Ford County Commission drops KDHE grant discussion

Judd Weil
Dodge City Daily Globe

At the Ford County Commission meeting Monday, commissioners opted not to vote on letting the Ford County Health Department apply for a grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that would allow for expanded COVID-19 testing in Ford County.

This $179,695.64 grant would have helped the Ford County Health Department pay for any additional testing devices and measures, such as more kits or other equipment geared toward testing, laboratory testing and assistance for long-term care facilities, should the need arise.

Since this grant agreement would have been in effect until November 2022, if something were to change, it could have been rewritten so that portions of funding could be applied differently, such as being used to pay for overtime extensions.

The commissioners’ decision to not act on calling a motion is the same as voting against a proposition, county administrator J.D. Gilbert said in an email.

The decision was made on the grounds that the conditions of the grant agreement would mean that they would have to, as read by Commissioner Shawn Tasset, “comply with existing and or future directives and guidance from the CDC and KDHE.”

This was originally interpreted that if commissioners were to have accepted the grant agreement, it would conflict with Ford County’s established decision to opt out of Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive orders.

Ford County Health Department administrator Angela Sowers explained that regardless of what the agreement terms and conditions specified, Ford County would still enforce the isolation and quarantine orders of individuals as it is a required statute backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and KDHE.

“We’ve opted out of a lot of things, but that’s something we cannot opt out of and that’s kind of where I consider that language falling,” Sowers said. “Same with testing, there’s not variables on testing.

“So, we’re going to keep following their (CDC and KDHE) guidelines when it comes to us performing tests, how those are performed, what laboratory we use, what equipment we use.”

Tasset said that while he agrees, he feels that the way the terms and conditions of the agreement are written, with emphasis on “future directives,” that Ford County opens itself up to unwanted interventions that risk local control after deciding to opt out of current suggestive directives.

Sowers said that while the grant is valid until November 2022 and there is no immediate need for it yet, it was an ideal security measure for Ford County’s future, and that Ford County could have had the opportunity to rescind the grant should they choose after no longer needing it.

The possibility of using this grant to test for influenza and strep throat as well as COVID-19 could also have been discussed, according to Sowers.

Since commissioners chose to not move forward with a motion, the grant opportunity will now be allocated to another county.

Commissioners also passed, 3-0, a local disaster declaration proposed by Ford County Fire and EMS instating a countywide burn ban.

Ford County Fire and EMS Chief Rob Boyd cited the long-term forecast not working in their benefit to remedy the continual dry state.

“While we don’t have a lot of problems with controlled burns, we have had a few that bit us a week or so later even,” Boyd said.

An assessment agreement between the Santa Fe Trail Community Corrections and the University of Utah was signed after being passed 3-0, allowing the implementation process of gender-specific risk management assessment programs for both men and women currently on probation, while using the University of Utah as an agency school for the female specific program.

The University of Utah possesses the license to train correctional staff in the Women’s Risk Needs Assessment that will be used for the women’s side of Santa Fe Trail Community Corrections.

Commissioners also voted 3-0 to again hold the Ford County Employee Appreciation Luncheon at the Western State Bank Expo Center. It will be held on Dec. 10.