County board to use part of ARPA funds for jail HVAC work | News

Butler County will be using a small portion of its American Rescue Plan Act funds for HVAC work at its jail.

During the Butler County Board’s regular meeting March 7, supervisors OK’d a $11,100 bid from Duct Defense Midwest to clean the ducts and heating pumps in the Butler County Detention Center’s HVAC system.

“They’ve never been gone through other than just changing filters every six weeks, which they get build-up in because the way it is up above the ceilings,” said Ken Pelan, who provides maintenance work to the county.

The original plan was just the duct work but Pelan said the county had also received bids for the other work too. District 5 Supervisor Jan Sypal and District 6 Supervisor Ryan Svoboda said they believed it was feasible for both projects to be done at once.

“We didn’t know if it was possible that could use any of this COVID money towards something like this,” Pelan added. “The bids then are going to be over $10,000 to do the duck work plus go through the heat pumps and do them as well.”

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Members of the board indicated that they had no issue with using ARPA money for the project.

Butler County Clerk Stephanie Laska said the county will receive just over $1.5 million in ARPA funds. The county has already received the first half of the money and will see the remaining amount arrive in May, she added.

“It has to be obligated by a certain amount of time, then you have to two more years to actually spend it,” Laska said. “You have to track it the whole time. We’re small enough that we just have to report annually on what funds we’ve spent and were not spent.”

Supervisors also held further discussion on the possibility of outsourcing and training 911 dispatchers at the Columbus-Platte County Joint Communications Center (JCC). But, as noted during the March 1 meeting, recent information received renders that no longer feasible.

District 7 Supervisor Anthony Whitmore said the measure would end up costing Butler County quite a bit of money. There is a radio difference between Platte and Butler counties, Whitmore noted, and either Butler County would have to replace all of the fire departments’ radios or they would need to connect remotely. But connecting remotely may be a problem if the internet is not working.

The rough estimate to replace that equipment is at least $50,000. Also, Whitmore said, the county would need to pay approximately $92,000 to Zuercher Technologies.

In 2019, as previously reported by The Banner-Press, Butler County entered into an interlocal agreement to move to a new case management system – Zuercher Technologies – that included a number of other public safety agencies in Seward, York and Saline counties. According to a Nov. 10 Banner-Press article, the purpose had been to achieve a public safety system cohesion by getting everyone on the same software but the jails in the places where the software is live are noncompliant with state regulations. Counties with noncompliant jails can face fines.

Butler County still has about $23,000 left to pay off before going live with the software, which had cost a total of about $120,000. But, if the supervisors were to move ahead with outsourcing to JCC, they would have to pay an additional $92,000.

JCC Communications Director Rachel Pensick said it comes down to Butler County having different servers than her facility.

“All of your information that you’ve done so far sits on those servers. And so basically you would be paying to have all the information put on to our server and working out of the same system,” Pensick said.

Pensick suggested that the supervisors consider taking the money it would cost to outsource 911 operations and reinvesting it into the county’s own dispatchers.

“You can hire people to help you consult on policies and procedures for probably way lower costs than here,” Pensick said. “If outsourcing is still something you’re thinking of right now, your best options would probably be to look into one of those agencies that share your server space.”

For Butler County, Seward County is one that shares its server space. It was noted during the meeting that Seward County is now compliant in regards to the Zuercher software and its jail.

As for dispatcher guides, Pensick said Zuercher is helpful in that matter.

“When you go live on Zuercher, a lot of that stuff can be programmed into your Zuercher system, it’ll just pop right up on your screen exactly what you’re supposed to ask, exactly what you’re supposed to say. And it’ll suggest to you based on the location and the call type, these are the departments you need to send,” she said.

The board indicated that further discussion would be held on the subject.

The Butler County Board of Supervisors also:

  • Approved purchasing three Ford vehicles for the Butler County Sheriff’s Office at costs of $35,225; $37,582; and $36,273. The vehicles will have equipment installed at a cost of $16,326 each, to be paid for by Seward County.
  • OK’d sending a letter of support of Legislative Bill 805 to District 23 Sen. Bruce Bostelman and District 24 Sen. Mark Kolterman, who both represent Butler County. LB805 would amend the Noxious Weed Control Act, which would add flood plains to the area that vegetation would be managed and increases appropriated funds from $1 million to $3 million. Butler County Weed Superintendent Max Birkel said the bill would have a positive impact on the county.

Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach her via email at hannah.schrodt@lee.net.