Working together to perform an increasingly difficult job was the common theme as officials from Barton County’s 22 townships gathered at the Columbus Club Great Bend for their Annual Township Meeting Monday morning.
“If we try to work together, we can make some things happen,” said Great Bend Township Clerk Lynn Engle. He spoke to the gathering about working to create opportunities for townships to share equipment and operators with one another to be able to help their limited resources stretch farther.
According to Barton County Counselor Patrick Hoffman, Barton County is one of 35 Kansas counties where townships maintain rural gravel roads, which is a primary responsibility of these township governments. The county does not maintain these roads, but is available as a resource to help township officials.
Reminding township officials that the county stands as a resource is one of the primary functions of this annual meeting.
According to Hoffman and County Engineer Barry McManaman, township officials also often serve as a primary point of contact for township residents dealing with a variety of issues, from roads to zoning to building new structures on their land, and more. Doing all of this with limited resources, according to Hoffman, can make township jobs a very difficult one to fill.
“Thank you for being a township official,” Hoffman told attendees, repeating a refrain he said he shares every year. “It is a thankless job, I worry about what happens if we can’t find people to do it.”
He noted that there are other counties in Kansas that have had to move away from the township system of administration because of an inability to find people willing to perform the role of township officials.
In addition, “we like bringing the township officials up to date the things the county operations have accomplished over the past year, anything that is coming up,” said McManaman. “We want them to be aware of the things that are out there that can help them do their jobs, We want to help them]partner with other townships, and be able to spread ideas.”
Presenters from several different county departments offered attendees guidance on things they might encounter in the course of their jobs. McManaman updated officials on road projects the county was working on and other projects that were planned in the near future.
Other county officials that served as presenters included County Works Director Darren Williams, County Appraiser Barb Esfeld, Communications/911 Director Dena Popp, Environmental Management/Zoning Director Judy Goreham and several others. Topics covered ranged from zoning and floodplain issues, to septic system and water well requirements, property value and appraisal updates, to 911 addressing and dispatching, to disaster assistance, and more.
Several vendors, who also helped fund the annual event, were also on hand to provide additional resources for township officials in attendance.
Norm Bowers, Local Roads Engineer for the Kansas Association of Counties, was also on hand as in past years to share the importance of officials keeping themselves educated and current.
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” Bowers said. “We’ve got to stay informed and keep up with the times.”
As such, Hoffman advised officials on the importance of adhering to the Kansas Open Meetings Act, something all state governing bodies must abide by. He brief them on some specifics of what KOMA entails, since the public is who these officials are ultimately accountable to for the decisions they make with the township’s resources.