Schultz Construction, Manhattan, was the low bidder Monday on Pottawatomie County’s new fleet maintenance facility.

Schultz was one of six contractors to bid on the project, the largest capital improvement project approved this fiscal year by the county commission.

Schultz submitted a base bid of $1.13 million, nearly $350,000 below the engineer’s estimate of $1.47 million.

There were, however, 10 alternates to the basic project that will likely drive the cost higher, depending on how many are ultimately accepted by the commission.

Clint Hibbs of BG Consultants, project engineer, had originally placed the total estimated cost at $1.98 million.

The facility is the most costly of 13 capital improvement projects authorized by the commission this fiscal year at a total estimated cost of $3.5 million.

The plan is to erect a 132-foot-by-80-foot metal building on a tract south of the current county shop yard purchased in February from the city of Westmoreland.

The facility will include offices, a shop area, inventory space and five bays for maintenance of county vehicles.

Other firms submitting bids for the project included D.F. Osborne Construction, Topeka; Riley Construction, Wamego; Nelson Fowles, McPherson; Trinium Contractors, Manhattan; and Walters Morgan Construction, Manhattan.

Peter Clark, public works director, will review the bids and make a recommendation to the commission Jan. 27 on awarding the bid and which alternates to accept.

In other business Monday:

• Sanitarian Scott Schwinn reported a total of 14,034 tons of solid waste transferred from the county landfill in 2019. That’s 3,490 tons more than the previous year, due primarily to an additional commercial hauler using the facility, according to Schwinn.

Landfill revenue in 2019 increased by $153,000, but expenses were also up due to increased transfer costs, he said.

Schwinn also said two sites in the county are being investigated for illegal dumping by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

“There has been some activity, and KDHE has contacted the landowners,” Schwinn told commissioners.

The commission last month authorized Schwinn and the public works department to send an application to KDHE to administer the cleanup through its Bureau of Waste Management for Environmental Compliance.

The two properties are on Blackjack Road in St. George and on K-99 Highway in Blaine.

• Betty Abitz, register of deeds, said mortgage filings and indebtedness in the county increased dramatically in 2019.

There were 1,181 mortgages filed with her office in 2019, 78 more than the previous year.

Total mortgage indebtedness increased even more significantly from about $215 million in 2018 to just more than $572 million last year.

Abitz also complimented the commission on its selection of Chad Kinsley as county administrator.

“I really appreciate your choice for administrator,” she said. “Chad has done a wonderful job, and I’m getting some great vibes in our building.”

• The commission authorized paying “non-essential” personnel for 3 and a half hours not worked last week after county offices were closed at 1 p.m. Friday due to the ice storm.

The decision, however, raised a question of fairness to employees (sheriff’s deputies and EMS personnel, for example) whose duties don’t allow time off in such instances.

Kinsley and Crystal Malchose, human resources director, said they would develop policy proposals in coming weeks to address the issue.

• The commission authorized creating an additional half-time position to assist with billing for emergency medical services and the health department. The move gives the departments two full-time billing personnel.

“The billing was already five months behind when we brought this to you last time,” Kinsley told commissioners. “It’s not a question if we need it. We need it.”

In addition, a full-time nurse’s position at the health department will be eliminated, according to Kinsley.

• County Clerk Nancy McCarter administered the oath of office to Greg Riat, new commissioner representing the third district.

Riat replaces Travis Altenhofen, who stepped down last week due to added job responsibilities at Manko Window Systems in Manhattan.

• The commission reorganized for the new year, electing Dee McKee as chair; designating The Wamego Times as official county newspaper; and designating official depositories for county funds.