Return trip to county commission on Haselhorst's mind
By DAWNE LEIKER
Dean Haselhorst sees pressing infrastructure and building issues ahead as he looks toward the future of Ellis County.
It will be the first time the Democratic candidate, who faces Republican Ron Adams during Tuesday's election, has been on the ballot for the commission seat. Haselhorst was appointed in August 2010 to fill the vacant Third District seat following the death of longtime commissioner Vernon Berens.
Haselhorst said he is concerned about the condition of county roads and bridges.
Also on his radar are Ellis County jail space issues.
"I know it's always been swept under the carpet because nobody wants to address the jail," he said. "A jail -- (residents) are looking at that saying, 'That's where the bad people go. ... Why do we want to pay for that?' "
To pay for the projects, Haselhorst said he would prefer a sales tax initiative rather than increased property taxes.
A proponent of wind energy, Haselhorst, who has worked in agriculture and the oilfields, said he is glad to see progress occurring in Ellis County wind development. A recent approval by the planning and zoning commission of a meteorological tower by Chicago-based Invenergy Wind Energy LLC is encouraging, he said, but he regrets the fact Ellis County has not yet seen a wind farm.
"It would be nice if we had a couple hundred of them (wind turbines) now," he said. "Ellis County would be sitting very fine right now."
As far as keeping a tight rein on county spending, Haselhorst said he sees a need to closely scrutinize Ellis County funds allocated to outside agencies.
"Some of (the expenditures), I think, really need to be looked at very close," Haselhorst said. "There's some services that we give $5,000 and $10,000 to. ... Is it really our job to fund all this stuff?"
Although he said he questions some outside funding, he said he supports county funding of Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas.
Looking ahead, Haselhorst said he has concerns about how DSNWK programs and other social services will be paid for.
"I really think in the near future, the state's going to push that whole deal off on (county government)," he said. "And if that happens, I'm not real sure how we're going to pay for that."
He said he committed to keeping lines of communication open with county employees.
Haselhorst said he had been approached by county employees with morale concerns, adding those morale issues could stem from changes the employees have been faced with.
"We've had a lot of change in the past two years," he said. "I think changes affect people more than we think.
"When we did the health insurance package, that was a large change. ... I was a little skeptical at first, but I saw how much it was going to save us, and it looked like it was going to save the employees money, too."
Another change, he said, was the addition of a county administrator.
"(Greg Sund) made a lot of changes that affected a lot of people, and a lot of people are still not on board with that," Haselhorst said. "I'm not on board with all the changes he made either. I'd be the first to admit."
However, he said he is grateful for Sund's efforts.
"I get emails from him every day of the week," Haselhorst said. "A lot of those things I wouldn't even know about. Is the right person in the job right now? I have mixed feelings about that. But I think (having an administrator) keeps us on task. ... It makes us more efficient."
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Candidate at a glance
Name: Dean Haselhorst
Education: Graduate of Gorham High School
Political experience: Ellis County Planning and Zoning commissioner, five years; Ellis County commissioner, two years.
Family: Married to Julie. They have three children: Brianna, Kolby and Collin.