Board of Canvassers holds special meeting; Ellis County Commission discusses updates on small business relief

BY CORIE LYNN

Following primary elections in Ellis County, all cast votes must be certified through the process of canvassing. Due to concerns involving the canvassing of the Aug. 4 primaries, the Board of Canvassers held a special meeting immediately preceding Monday’s Ellis County Commission meeting.

This meeting was in response to Hays resident John Bird’s concern that the board, specifically County Clerk and Election Officer, Donna Maskus, was withholding information about the primary and preventing Democratic write-in candidate Laura Allen from joining the ballot of the next election. He stated that Maskus would not disclose this information even after he sent a letter requesting it.

“After the certification of election, [Bird] will get his records that he’s requested on a public records request,” Maskus said in her statement to the board. “That will be granted at that time once approval is given.”

Both Bird and Maskus spoke during this meeting, centering their discussion on interpretation of the statute that prevents write-in candidates with total votes fewer than 5% of registered voters in Ellis County from being added to the ballot.

“This idea that 900 people have to have [written in one candidate] is, as I said in my original letter, just absurd,” Bird said.

Dustin Roths, chair of the Ellis County Republican Party, spoke at the meeting, as did Laura Allen. Roths argued against putting Allen on the ballot stating only serious candidates and those who have considered the decision to run should be present on the ballot. Allen spoke in response to defend her decision to run a write-in campaign in the primary and the next election.

“Perhaps I deliberated a little too long about deciding to run for County Clerk,” Allen said, “and I apologize for that. However, to imply that it was a lack of initiative or a lack of seriousness on my part is incorrect.”

Following clarification on the options for inclusion on the ballot, through petition, filing or a successful write-in campaign, and the committee’s decision to not place Allen on the next ballot, the special meeting adjourned, and Commissioners Butch Schlyer, Dustin Roths and Dean Haselhorst took their seats.

The County Commission meeting began with the approval of the consent agenda and the Monthly Department Report.

First on the agenda following the approvals was the county COVD-19 update, presented by Ellis County Health Officer Jason Kennedy.

With the conclusion of the update, Lyle Pantle, assistant director of fire and emergency management, spoke on the CDBG-CV grant contract that was approved between the county and the state.

According to Pantle, this grant presents Ellis County with $132,000 to use toward economic development, grants and microgrants as a response to economic impact in the area due to COVID-19.

Prior to the commission passing approval of the grant, County Administrator JD Cox noted that he had a similar small-business opportunity to report on later in the meeting.

In his County Administrator Report, Cox explained this opportunity was an announcement from Gov. Laura Kelly regarding an online portal entitled Back to Business.

The focus of Back to Business, which opened Wednesday, is relief for Kansas businesses. The website presents a variety of grants, including those for PPE Procuring and Production, Small Business Working Capital and Securing Local Food Systems.

According to Cox, Doug Williams of Grow Hays is offering application assistance to interested businesses.

Cox’s report also included an update on the Ellis CARES Act, which would provide funding relief in the county. He reported it has been filed with the state and he met with an auditor to discuss the act’s guidelines.

Following Pantle, Cox also gave the KWORC Delegate and Annual Meeting report, informing the commissioners that Ellis County must nominate two individuals to serve as delegate and alternate, and that they may nominate three individuals to represent the whole state as representatives at large and for northeast and southwest Kansas.

The commissioners chose the Chair and Vice-Chair as delegate and alternate. However, they did not nominate anyone for the other positions.

With these decisions made, the commissioners then approved the annual Tax Foreclosure Sale, presented by County Counselor Bill Jeter, and the update on the Ellis County Solid Waste Tire Disposal Event, presented by Landfill Foreman Vern Ruder.

This latter event, to be held from Sep. 21 to Oct. 3, allows half-price disposal of tires per pound.

Before adjourning the meeting Commisioner Roths gave his report.

He spoke on complaints he received against those assisting in the Ellis CARES Act. He also gave an update on his planning for Leadership Kansas-Northwest. According to Roths, the location will be split between Hays and Garden City this year. 

He stated that he also worked on “fundraising to show these 27 individuals the best of what northwest Kansas has to offer and what the town of Hays does in the industry around here–farming, oil, our robust colleges and secondary education as well as healthcare, which seem to be staples of our county.”

Neither Commissioner Haselhorst or Commissioner Schlyer gave a report.

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