2016 is more than a presidential race


County voters will decide hospital sales tax in May; choose elected officials in November

The first candidate for Republic County Commission filed for office this week. Robyn Nelson, Scandia, filed on the Republican ticket for Commissioner District 2. While the focus has been on the national presidential tickets, a full slate of local offices are open for election this year, including two commissioner seats, sheriff, clerk, treasurer, register of deeds and attorney.

A primary election will be held in August, and the general election in November. “It’s time to put my effort where my mouth is,” Nelson said. “We all complain about (issues). I know the way some things operate are procedural, but I think sometimes we get complacent and maybe there are other avenues and methods of getting things done. “‘This is the way we’ve always done it’, becomes too easy.”

Nelson has lived in Republic County since 1984. She worked in advertising sales and reporting for the Belleville Telescope for seven years, and for six years was an engineering technician for the Kansas Department of Transportation. She is president of the Scandia American Legion Auxiliary; co-treasurer of the Scandia Community Club and attends the Amana Lutheran Church in Scandia. She is married to Randy Nelson who is operations manager for Farmway Co-op.

Her adult children Nathan Stensaas and Samantha (Jordan) Finegan live in Republic County. A son, Colton, is deceased. Filing deadlines Deadline to file for office for the 2016 election is Wednesday, June 1 at noon. Incumbent Second District Commission Marvin Bergstrom, Courtland and Third District Commissioner Linda Holl, Belleville, said they have taken out papers to file for re-election. Bergstrom has served as commissioner 10 years, and Holl 16.

The First District seat held by Edwin Splichal is elected in the off-year elections. To date, Sheriff Ron Blad and Register of Deeds Peggy Frint are the only other two candidates to file for local office, although Clerk Kathleen Marsicek said she plans to file this week. City elections In a separate election question, Ball told Munden mayor Jimmie Blecha that due to a change in state law, city councils will elect new members in November 2017.

Previously city councils and school board elections were held in April. All current members will retain their positions until the November 2017 elections, she said, which means some members will serve terms beyond what they were originally elected. Ball said she is going to recommend that Agenda, Munden, Narka and Courtland move to a system that elects members on a staggered basis so the entire council and mayor is not elected every four years.

“No one’s going to make you do that, but I’m going to suggest it,” Ball told Blecha. “I think it would make it easier to get people on the ballot.”


Process in place for mail ballot vote in May to decide to continue hospital sales tax

The process for the county’s first mail ballot election in 15 years is going smoothly, Election Clerk Beth Ball told county commissioners Monday. Ballots will be mailed to registered voters April 20 to ask whether to continue a one cent sales tax that will be used for hospital operations. Voters have until noon on Tuesday, May 10 to deliver the ballots to the Republic County Clerk’s office, where they will be counted by a counting board. Ball said voters will place their marked ballot inside a sealed envelope which must be signed to verify their signatures on voter registration rolls. Once the signatures are verified, the folded ballot will be separated from the envelope to assure anonymity.

“The envelopes will have the (voter’s) return address and a bar code that we can scan and pull up that voter’s registration to verify the signature,” Ball said. “If any envelopes aren’t signed, or the signatures don’t match, if we receive the ballots in time we will call those voters to verify their vote. “In a perfect world, there would be no provisional ballots in a mail ballot election.”

The hospital board hopes to replace a major portion of its property tax funding with the sales tax, which is expected to generate approximately $500,000 a year based on historic sales tax collections in Republic County the past decade.

The current hospital sales tax is used to retire bonds on the hospital renovation in 2002, and can be used for no other purpose. Enough money to pay off those bonds is expected to be collected in mid-2016. At the February meeting, hospital board members noted that the current tax funding the hospital receives only accounts for about five percent of its $13 million annual budget.

The hospital generates most of its budget through patient revenues. Approximately 75 percent of the hospital’s business is to Medicare-eligible patients, and about 15 percent of patients are covered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Confuse caucus Ball said she was mystified in March when the clerk’s office received several calls from people who wanted an advanced ballot.

“I thought maybe it was someone who was going to be out of the country in April or May,” she said. “When we asked why they wanted to vote advanced, they said they wanted to vote in the (presidential) caucus March 5.”

Caucuses are not official elections conducted by the county clerk’s office, but conducted by each political party at special caucus events.