Officials make plan for disease outbreak

By The Mercury

Detection of a foreign animal disease in the area would create a logistical challenge for emergency personnel, Pottawatomie County officials learned last week.

Participating in a simulated foreign animal disease (FAD) drill Wednesday and Thursday, October 9-10, emergency officials went through the motions of dealing with a myriad of unforeseen complications.

“It was a learning experience,” Chris Trudo, Pott County emergency management director, told county commissioners Monday. “Due to the cost, they probably won’t do it again for several years, but we all learned a lot; everything it takes to deal with the situation.”

The simulation scenario involved a suspected infected animal from Alabama discovered at Kansas State University.

A 1.5-mile radius of the campus was declared immediately as an “infected area,” while a “quarantined area” extended to a six-mile radius, encroaching into Pottawatomie County.

“It was a functional exercise, meaning we did everything but move equipment and people,” Trudo said. There were about 200 “players” involved from state agencies, Riley and Pottawatomie counties, and Kansas State University.

In Pott County, emergency personnel were tasked with closing roads and setting up 24-hour checkpoints to prevent potential spread of the disease; recruiting firefighters for decontamination; and diverting incoming livestock to alternate sites.

“We even had to deal with a suicidal rancher who thought his herd was going to be destroyed,” Trudo said.

Besides emergency management, Pott County departments participating in the two-day exercise included public works, health, sheriff and GIS, Trudo said.

“The big thing we took out of it is we’re probably not going to have the people to handle it if it ever does occur,” he said.

In other business Monday:

• Jim Jenkins, assistant public works director, reported the deck on the new Wilson Creek Bridge on Westmoreland Rd. was poured last week. 

With guard rails and approaches still to be completed, the bridge northwest of Westmoreland should be completed by mid-November, Jenkins said.

Jenkins also said the road bed on Vineyard Rd. north of U.S. Highway 24 should be complete this week and ready for asphalt overlay.

Commissioners Gary Yenzer and Stan Hartwich, however, questioned the wisdom of paving before allowing the road to go through a freeze-thaw cycle to improve the base.

“When we built the fire station over there we didn’t want to pave it until after the first winter to get a good base,” Yenzer said.

“We’ve got a pretty good base on Vineyard,” Jenkins noted, and commissioners said they would leave the decision to the public works department.

• Hartwich, the county’s representative to the Flint Hills Regional Council, said that agency is expected to decide this Friday whether or not to move forward with a proposed visitor center at the intersection of Interstate-70 and K-177, south of Manhattan.

“At the last meeting I told them not to expect much out of Pottawatomie County,” Hartwich said. “We’ve got enough things to fund ourselves.”

• Commissioner Pat Weixelman said he was going to ask the sheriff’s department to patrol and issue tickets to motorists violating the 20 mile-per-hour speed limit along Say Rd. from Missile Base Rd. to Kaw Valley Rd.

The commission implemented the reduced speed last year to improve the safety of youngsters walking to Wamego Middle School. 

“From what I hear, the biggest abusers are the school buses going 30 or 40 miles per hour,” Weixelman said.

• Weixelman also questioned why a burned-out house on K-99 at Louisville had not been demolished and removed.

Since the house is within the Louisville city limits, it’s a city issue unless it becomes a health hazard, according to Robert Reece, county administrator.

“It needs to be taken care of before winter, as far as I’m concerned,” Weixelman said.

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