Commissioners Move Forward With Cawker Causeway Project

The Mitchell County Commissioners met on Monday morning February 12. During the meeting, the commissions discussed the upcoming Cawker Causeway project, via telephone, with federal project manager Bob Bowden. Commissioner Tom Claussen noted that the contractor’s bid came in considerably higher than expected compared to initial estimates. Bowden said it’s not unusual for such bids to come in above engineer’s estimates, but they tend to level back out during the negotiation process. Bowden said they are not locked into anything unless they come together on a price point.

Another representative joined Bowden on the call and said they have other options for contractors if they cannot come to an agreement on the price of the bid. He said over the course of six years in his current position they have been able to work out details with original sought out contractors. He said they will go line by line with the contractor to hammer out details and settle discrepancies between their estimates and the preliminary bid. The bid currently stands at $1.126 million. Initial estimates were around $909,000 in total.

Commissioner Jim Marshall said since the project was initially considered, there have been several delays including the fact that the Bureau of Reclamation never completed a needed survey. Previous project manager, Jeff Jerome, told the commissioners that the hold-up on moving forward with the project because of this needed survey regarding right of ways along the project area. Bowden said he was unsure how that plays into getting the project negotiated, finalized and ready for work to begin. Bowden said he was ready to conduct negotiations with the contractor this week. The commissioners gave their blessing for him to do so.

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Tentative plans are for the project to begin around July 16 and be completed in approximately six weeks. The roadway would be closed during the work schedule. The group discussed the availability of aggregate rock to serve as a base for the parking area which is expected to be installed as well as fill dirt, if needed.

Director of Public Works Dale Housh discussed a pair of trucks they are considering for purchase from WT Repair. He said the truck they are most interested in is listed at about $38,000 which is $15,000 less than what they can get elsewhere in a comparable vehicle. The truck is a Kenworth with around 380,000 miles on it. They are looking for a truck with a wet kit. This truck is set up to accommodate one, but currently does not have one connected. Housh said that one could be fitted to the truck for less than $5,000.

Commissioner Tom Claussen said they should verify the cost of installing a wet kit on the truck before moving forward with the purchase of a truck. WT Repair will have more trucks coming in soon which the county may consider as well. The county currently owns two semi-trucks. One is primarily used to move heavy equipment, and the other is consistently in use in varying applications. The commissioners agreed, in principle, to purchase the semi preferred by Housh if WT Repair would agree to repair or accept a return of the truck if there is debris found in the oil once acquired.

EMS Director Eric Hamel was on hand to discuss the proposed new time clock system for the county. He also delivered the EMS report for the month of January. A total of 57 runs were reported for the month. Among those, 44 calls came from in and around Beloit, five in Cawker City, five in the Glen Elder area and two in Tipton.

On average, Saturday’s were the busiest days for the EMS last month. The average response time from call received to unit in route was less than five minutes. Forty-five of the 57 runs had a response time of less than three minutes. About half of the calls answered for the month involved patients over the age of 60. The service also conducted eight patient transfers to Salina Regional Medical Center, one to Salina Surgical Hospital and one to Via Christi Medical Center in Wichita.  The service billed a total of $81,672 for the month.

Hamel said the service responded to 619 calls last year. In 2016, the total was around 570. The commissioners said they received a bill of approximately $3,300 for mechanical work on the fuel system of one of the ambulance units. Hamel confirmed the work has been completed, and they were expecting to pick it up on Monday. At the last meeting, Hamel discussed potentially acquiring a new ambulance due to having multiple issues with some of the current units. He priced new ambulances at about $186,000.

Following an executive session with Weed Department Director Stan Deneke, the commissioners approved a 50 cent per hour merit pay increase for Deneke’s secretary, Cindy McCullough.

After further continued discussion about a new time clock system, the commissioners approved the purchase and installation.

Finally, a proclamation was approved by the commissioners designating February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in Mitchell County.

The Mitchell County Commissioners are next scheduled to meet on Monday, February 19 at 8:30 a.m. t the courthouse in Beloit.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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