Archive for Thursday, February 6, 2014

County looking at budget, purchasing reforms

The Douglas County Courthouse is the seat of Douglas County government.

The Douglas County Courthouse is the seat of Douglas County government.

February 6, 2014

Private entities that receive public money from Douglas County would have to provide more disclosure about how they spend that money under a proposal being considered by the County Commission.

Commissioner Mike Gaughan outlined a package of reforms he wants to see enacted in the coming year. Some would apply to items and services purchased directly by county agencies.

But others would apply to outside agencies like the Douglas County Dental Clinic, Visiting Nurses Association and the Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Partnership that receive appropriations from the county to support their operations.

"This is something I've been in discussions with (county administrator) Craig (Weinaug) for about five years," Gaughan said.

And while he did not identify any specific problems that have occurred in the past, he said there needed to be more accountability and transparency in the process, "to make sure we're getting what we pay for, and getting what we expected to get."

For outside agencies that receive county funding, Gaughan is proposing that a written agreement be prepared in advance outlining how much support the county would provide as well as "oversight and monitoring requirements" the county may choose to impose. Funding agreements could be canceled if the agency fails to comply with those requirements.

In addition, according to the proposal, "Each agency that receives an annual appropriation from Douglas County must maintain a copy of the records and files related to the appropriation, and indicate that such records and files are subject to the Kansas Open Records Act and may be disclosed by Douglas County."

Commissioners Nancy Thellman and Jim Flory said they needed more time to study the proposed changes, and they will likely discuss them further at the commission's next meeting Feb. 19.

Weinaug said the commission would need to vote on changes to direct purchasing procedures used by county agencies, but changes in the budget and appropriation process could be made informally by consensus.

In other business, county commissioners:

• Conducted a study session about a proposed $6.5 million master plan for improvements at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

• Authorized the Public Works Department and administrative staff to enter discussions about the possible sale of 4.78 acres near the new Public Works facility to the Kansas Department of Transportation to house a storage facility for sand and gravel and possibly a fuel station that could be used by both entities.

• Postponed a study session to discuss possible development codes for wind energy projects because weather conditions made it impossible for some interested parties from out of town to attend.

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