Pottawatomie County operations continue to run smoothly following the departure of Administrator Robert Reece last week.

That was the message to county commissioners Monday from those who worked under Reece in the administration department.

“My personal perspective is Robert has left us in a good position, and we’re not in dire straits right now,” said Crystal Malchose, director of human resources.

The commission last Monday accepted a letter of retirement from Reece, who had been county administrator for the past 20 years.

According to the letter, Reece was out of the office beginning last Monday and will be on administrative leave through Jan 8, 2020. Reece gave no explanation for his departure.

Commissioner Pat Weixelman noted that Reece put a lot of hours into his position and trained assistants who, over the years, have assumed administrative responsibilities.

“They all went to the Robert Reece school, so we should be in pretty good shape,” Weixelman said.

To begin the search for Reece’s replacement, Malchose distributed copies of the administrator’s job description, as well as the county employee handbook for review by commissioners and administrative assistants.

The commission is expected to continue discussion of a search for a new county administrator at its July 29 meeting. That discussion is expected to include discussion of a retirement reception for Reece.

In a related matter Monday, the commission — following an executive session — approved pay increases for Malchose, $75,000; Chad Kinsley, management assistant of operations, $72,000; and Heather Gladbach, management assistant of finance, $72,000, “for meeting the obligations of the county” until January 8, 2020, Reece’s official retirement date.

In other business Monday:

• The commission authorized construction to begin on a new EMS station/sheriff’s substation to serve the Blue Township area.

The 4,800-square-foot facility will be constructed along Green Valley Road on two county-owned lots in the northwest corner of the Green Valley Industrial Park.

The design includes two drive-through bays for ambulances, a living area for EMS (Emergency Medical Services) personnel, and office space for sheriff’s deputies serving the area. The design will also accommodate the potential addition of a fire station in the future.

Earlier this year, the commission accepted the low bid of $820,000 from Schultz Construction to build the facility.

Construction is expected to begin in early August, with an estimated completion date of mid-January, according to Brett Ballou of Schultz Construction.

• Chris Trudo, emergency management director, advised the commission of his retirement Sept. 27.

“It’s been an honor and privilege to serve the people of Pottawatomie County the past 12 years,” Trudo told commissioners.

Trudo recommended Jennifer Merrow, currently emergency management coordinator, as his replacement.

• Jared Barnes, fire supervisor, said the recent open house for the new Havensville fire station was well-attended.

“Everybody is very pleased with the Havensville station,” Barnes said. “They’re very proud of what they have and I think it has boosted morale.”

Barnes also reported 559 total calls through June of this year. There was a dramatic drop in the number of calls for grass fires––34 this year compared to 117 during the same period in 2018, Barnes said.

• Lisa Wright, treasurer, reported $805,815 (1.34 percent) of levied property taxes remain unpaid for the current fiscal year.

Of the original $60.2 million in property taxes levied in the county, $59.34 million have been paid, according to Wright.

The treasurer said she is preparing to publish the annual delinquent tax list, and is working with Counselor John Watt on a tax foreclosure sale sometime in late September or early October.

• Hal Bumgarner, director of Emergency Medical Services, said the county has received $417,545 for ambulance services through the first six months of the year, more than half of the approximately $700,000 billed.

“That’s over 50 percent, which is amazing for EMS,” Bumgarner said.

Through June, EMS averaged 5.5 runs per day, but had six days of more than 10 runs each last month.

On July 4, county ambulances had 19 runs, a record for the relatively new EMS service, according to Bumgarner.

“It was a challenging day, but we got through it,” he said.

• The commission approved an agreement with developer Dave Nelson, who agreed to meet an upcoming bond payment for special assessments on lots sold to a builder.

The builder did not pay the assessments and has since filed for bankruptcy, according to Watt, who said Nelson would be reimbursed after the bankruptcy is settled.