At their Jan. 22 meeting, the Ford County Commissioners reluctantly agreed for the county to take one on the chin from the state transportation department.

Chris O'Neal, Ford County road and bridge supervisor, broke the news to commissioners that the state would be taking a much larger dip out of federal road funds.

The first bit of bad news from the Kansas Department of Transportation is that Kansas is no longer not allowing counties to "bank" unused federal funds from one year to the next, essentially draining an already shallow pool.

"If you don't get the funds reimbursed to you the year they are presented then you lose them," O'Neal said.

O'Neal also informed the commission that KDOT was reducing the exchange rate on federal funding. Under the Kansas Master Federal Funds Exchange Agreement, road and bridge money allocated to the county by the federal government is first collected by the state. The county submits receipts for work performed and the state then issues reimbursements.

However, if a project is not on a federal aid route, the state of Kansas and KDOT take a cut out of the federal funds. The state had previously kept 5 percent, but O'Neal said the state is now keeping 25 percent.

O'Neal said that in discussions with other road and bridge managers around the state, he's learned the 75 percent rate could have been worse. KDOT leaders had apparently wanted to do away with the program entirely but local project managers fought to keep it in place.

"From what it sounds like it's lucky we're getting 75 cents on the dollar," he said.

"This angers the hell out of me," commissioner Shawn Tasset said. "This comes at us from so many levels, it's like death from a thousand cuts. I guess 75 percent is better than nothing."

The commission also learned that the federal government was trying to get some free labor out of the county in preparation for the 2020 census.

Ben Rumbaugh, Ford County surveyor, said that the US Census Bureau had approached his department about participating in the Local Update to Census Addresses operation.

The Census Bureau implied that its numbers would be more accurate with additional counts by Ford County employees, and therefore the county could receive more federal money for population-based programs and grants.

Rumbaugh estimated that up to 120 hours of work and several thousand dollars would be required to accumulate the requested information from roughly 30,000 addresses, and any potential funding would not equal the cost to the county.

Tasset said the commission has evidence from last year's emergency management actions that Ford County's population numbers are wholly inaccurate. Under-reporting by individuals with fears over immigration status or address discrepancies makes counting heads in Ford County a dubious proposition.

"I've heard the thought process... that you go to the schools and figure out (census numbers) from the kids," Tasset said. "A lot of those kids that we're missing the census data on, they have been trained not to be telling things that their family doesn't want them to be divulging.

"If we're not going to be able to increase the accuracy why would we put that kind of expense into it?"

While many federal programs are census-based, Rumbaugh said that he believes participation in LUCA would not increase the accuracy of the 2020 census.

"The uncounted population, no matter what it is, still escapes the census no matter what we do," he said.

Commissioners ultimately voted 2-1 against participation in the LUCA operation. Tasset and Christopher Boys voted in favor, with Ken Snook opposing.

The commissioners approved an amendment to the 2017 Bloom wind project agreement. More wind turbines were ultimately constructed than were originally estimated in the pilot agreement and thus the farm generates a higher number of megawatts than expected. The county has been paid approximately $18,000 more than had been approximated and the approval was required so the county treasurer could disburse the funds.

Snook noted that the extra funds would come in handy for the much-needed improvements to the road servicing the farm. Ford County Counselor Glenn Kerbs said that the county has already received the payment of $406,560.

In other business, the commission unanimously approved Kerbs as counselor for the county. Kerbs' compensation will remain at the 2017 rate.

Commissioners voted to appoint Boys as chairman of the commission and Tasset as vice chair.

Danielle Crouch, manager of the Western State Bank Expo Center was granted permission to apply for an additional $20,000 in Mariah Fund grants for additional stalls.

A bid for $9,955 from Southwest Engineering and Cable for additional cable and wiring in the Emergency Operations Center was approved.

Discussion was tabled concerning a weather siren installation near Victory Estates and the Rolling Hills addition. Victory Electric has offered to convey two parcels to the county for placement of the siren, but commissioners want more information regarding maintenance of the parcels, potential liabilities, and possibly obtaining right-of-way versus taking actual ownership.

The commission approved $7,020 for radio management software licensing for communications equipment for Ford County Fire, Ford County Communications and the road and bridge department.

John Halbgewachs, Ford County engineer, presented the commission with an award from the Kansas Ready Mixed Concrete Association for the county's work in decorative concrete on the medical campus development.

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