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Pfannenstiel trying to grab seat on county commission

10/31/2012

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

In an effort to regain the Ellis County Commission seat he lost four years ago, Democratic candidate Dennis Pfannenstiel has been campaigning door-to-door throughout the county.

"It kind of bothered me quite a bit, getting beat in '08, and I just thought when the time came, I would jump back in," he said in an interview last week. "And here I go.

"I'm going to give it a shot."

Pfannenstiel faces Republican candidate Barbara Wasinger for the second district commission seat held by Glenn Diehl, who did not file for re-election.

One of the issues Pfannenstiel said he's frequently heard from constituents on the campaign trail has been wind energy development.

"People say, 'Are you for wind,' and I say, 'Yes,' and they say, 'You've got my vote,' " he said. "Basically, that's the most-asked question."

In his part-time job transporting prisoners for the Ellis County Sheriff's Department, Pfannenstiel said he has watched with interest wind energy developments near Dodge City and Spearville.

He regrets Ellis County has, so far, been unable to see wind projects move forward.

He recalled proposals from Iberdrola Renewable Energies dating to 2007 whereby the wind energy company had offered Ellis County stipends based on megawatts produced by their proposed wind farm.

"The commission just raised the mill levy by 1.5 percent for roads and bridges," Pfannenstiel said.

"This $800,000 to $900,000 a year that the wind farm people were going to give us would have made this ... plus a helluva lot more."

Pfannenstiel said he would be in favor of putting a sales tax measure before voters in 2013 for Ellis County building projects, including a new jail, emergency medical services building and rural fire station.

Cramped jail conditions concern him, Pfannenstiel said, not only because of safety issues, but also in light of the dollars Ellis County spends on transporting and housing inmates in facilities in Reno, Sedgwick, Rooks, Ford, Barton and Russell counties.

"If we would build a facility large enough, I'm going to say 100 to 150 beds, I think we could get these people to bring their inmates to us instead of us taking ours to them," Pfannenstiel said. "And have them come in and pay for everything."

An addition to the current Ellis County jail, Pfannenstiel said, likely would net between only 12 and 15 additional jail cells.

"I think the only way is to move to a different location," he said.

Pfannenstiel served as county commissioner from 2000 to 2008, prior to the hiring of County Administrator Greg Sund. Although Pfannenstiel said he can see some benefit from employing an administrator, he's not convinced Sund is the right fit for the county.

"I think maybe we should have a five-member county commission instead of an administrator," he said. "I'm not too much in favor of a county administrator, but if I'm elected and he's there, I'll probably have to put up with it -- at least for a while."

Beyond the costs of employing an administrator, Pfannenstiel said, he believes the county has been fiscally conservative. He said he hasn't made campaign promises to constituents to lower taxes.

"I can't say I can cut taxes, but just try to keep them under control," he said. "If you're going to provide services, somebody's got to pay for it."

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Candidate at a glance

Dennis J. Pfannenstiel

Education: Graduated from St. Joseph's Military Academy

Political experience: Eight years serving as Ellis County Commissioner

Family: Married to Elaine. They have a son, Grant.