Pott. County discusses COVID-19 hospitalization numbers, addresses clerk’s salary request

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Pott. County COVID-19-related hospitalization numbers
About five Pottawatomie County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 complications as of Monday’s report.
However, Leslie Campbell, Pottawatomie County health director, told the Pott. County Commission on Monday that area hospitals are taking in out-of-county patients as well.
The Onaga Community Healthcare System has people from Jackson, Nemaha (and) Marshall (County) all in the hospital,” Campbell said. “So there’s more people in the hospital, they’re just not all from Pottawatomie County.”
She says the county’s numbers may also not be indicative of how many COVID-19-positive Pottawatomie County residents are actually in Pottawatomie County hospitals.
“They’re transferring them for higher care sometimes,” Campbell said. “Some people go to Stormont Vail (of Topeka) to start with.”
The Pottawatomie County Health Department has reported a total of 50 COVID-19-related hospitalizations since it first began releasing numbers.
Salary increase
Newly elected Pottawatomie County clerk Dawn Henry requested Monday that the Pottawatomie County Commission pay her a salary closer to that of Nancy McCarter, former Pottawatomie County clerk.
McCarter, who had been with the county for over 20 years, was making just over $81,000 prior to retiring. Henry was set to make about $57,000 as county clerk in accordance with the county’s recently approved wage scale.
While Henry acknowledged that her relative lack of experience justifies a lower salary than that of McCarter, other officials, including Shane Jager, Pottawatomie County sheriff, had starting salaries similar to that of their predecessors.
“When Nancy was appointed as county clerk, she was docked about $3,000 of the current county clerk (at the time) was making,” Henry said. “And when Shane was appointed, he was not docked at all. He went straight into it. I’m not being appointed. I won the election.”
Henry also pointed out that the current wage scale was approved after she had won last year’s primary election.
Commissioner Pat Weixelman expressed frustration over the issue coming up even with the county recently spending money on a wage study.
“Whenever it comes down to making a decision, there’s nothing concrete on what to do,” Weixelman said.
Henry and the commission eventually agreed upon an approximately $69,000 salary, which is about 85 percent of what McCarter most recently earned.
Alternative-energy policies
Pottawatomie County is likely to begin exploring its policies concerning wind turbines and solar farms.
The move comes amid discussions about whether Gov. Laura Kelly will maintain the moratorium on the installation of wind turbines in the Flint Hills region.
Commissioner Greg Riat says he has heard a number of anti-wind-turbine arguments from local residents.
“From what I’ve gathered, there’s issues,” Riat said. “Like there’s ice chunks that fly off of them, there is noise that some people say can drive you batty (and) there’s the look, which is why the governor didn’t want to spoil the Flint Hills.”
Commissioner Dee McKee says that while some people may not like how wind turbines look, other power-generating structures already inhabit the area.
“Leaders in this county were willing to put up a power plant with stacks and smoke there were higher than any of those wind towers years ago,” McKee said.
According to county planner Gregg Webster, a number of land owners may support the installation of wind turbines on their property if it means getting to lease out their land.
Despite the different perspectives, the commissioners agreed that they need to take time to review the county’s alternative-energy policies.
CARES Act funds
Having distributed the last CARES Act business-assistance loans, the Pottawatomie County Commission discussed the effectiveness of stimulus funds during the pandemic.
Jack Allston, Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation executive director, says grants given to childcare centers were particularly helpful.
“A couple of childcare centers got hit by COVID and had to close,” Allston said. “When they closed, the parents would have to stay at home with the kids. Then they couldn’t go to work and that was hurting other companies.”
He says one business owner in particular became emotional talking about what CARES Act money did for them.
“He was practically in tears,” Allston said. “He said that $20,000 helped him through the holidays and Christmas and his business is back up and running again.”
Pottawatomie County was allocated a total of about $4.9 million in CARES Act funds.
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