By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Three positions on the Seward County Commission are up for grabs this election year, including that of District No. 2, a seat currently held by incumbent and board chairman Joyce Hibler.
Hibler recently filed for re-election, and she said there are many issues Seward County needs to address, including that of activities for local youth.
“We want to work with the city and the LEAD group and be supportive of them with the building of a community center,” she said. “I was a big pusher of the swimming pool even though I was a county employee. I’ve been here since 1948. I swam at the two prior swimming pools. We needed a swimming pool. It’s just something we need. We need something else for the kids in this community.”
Monday, the commission approved its list of goals for 2010, and that list is comprised of items such as the county’s Web site, www.sewardcountyks.org. Hibler said the county needs to do a better job of getting information about what goes on to its constituents.
Another goal on the county’s slate is insurance for its employees. Hibler said the commission needs to work to bring down costs for its workers.
“We need to do some wellness things, some diabetic classes,” she said. “We had some of those last year, but we need to do everything we can to keep our insurance down.”
A major issue the commission addressed during a work session to decide its goals for the remainder of the year was that of the Seward County Fairgrounds. The board made this part of its package of goals, and some of the improvements they hope to see are electrical components, the floor of the Ag Building, the 4-H building and handicap-accessible bathrooms.
Hibler said while the county hopes to make progress on those items, the current state of the economy has made commissioners cautious of taking on long range projects at the fairgrounds or other areas of the county.
“It’s not there, so the things we need to work on is to take care of what we’ve got,” she said. “The fairgrounds is one of them.”
Hibler emphasized the need to work on the Ag Building.
Recent attention has also been paid to improving the Seward County Five State Fair. Hibler said while she is in favor of keeping the fair, she is unsure of what can be done to make it better.
“I know there’s lots of complaints, but fairs are not what they used to be,” she said. “A lot of the counties are getting rid of their fairs and just having a 4-H fair. We used to have an awesome fair.”
Hibler said many things have been tried to improve the fair, and many fair boards have worked on it, but little in the way of results has been seen.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, and you can’t make him go to the fair,” she said. “I just love the fair. I want it to continue. I think sometimes our fair in the past has been too long.”
As a former fair board member, this is one thing Hibler tried to fix, but she said with more activities being added, the event had to be extended.
“We’ve tried to have meetings with them,” she said of the fair board itself. “They’ve talked about hiring a secretary to answer the phones and do things for them. My heart’s in the fair, but I don’t know the answer to how you get people out there. It’s so hard to please everybody.”
Wind farms have likewise been a hot button issue for many recently, and Hibler said if transmission lines are approved, the facilities will be a great source of revenue for the county.
“We have an agreement ready to go when the wind farms are ready to go,” she said. “We have been working on that. We’ve been having meetings.”
Like many, Hibler believes wind is a natural source of energy for Southwest Kansas.
“We’re trying to work with the legal counsel,” she said. “We’re trying to work on getting them in here. We do have lots of wind in Southwest Kansas. It’s kind of a win-win situation. We’re always talking about economic development. That would bring people in here to work to put them in.”
Hibler said Seward County wants to continue to provide equal quality of life services as long as possible without raising its fees.
“We do need to watch what we do,” she said. “We really have to watch our p’s and q’s.”
While it was not specifically one of the goals approved by commissioners Monday, county officials would like to work with other agencies and entities to make Liberal and Seward County better. One of those efforts is being made through the Council of Governments, a local committee made up of representatives from the county commission, the Liberal City Commission, the Kismet City Commission, the Seward County Community College Board of Trustees and the USD No. 480 and 483 boards of education.
Hibler said the committee, which meets monthly, presents a unique opportunity.
“If anything comes up, we discuss it right then,” she said. “I think Seward County’s very fortunate that we do have a good relationship with the city, the school district, the community college and Southwest Medical Center.”