Allen County commissioners are working with locals to ensure Christmas cheer still comes to the Iola square this year.
Dance studio director Chelsea Lea volunteered her services with regard to helping make sure lights would be present on the courthouse lawn.
She said the display would be smaller than in the past, and feature more of a “drive by” set-up that would encourage residents to stay in their vehicles.
Lea said she and others had “cleaned out Walmart,” and were prepared to build tree pyramids near the corners of the square and by monuments.
“It’s one of my favorite traditions in Iola,” she added. “I wanted to be a part of it.”
Iola Area Chamber of Commerce director Jill Hartman then shared where things stood regarding having area children visit Santa Claus safely, despite COVID-19.
Hartman said the Santa House will remain locked this year.
What’s new, is the purchase of a 10-foot inflatable snow globe in which Santa will be stationed while people visit with him from the exterior.
Elves will be out in force to ensure everything is properly cleaned. Face masks will be required and social distancing practiced via candy cane markers.
No reindeer will be visiting the square this year, but Santa and crew hope to be available in short order.
After hearing in-person pitches from two companies at Tuesay’s meeting, commissioners approved the purchase of a new dump truck with snow moving equipment.
They bought the vehicle from West Fall O’Dell Truck Sales, Kansas City, for $816,528, which is a 2022 Mack Granite capable of making remote software updates.
Lisse Regher, along with other members of Thrive Allen County, were on-hand to help commissioners continue figuring out which items to purchase with SPARK funds made available by the CARES Act.
The funds must be expended by the end of the year or returned, and some items originally set for purchase were ultimately returned to the pool.
The Registrar’s Office and Treasurer’s Office are scheduled for updates and safety measures via SPARK funds, along with an expansion of courtroom areas and installation of touchless technologies for buildings with public spaces.
The county has obtained practically all the personal protective equipment (PPE) it can get its hands on, but is looking into the possibility of purchasing ultraviolet cleaning machines as well, in particular, for use at local senior centers.
Commissioners also gave the green light to Advantage Computers to start installing improvements purchased with SPARK money. The goal in doing so, said Kevin McGuffin, is to provide “way more confidentiality, way more space.”
In light of Gov. Laura Kelly’s second mask mandate, commissioners also devoted some time to revisiting the issue, with the outcome being to stand by their original decision to remain “opted in” to the statewide order.
As commissioner Bill King explained, “What we’ve been doing has been generally successful,” and urged residents to continue following health department guidelines.
The health workers, “they’re taking a lot of abuse,” he said, “but it’s not their fault. They’re doing their jobs.”
“This is not a joke.”
Interestingly, one point of contention arose between commissioners Bruce Symes and Jerry Daniels, the former who suggested that an “enforcement provision” for the order might be wise, whereas the later disagreed, saying the mandate was unenforceable.
Regardless, the commission as a whole seemed to agree that what was most important was to keep the economy open and functioning, and that keeping the governor’s mask order in place helped to accomplish that end.
Given concerns with the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, raised by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, in particular, the Register also sat down with Clerk Sherrie Reibel outside the regular meeting to discuss what steps Allen and other counties take to ensure elections are legitimate and accurate.
“There’s things that happen to make sure there’s integrity,” Reibel remarked, “and that’s across Kansas and across the country.”
Reibel pointed out that elections must carefully follow specific guidelines and procedures as mandated by law, and noted that those procedural laws haven’t changed.
She also noted that Allen County doesn’t not use a system where there are ballots with no paper trail. “All of our ballots are paper,” she said.
One new law that further helps protect the integrity of elections involves auditing 1%/percent of all ballots, and she pointed to several residents who’d been on the audit committee this year.
“People are always welcome to watch,” Reibel added, “and if they have questions, they can ask.”