Counselor says Hightowers don't have a conflict of interest
MOUND CITY – During the Monday, Jan. 9, Linn County Commission meeting, Linn County County Counselor Gary Thompson clarified that there was no conflict of interest with the new District 1 Commissioner Jason Hightower being the husband of Jessica Hightower, county economic development director.
Thompson said that he had received a couple of calls about this in the last day or two. He said that it was not at all uncommon to have a situation like this.
According to Thompson, a conflict of interest would exist if a wife were directly supervised by her husband. Jessica Hightower answers directly to Public Works Director Shaun West.
Another situation where this would be a conflict of interest is if there is a financial conflict or if there was a discipline situation. In this case, West would handle these issues. If something financial came up, Jason Hightower would recuse himself.
Commissioners also discussed whether the county had an agreement with Missouri about State Line Road. Thompson said that if they did have an agreement, it was only a handshake agreement as nothing had come to him about it.
Commission Chair Danny McCullough said that State Line Road from 1100 north to the low water bridge needed work. He said it was pretty bad there and people were having to drive over in the ditch.
Thompson said that Linn County should not just jump in and fix it until they have coordinated with Missouri over the project.
Commissioners also authorized Jessica Hightower to keep the application active for the Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) grant. That would allow the county's application to be considered for the Kansas Department of Commerce grant in the next round.
The grant would develop utilities and infrastructure into the Pleasanton Industrial park to make the park certified by the Commerce Department and shovel-ready for a new business.
She reminded the commissioners that the total for the project was $1.4 million. The county’s portion of the project would be $350,000. In the original application, which the county did not receive, the county planned to use $350,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
In other business, the commissioners:
• Rescheduled next Monday’s meeting to Tuesday, Jan. 17, because of the Martin Luther King holiday.
• Viewed the Linn County Park report for December and 2022. The park income for 2022 was $305,700 and the expenditures were about $264,400 for a gain of over $41,200.
• Discussed the building at the Linn County airport needing repair and a tarp put on it.
• Learned from West that the Road and Bridge department was down several positions. West said that the county has openings for two mechanics and three truck or equipment operators.
• Allowed West to enter into a contract with Terracon, the company that has worked on the landfill cells previously, to start doing the engineering on the cells that are already being used at the landfill for a cost of about $25,000. West explained that building up these cells on the top by 10 percent could give the county five years before they had to close the cells and dig new ones. West said that this would give the county time to make decisions about the improvements to the transfer station and landfill from the cost analysis after it is completed.