County approves land swap for EMS

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Allen County commissioners crossed a pair of significant “to do” items off their lists for their new ambulance station Tuesday.
Commissioners unanimously approved a notice of intent to swap land with Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative.
As part of the swap, the county will acquire the rest of nearly 5 acres of Heartland property on North State Street — including a building that will serve as the ambulance station.
In exchange, the county will give its land along U.S. 54 in Gas to the electric cooperative, and pay Heartland an additional $200,000.
Acquiring the second building means the county will no longer have to construct a new facility for its ambulance barn, Commissioner Gary McIntosh explained. The building, just east of the building the county purchased for its dispatch center, already is designed to accommodate ambulances and living quarters for personnel, McIntosh said.
“We may have to do a few things, like add showers and things like that, but we could move in that building tomorrow,” McIntosh said.
The land swap will be formally approved at the county’s meeting next Tuesday.
The county also no longer must worry about what to do with its vacant lot along the highway in Gas, which originally was acquired for the ambulance station.
Commission Chairman Dick Works said that Heartland’s intent was to build a new facility on the Gas property.
As part of the swap, the county also assumes ownership of a third Heartland building to the north of the dispatch center on State Street.
McIntosh said the county wasn’t yet sure how it will use that building, or if it will be sold.

IN A RELATED matter, Angie Murphy, 911 dispatch director, spoke with commissioners about the upcoming transition of dispatch services from Iola to the county.
The dispatchers will formally become county employees on Jan. 1.
The issue, Murphy explained, is whether the city or county is responsible for accrued benefits for dispatchers once they are no longer under the city’s employ. Murphy noted that some dispatchers have been with the city for more than 10 years and have built up several thousands of dollars worth of unused sick and vacation time.
Commissioners directed Murphy and County Clerk Sherrie Riebel to visit with Iola City Administrator Judy Brigham about whether the city or county must pay for those benefits.
“I’m confident we’ll come up with a solution,” Murphy said. “I know it’s been a source of concern for the dispatchers.”
Commissioners accepted a bid from Home Detail to install new ceilings in the dispatch center after learning the company originally hired is no longer available, Murphy said. Home Detail’s bid of $7,857 was the lower of two received.
Also approved was a bid from Advantage Computers of Iola to install security cameras in the dispatch center for $6,275, which was the lower of two bids received.
Commissioners said they likely will go with Hawk Business Specialties for signage on the front of the building to identify it as the Allen County Critical Response Center.

IOLAN Lorenzo Jensen spoke with commissioners about possible assistance he could receive from the county if he acquires Star-Bright Aviation at Allen County Airport. Jensen, owner of J & J Contractors and an avid pilot, said he had been approached by the flight school owners about acquiring the business.
Star-Bright officials announced in November that the flight school would close because of mounting debt.
Commissioners showed Jensen the contract the county had with Star-Bright, which included discounts on fuel, utilities and hangar rent. Jensen indicated he had not decided whether to acquire the company, and that his visit with commissioners was strictly a fact-finding mission.

A NEW porch for the front of the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department building will be installed by Superior Builders of Iola. The construction company will install a new metal frame for the porch, particularly for added support on the floor, at a cost of $2,120, the lower of two bids received.
In an unrelated matter, Diane Bertone, director of the Health Department, said H1N1 vaccinations are continuing for youths and those up to 64 who also suffer from long-term health problems.
Once those high-risk patients are vaccinated, H1N1 vaccine will be made available to the general public.