Senior center proposed as site of county disaster shelter – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Senior center proposed as site of county disaster shelter

The Osage County Senior Center will be the county’s first designated disaster shelter if details are worked out with the American Red Cross.

Senior center director Byron Jordan and Osage County’s emergency preparedness director Bryce Romine met with county commissioners Monday to discuss a proposal received from the Red Cross to establish a shelter.

In a letter from Lisa Biggs, Red Cross disaster program manager, she asks the county to partner with the organization to prepare for disasters by allowing “the Red Cross to utilize one or more of your facilities to provide shelter for disaster victims.”

“When large groups of people are temporarily displaced from their homes during and after disasters, the American Red Cross responds by opening and operating shelters,” Biggs said.

Osage County Ken Kuykendall said the commissioners had reviewed the proposal and “We think it’s a good idea.”

Romine said he had been working for three years toward establishing Red Cross’ presence in the county, noting the county currently has no official disaster shelter.

The commissioners, Romine and Jordan agreed the senior center, located in Osage City, would be an appropriate place to set up a shelter. Jordan said his concern was about providing food for the shelter and ensuring the shelter would not interfere with the daily senior meals that are served at the center.

“We don’t have any food on site,” Jordan said, noting that Mid America Nutrition delivers the senior meals to the center Monday through Friday.

“American Red Cross has to understand that Mid America Nutrition’s service has to go on,” Jordan said.

He suggested that Mid America Nutrition might be agreeable to providing food service for people sheltered at the site in the event of a disaster.

Noting tornadoes that hit Reading and Harveyville in recent years, Kuykendall said, “We think this is important that we have shelters before they’re needed.”

Romine agreed, “Trying to establish a shelter is not something we want to do in the middle of a disaster.”

Kuykendall directed Romine and Jordan to work with the Red Cross on the details of the agreement to use the senior center as a disaster shelter.

Romine said several other buildings in the county were being considered for use as disaster shelters including the Grace Community Church at Overbrook and the community centers at Lyndon and Melvern. He said Red Cross would need to inspect those facilities to see if they meet requirements for shelters.

Commissioners also heard updates on courthouse computer technical issues. Becky Bartley, of the land use department, reported the computer she uses to run mapping software was having problems, and would require updating soon due to being a Windows XP machine. Commissioners were recently informed by a tech company representative that Microsoft would soon be discontinuing support for Windows XP.

Bartley presented an estimate to purchase a Dell Precision T3600 at $4,374, saying the computer purchased for her department in 2008 cost $5,000. She said the workstation type computer was necessary for running mapping software.

Saying that Bartley required a “special machine, not just a desktop” Kuykendall justified the purchase, and along with county commissioners Gaylord Anderson and Carl Meyer approved it.

Bartley also brought up that recent changes in the courthouse’s internet firewall have prevented her from viewing YouTube, where training videos are located for the software she uses. Osage County counselor Caleb Crook confirmed that he had asked the county’s temporary tech support service to “leave everything open except for Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube.”

Bartley said YouTube had not been blocked on all computers in the courthouse, and commissioners considered whether the video website needed to be blocked.

Crook said he also uses instructive videos on YouTube.

“I don’t think I have a problem with everybody having YouTube,” Crook said.

Kuykendall said the commissioners did not want county employees spending time viewing social media websites, but it was the department heads’ responsibility to oversee Internet use in their offices.

“The department heads ought to be watching it,” Kuykendall said, and agreed that YouTube should be unblocked.

Osage County Clerk Rhonda Beets said she would instruct the representative of Thompson Reuters, the firm that is currently handling the courthouse’s computer tech support, to unblock the video website.

The commissioners also met with Stacy Berry, county appraiser, who said progress is being made on restoring data on her office’s computer system. A computer server crashed about five weeks ago, and work is underway to restore the data on a state-operated remote server. She said it was hoped the data would be available this week, but it was unlikely that her office would be able to certify property valuation as is required by Jan. 15 of each year.

Berry requested that her office be allowed 20 hours of overtime or comp time for three employees to catch up on work after the server data is restored. After a lengthy discussion about the county’s comp time policies, which normally do not allow comp time, the commissioners agreed to a “special rule” to allow a combination of comp time and overtime, which would be reimbursed to the employee at time and a half. Crook advised that those employees would need to sign an agreement regarding the stipulations of receiving comp time.

The commissioners also noted they were still receiving bids for information technology services, and hoped to make a decision on a company to provide the county’s IT services in a few weeks. The commissioners terminated the county’s IT department and sole IT employee, Robert Duncan, in November.

Commissioners also met with Osage County road and bridge supervisor Glen Tyson to discuss a bridge that needed to be unexpectedly closed last week due to deterioration of its substructure.

Bob Chambers, of Cook, Flatt, and Strobel Engineering, and Tyson reported on the reason the bridge on Jordan Road, about two miles south of state Highway 31 near Melvern was closed. Tyson presented photos of the defective substructure, which showed that a support beam of the concrete bridge was in danger of slipping off of a pedestal. The bridge, which is about ¼ mile north of 325th Street, goes over the BNSF rail line.

Chambers and Tyson reported they were still investigating how to repair the bridge. The bridge was closed to all traffic last Friday, with Tyson saying it is unknown how long the bridge will remain closed.

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