Wayne White | Managing Editor
LYNDON—It’s always the roads – at least that’s
a common topic of discussion between county commissioners and
constituents. Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall reported
Monday that a road being used as an unofficial detour has generated
the most calls to him lately.
With U.S. Highway 56 closed between U.S. Highway 75 and Scranton
for a bridge repair project, a three-mile stretch of county road
173rd Street is being used as an unofficial detour by many drivers
going to and from U.S. 75 and Scranton and Burlingame. The state’s
official detour for U.S. 56 directs drivers to state Highway 31,
through Osage City, then back to U.S. 56.
After meeting with Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn to discuss
lease-purchase of three new sheriff’s vehicles, Kuykendall
made a request to Dunn regarding drivers on 173rd Street.
“Could you get your guys to drive on 173rd?” Kuykendall
said. He said complaints he had received were about people speeding
on the road and the increased traffic creating large amounts of
Dunn noted the speed limit on all county roads is 55 mph unless
Kuykendall said the county road and bridge department has posted
advisory speed limit signs in an attempt to slow the traffic.
He said the state has agreed to pay for dust control application
due to detoured traffic.
“It’s not the official detour but the state is paying
for dust control because everybody is driving on it,” he
He said the dust control application would not be applied immediately
due to wet weather, which dilutes the chemical’s effectiveness.
The county has commonly sprayed magnesium chloride on roads during
previous dust control programs.
In other driving discussion, commissioners were questioned by
Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones about whether county employees
were required to take defensive driving classes before driving
county vehicles. Jones said he could not find the requirement
in the county’s employee policies, and commissioners confirmed
it was not a requirement.
Jones said the county’s liability insurance provider had
suggested that county employees who drive county vehicles should
take defensive driving classes every two years. He said that one
benefit could be reduced insurance rates for the county and the
“We probably ought to put it in the handbook,” Kuykendall
Jones, who is reviewing the employee handbook, said he could draft
a policy for the commissioners’ approval.
Also discussed with Jones was the ongoing prosecution of James
Kraig Kahler. Jones said a psychologist hired by the state was
at the county jail Monday to evaluate Kahler, who is accused of
killing his wife, two teenage daughters, and his wife’s
grandmother in Burlingame in 2009.
Jones said the county would be paying for food, lodging and travel
expenses for two defense witnesses from Texas, as per a request
made during a hearing March 17. He said the county is responsible
for defense witness expenses during the trial.
He said according to state statute, “If the county pays
for state witnesses, it’s got to pay for defense witnesses,
Jones said Osage County District Court Judge Phillip Fromme had
agreed the witnesses could be brought from Texas at the county’s
expense, but their involvement in the trial should be kept to
as few days as possible.
Kuykendall agreed the county would need to bear the expense, “but
we don’t have to feed them T-bones,” he said.
Jones said the expense amounts requested by defense attorneys
were also questioned by the judge and the prosecution. He noted
the per diem rates were more than customary for county and state
Commissioners considered where witnesses for the trial would be
housed, pointing to the Lamont Hill resort as the only motel in
“Maybe we could get a deal to rent all of Lamont Hill for
two weeks,” Kuykendall said.
Commissioners also discussed other nearby motels such as one at
Beto Junction and another at Lebo.
Jones also informed commissioners that as the trial drew closer,
the prosecution would occupy his time.
“Starting in July, that’s all I’m going to be
working on,” Jones said.
Jones said he had enlisted Coffey County Attorney Doug Witteman
to serve as Jones’ stand-in for other criminal cases that
might arise during the planned four-week trial.
Commissioners asked Dunn about planned security measures during
the trial, and she said they would include temporary installation
of metal detectors in the courthouse.
In other business, the commission:
• approved a three-year lease-purchase agreement for sheriff’s
vehicles, including a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria, to be used as
a jail transport vehicle, two 2011 Chevrolet Impalas, and a 2011
Chevrolet Colorado four-wheel drive crew cab pickup. First Security
Bank of Overbrook offered the winning bid of 3.2 percent to finance
the purchase. Other bidders were Citizens State Bank of Lyndon
at 3.33 percent, and First State Bank of Burlingame, 5.99 percent.
The cost of the vehicles is $86,465.73 before trade-in agreements.
• heard an inquiry from Joyce Lacey, Melvern, about fees
charged at the county waste transfer station for cities that have
citywide cleanups. Commissioners said the county is required to
pay for all waste hauled from the site and those costs are collected
from everyone that dumps waste there. Commissioners also agreed
the county and the city of Melvern could cooperate in providing
a recycling collection point in Melvern. Lacey, who is running
for mayor of Melvern, was asked to attend another commission meeting
if and when she takes office. It was noted no opponents had filed
for the mayor position.
• met with Osage County Economic Development Director Stephanie
Watson, who presented a draft of a county economic development
• was notified that all of the courthouse windows
had been welded shut by road and bridge department employees as
part of a weatherizing project. A contractor is to caulk all of
the windows to complete the project.
• approved a payment of $3,316.49 to Postal Presort, Wichita,
for mailing property tax valuation notices, to be paid from the
appraiser’s fund. The notices are to be mailed April 1.