Pott. County Commission talks mask ordinance for schools; new website design

State mask-ordinance for schools
The Pottawatomie County Commission was advised by John Watt, Pottawatomie County counselor, during its meeting Monday not to take action concerning Gov. Laura Kelly’s order requiring Kansas school districts to implement certain safety protocols, including the wearing of masks.
Kelly announced the order on July 20, saying county governments are not allowed to opt out.
Watt says even though the Kansas attorney general has made an informal statement saying counties can opt out, the county commission should stay out of the matter and leave this decision up to the school districts.
“They’re the ones that are impacted,” Watt said. “They’re the ones that have the expertise in deciding what is best for their own school and their own district. You do not have that expertise and, at least according to the governor’s legal staff, you don’t have the authority.
Commissioner Greg Riat said he had been contacted by multiple school officials seeking information and guidance on the state order.
Watt likened getting involved to entering a “quagmire” and said school officials should seek guidance from their own attorneys.
Website redesign
The Pottawatomie County website will soon have a new look.
As part of its contract with the Manhattan-based website-development company CivicPlus, the Pottawatomie County government website will get a new layout in addition to a couple new features.
Stephan Metzger, Pottawatomie County assistant planner, says part of the redesign is creating a more mobile-friendly platform.
“That hasn’t been much of an issue in the past because about 50 or 60 percent of our usage in the past has been on a desktop (computer),” Metzger said. “Since COVID, our web traffic has increased about three times and almost all that new web traffic is on phones or tablets.”
The newly designed website will also feature more prominently displayed COVID-19 information, a news feed, a new calendar and a road-damage reporting system that is more accessible.
The switch to the new layout will take place on Aug. 10.
To view the current Pottawatomie County website, visit pottcounty.org.
Potential bridge replacement
The Pottawatomie County Commission could potentially spend up to $350,000 to replace a bridge that was recently damaged by heavy rain and high water.
According to Peter Clark, Pottawatomie County Public Works director, the county has been aware of the bridge’s need to be repaired for about six years and it is just one of multiple bridges in the county that need work.
Clark says it could have been repaired prior to the recent damage for about $20,000-$30,000, but the impairment was extensive enough that a full bridge replacement worth about $350,000 may be necessary.
“This one hurts in particular because it’s on one of our major collector-roads,” Clark said. “Every road is important, but this one carries a little bit more traffic than other gravel roads in the county.”
The county could also choose a cheaper route by rebuilding the bridge with materials partially salvaged from the original structure.
Previous lack of repairs to the bridge is partially due to officials needing to prioritize other repairs throughout the county.
This particular bridge is currently closed and is located on Shannon Creek Rd. north of Hwy. 16.
In other Pottawatomie County news:
  • Pottawatomie County commissioners discussed attending this week’s Manhattan City Commission meeting to broach the subject of a city-wide sales tax potentially being put on the ballot for the 2020 general election. Manhattan city officials are considering replacing a county-wide sales tax set to expire within the next couple years with a city-wide half-cent sales tax that would impact businesses in the Pottawatomie County-side of the city.
  • Pottawatomie County received about $132,000 as part of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-CV) program, which is meant to help businesses retain jobs for people making low-to-moderate incomes.
  • The Pottawatomie County Commission will hold a special work session this Wednesday at 3 p.m. to discuss SPARK (CARES Act) funds. That will take place at the Wamego EMS Station at 406 Miller Dr., Wamego, KS 66547.

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