On Douglas County’s legislative wish list: injection well reforms, more funding for state’s criminal justice system
photo by: Chris Conde
The Douglas County Commission has added some high priorities to its legislative wish list for 2019: more funding for courts and community corrections, and reforms to the permitting process that utility regulators use for saltwater injection wells.
Commissioners approved the county’s 2019 legislative priorities at their regular Wednesday meeting. Each year, the county compiles the list and asks the local members of the Kansas Legislature to advocate for those items during the next legislative session.
Before the meeting, County Administrator Craig Weinaug had identified several high priorities for the list in a report — comprehensive criminal justice reform, including a reduction in the lengths of state-mandated sentences; passage of a new state transportation plan that would include funding to expand the west leg of Kansas Highway 10 to four lanes; and expansion of Medicaid in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act.
The commission had no problems with any of those items. However, each commissioner wanted one item added to the list of high priorities.
Citing complaints from county residents, Commission Chair Nancy Thellman said local legislators should advocate for reforms to the Kansas Corporation Commission’s approval process for saltwater injection wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater that results from oil and gas extraction processes. Specifically, she said she wanted public hearings to be required before any application for an injection well permit could move forward.
Meanwhile, Commissioners Mike Gaughan and Michelle Derusseau wanted two criminal justice funding issues to be addressed.
Gaughan wanted local legislators to advocate for more funding for the state’s court system, and Derusseau wanted the state to fully fund community corrections initiatives such as adult and youth probation programs. In his report to the commission, Weinaug touched on those issues, saying that the state had neglected both in recent years and the county had been forced to pick up the slack. Weinaug’s report also states that the community corrections spending pays for itself through reduced crime and recidivism rates.
In other business, the County Commission approved:
• Agreements with Forensic Medical Holdings and to retain Dr. Altaf Hossain for county coroner services for 2019. The agreements establish the rate for autopsies at $1,650 and death scene investigations at $300.
• Approved two permit requests from RD Johnson Excavating on property the company owns at at 1600 North 1250 Road. The first was a one-year temporary business permit to burn brush and tree limbs brought to the site. The second was a 10-year conditional use permit for a clean-rubble construction material landfill and topsoil removal operation. Under the conditions of the permit, the company must arrange annual dust-control coatings on East 1600 Road with the county’s public works department.