Red Willow County Commissioners tabled bids for new heater units at the Kiplinger Arena after questions arose over the disparity in two bids as well as questions about how the units would be paid for.
Fair Manager Jiles Bowman explained that three entities are involved with expenses at the fairgrounds, the fair board, the Kiplinger Fund, and the Kiplinger Foundation, a private nonprofit corporation that is independent of the county. Although taxpayer money would not be used to purchase the heaters and the Kiplinger buildings are self-supporting through activity rentals, they are still owned by Red Willow county.
District 2 Commissioner Randy Dean expressed concern that the county might be penalized if state auditors found problems with the arrangement next year.
Mondays meeting also included awarding a bid of $16,314 to Five Star Services LLC to replace a 100-gallon water heater at the Red Willow County Jail. Other bids included $20,200 from Volz Inc., $22,500 from Alexandria Plumbing LLC and $26,650.55 from Sowells Plumbing. The project will be paid for with American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The work involves lifting the 600-pound device to the roof of the jail with a crane and removing the old one.
Questions also arose about the prices the county is paying for fuel, which resulted from a city-county agreement with Frenchman Valley Co-op, which will expire at the end of the month. The fuel prices were set before inflation sent them soaring, resulting in a loss for the supplier, which so far has accepted payment at the contract price.
County staff was directed to contact possible suppliers for the price, as well as with the City of McCook for a possible joint bulk price agreement. District 3 Commissioner Charles Fritsche said he would check on diesel prices.
While the current snow is welcome, it will wreak havoc on county roads that have already been neglected, District 1 Commissioner Ted Gans said.
After a discussion in which Fritsche asked whether two new drivers might be needed, commissioners agreed unanimously to try to hire a new truck driver to haul gravel for the county roads department. The driver, who would be required to have a commercial driver’s license, would start on April 16. County Clerk Penny Cooper said there was money left in this years budget to pay for the position, which could then be built into next years fiscal budget.
Superintendent Josh Mullen delivered his annual report on the Noxious Weed Control Authority, saying most landowners have been cooperative in controlling the problem over the 2 1/2 years he has been in that position.
He said most landowners will take action to control things like thistle and spurge without having to be given official notification, which sets a deadline that could result in forced action by the county. Like most other counties, Red Willow would hire a private company to perform that work if necessary, rather than county crews doing it themselves. County workers to spray noxious weeds on road rights-of-way, however.
During the citizens comment period at the beginning of Mondays meeting, Dale Cotton of the McCook Army Air Base Society asked commissioners to support tourism in Southwest Nebraska, citing concerns about a proclamation opposing a proposed National Heritage Area as well as the 30×30 plan supported by President Biden.
Dean assured Cotton that that proclamation, passed last spring, did not oppose tourism development, and noted that the county supports programs like the Red Willow County Visitors Bureau. Carol Schlegel, director, visitors bureau director, was to deliver an annual report at Mondays meeting but was called away by a death in the family.
Gans also pointed out that the county has a $50,000 line item available in its budget each year in case an opportunity for a tourism grant or other project arises and urged Cotton to contact commissioners in that case.