projects such as having storm shelters installed in Allen County’s unincorporated communities.

“I think things will get better,” King said. “There are better things ahead. … Whatever happens, this board is going to look out for your interests.”

During the regular meeting, Symes became the new chair of the Allen County Commission.

David Lee and Bruce Symes listen as Larry Crawford outlines a plan for making improvements to the Allen county fairgrounds. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Several other 2021 housekeeping measures were taken as well, including naming appointments to several different committees, including boards linked to: hospital facilities, health/mental health, regional planning, the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, economic development, Iola Industries, housing, emergency planning and juvenile detention.

Larry Crawford of the Allen County Fair Board was in attendance to discuss improvements to the fairgrounds, specifically a new concession stand building. As he explained, the old one is “getting kind of rustic.”

The board did not do a fairground project last year, and so had additional funds to spend.

After some discussion, commissioners chose New Klein Lumber in Iola to provide the materials at a cost of $7,845, and the building trades class out of LaHarpe will do the construction as well as install the building’s new heater/air conditioner.

Jessica Thompson, director of development for Thrive Allen County, said that they had decided not to pursue a grant for building a proposed broadband/communications tower.

Not only was the turnaround time too fast, she said, but the precision of questions involved necessitated a longer window to prepare than had been available.

Jonathan Goering, economic development director of Thrive, was also on hand, and mentioned he and others had met with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) in reference to improvements at the Allen County airport.

Goering also said he wanted residents to know that the airport project will not involve a “complete makeover,” but instead focus on attracting appropriate businesses that might relocate there.

David Lee and Bryan Murphy take their oaths of office.Photo by Trevor / Iola Register

Chelsie Angleton, 911 director, said that painting had been completed at the critical response center.

She also said that a search would soon begin to hire a new dispatcher, and noted that new technology/computer training sessions for employees would also be taking place.

Mitch Garner said that the county’s new motor grader had embarked on its maiden voyage today, and praised its functionality.

He also highlighted how COVID-19 had made it increasingly difficult for county crews to get appropriate training on certain machines, but noted that online options were working in the meantime.

Garner also noted that this week crews would be busy mowing, trimming trees and patching potholes.

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