Daily Archives: June 16, 2010

Trash talk becomes philosophical among county commissioners

Sedgwick County commissioners are debating whether to raise the $4.04 solid waste fee that residents pay every year to pay for a place to dispose of computers, televisions and tires as well as provide a financial cushion for storm debris cleanup.

To do all of that would cost residential property owners an extra $3.80 a year on their tax bill.

Commissioners debated whether the charge is a fee or a tax. Chairman Karl Peterjohn said he considers it a tax because everyone must pay for it, even if they don’t use the county’s household hazardous waste site or take advantage of electronic waste disposal events.

Commissioner Kelly Parks, who is not seeking re-election, said he would like to see the county raise the charge to pay for special projects and events. But he also noted that those running for re-election — commissioners Dave Unruh and Gwen Welshimer — might not be supportive of raising taxpayers’ bills.

Unruh said he would support raising the charge 20 cents to build up a cushion for storm debris cleanup. But he said he would be hard-pressed to raise the fee by $3.80 a year.

Peterjohn again reiterated that the fee is a tax. He said all property owners must pay the charge even if they don’t use any of the county’s trash services.

Commissioner Tim Norton countered that there are many county services he pays for as a taxpayer but doesn’t use.

He didn’t take advantage of mental health services last year but supports paying for them, he said. He didn’t take advantage of services for the aging, he said — although he joked he likely qualified for them.

“I don’t drive on the roads in your district, but I support paying for them,” Norton told Peterjohn.

Commissioners made no decision about the solid waste charge. They are hearing from department heads now about their budget requests but won’t make any formal decisions about next year’s budget until August.

County manager William Buchanan will present his recommended budget July 14.

Garden Plain settles jail fees suit with Sedgwick County

Garden Plain will pay $883 to Sedgwick County to settle a lawsuit over jail fees.

Garden Plain joins a growing list of cities in the county that have chosen to settle over the fees, which the county began charging in 2008 to house inmates in jail on municipal-only charges.

Wichita, which owes millions, has refused to pay the fees.

Read more about the settlement in Thursday’s Eagle.

Number of offenders in alternative programs outpacing decrease in jail population

Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan told commissioners this morning that while the jail’s population is slightly down this year, the number of offenders in alternative programs continues to grow, 0utpacing any gains in the jail’s population.

At the request of commissioner Gwen Welshimer, Buchanan made the first of what he said would be regular reports about criminal justice issues in the community. The county earlier this year cut its ties with a consultant it had hired, Justice Concepts Inc., to find ways to reduce the jail’s population.

The average daily population at the jail from January through May this year was 1,541 compared with 1,603 for the same time period last year, Buchanan reported.

Offenders in a day reporting alternative program grew from 132 in May 2009 to 301 in May this year, he said. The number of offenders in a pre-trial service program grew from 200 in May 2009 to 284 in May this year.

Likewise, the number of offenders in an adult intensive supervision program grew from and average daily population of 1,415 in May 2009 to 1,448 in May this year. Participation in other programs such as drug court also grew.

Alternative programs are less costly for the county to operate. It costs $66.20 a day to house an inmate in the Sedgwick County Jail; sending an inmate to a facility outside the county costs $39.23 per day.

Buchanan said the district attorney’s office and court officials continue to focus on reducing the turnaround time for completing journal entries, a problem brought to the county’s attention by The Wichita Eagle earlier this year. Journal entries are paperwork required before an inmate can be transferred to state prison. After The Eagle reported that the reports were taking an average 60 to 90 days to complete, the district attorney’s office cut the turnaround time, and the county hired an additional staff person to process them. Buchanan told commissioners that journal entries not completed within 30 days are now flagged.

Sedgwick County HR director gives herself a retirement clock

After working 30 years for Sedgwick County, human resources director Jo Templin will retire July 1.

Templin typically hands out crystal clocks to county employees who are retiring, recognizing them at county commission meetings. This time it was Templin’s turn to get a clock.

Noting that she loves awards shows of any kind, Templin fashioned her remarks to commissioners after an Oscars acceptance speech, thanking her cast and crew over the years.

Commissioners thanked Templin for her three decades of service, calling her a consummate professional and good role model for employees.

Paraphrasing actress Sally Field’s acceptance speech at the 1985 Academy Awards, board member Tim Norton told Templin that she should hold her clock above her head and proclaim “You like me, you really like me.”