The entrance to Mitchell Cemetery on Wallace Road south of 18000 Road is missing its sign. Evergy wants to cross the cemetery with new utility lines and county commissioners on Monday agreed to provide that easement.

OSWEGO — Labette County received 100 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week but declined doses of the Moderna vaccine, county commissioners heard Monday.

Lisa Hoppock, Labette County Health Department administrator, updated commissioners on Health Department matters, including vaccine.

Hoppock said Labette Health has Moderna vaccine available and is thinking about doing a big vaccine event, though she didn’t have details to share. The hospital is planning a vaccine clinic in Edna and perhaps other towns, commissioners heard.

“I told them absolutely, because we’ve got to get it in arms. and we’ve got to get rid of it,” Hoppock told commissioners. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment does not like vaccine sitting on shelves, and if vaccine is stored instead of administered, a county could be penalized by not getting future vaccine, she said.

The Edna event will be from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Edna Senior Center and is for everyone age 18 and up in Phases 1 to 4 in the state’s vaccination plan, according to a Facebook post by Labette Health. The Moderna vaccine will be offered. To schedule an appointment, call (620) 784-2312.

The Health Department has received much but not all of the vaccine in the county and has distributed it to the hospital and other providers. 

She said interest in the Moderna vaccine has waned in Labette County and in other counties, according to what area health department administrators told her last week. Providers are having trouble finding arms to put the vaccine into, even though the state moved into Phases 3 and 4 starting Monday. Phases 3 and 4 are for Kansans aged 16 to 64 with certain health conditions that put them at risk for COVID-19.

Because of that difficulty in finding arms for vaccine, Hoppock said she declined the Moderna vaccine shipment this week.

The Moderna is created using messenger RNA that takes advantage of the process that cells use to make proteins to trigger an immune response and build immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most vaccines use weakened or inactivated versions or components of the disease-causing pathogen to stimulate the body’s immune response to create antibodies. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses the latter method.

Hoppock told commissioners an initial study showed the Johnson and Johnson vaccine 65% effective. Another study showed 78% efficacy and a study in the U.S. showed 85% efficacy.

“People are more comfortable with it, and I keep hearing because it’s not the new mRNA technology,” Hoppock told commissioners.

“We’re supposed to encourage them to take whatever, but they already have their minds made up and they just want to wait” for Johnson and Johnson, Hoppock said.

The Health Department didn’t get Johnson and Johnson vaccine last week and only 100 doses Monday.

To schedule a vaccine appointment, call the Health Department at (620) 421-4350.

“We had a huge rush for Moderna to begin with and now it’s just pretty much died off. And the state told us if we did not have the need, we needed to let them know so they could send it off to another county that did,” Hoppock said.


Other matters at Health Department

Hoppock said the Health Department received an ultra cold freezer last week that can be used to store the Pfizer vaccine, once the freezer is connected. New flooring is being installed first. Other lab-style freezers the Health Department ordered are on back-order, she said.

The department also applied for a $197,000 grant from the state the funding for which goes through 2023. Hoppock is going to hire a clerk/WIC clerk using part of that funding. She’s advertising for the job in The Sun and on Facebook. Commissioners approved the pay range for the job on Monday.

Hoppock said about 80% of the funding for the position will come from the grant and the rest from her budget. 

She also discussed items she included in the grant for funding. 

The department will get a records management system, a storage building for personal protective equipment and other material, a couple of new laptops and a wireless printer, travel allowances to attend the governor’s public health conference (this year’s event will be virtual, however) and a generator that would power the entire building. She didn’t have time to get a quote for a generator so she used the amount a neighboring county did for a generator, $66,000. Commissioners thought she could find a better deal that wouldn’t be as costly.

The Health Department has a generator now but it only runs a couple of rooms and the vaccine freezers. 

Hoppock told commissioners that she needed to include a list of purchases and needs in the grant and that the amounts in the grant for the items could change once she receives quotes for items, materials or software. 

The grant also allows for a one-time bonus for Health Department staff and Emergency Management Director Charlie Morse.


Commission changes course on Evergy easement

Commissioners voted earlier this month 2-1 to deny an easement on county property to Evergy to cross Mitchell Cemetery at 18000 and Wallace roads with updated utility lines. The commission reversed that decision Monday on a 2-1 vote.

Commissioner Cole Proehl voted yes earlier this month to grant Evergy the easement and Commissioners Lonie Addis and Brian Kinzie voted no. Addis is against giving away easement in case the land is needed for future county improvements, including road or water projects. Kinzie was concerned about the lines crossing the cemetery and the possible cost to the county of regaining access to the land if needed for future projects.

Evergy customer solutions manager Kari West visited with commissioners first thing Monday to reconsider the easement. Proehl and County Counselor Brian Johnson have been negotiating with Evergy to find common ground.

Evergy has been purchasing easements from other property owners on Wallace Road. 

West told commissioners in November, when the easement was first discussed between Evergy and the commission, that the upgrades on Wallace Road are part of a long-range plan for the transmission system because of additional capacity needed to support tenants in Great Plains Industrial Park and other places. She said the 69 kilovolt transmission line will run out of capacity, and this project, the first of many in SEK, will help alleviate that. Eventually, the line on Wallace will be upgraded to a 138 kV line and the substation in Parsons will be upgraded as well.

She said utility poles outside the cemetery are 55 and 65 feet. The plan is to install taller platforms, 75 to 80 feet, on the north and south ends of the cemetery for the line crossing. No utility poles would be placed in the cemetery.

The utility has a narrow easement now on the east side of the paved road and wants a wider easement, 60 feet from the center of the road, commissioners heard in November. The county has a 100-foot right of way, 50 feet on either side of the road, also measured from the center of the road.

West said the Wallace Road improvements will be first in a series of improvements in northern Labette County to help support future growth and strengthen the grid that supports Great Plains. A series of substations will be added in the next five years, she said.

Addis was adamant about not giving up easement because of the future cost to the county if the land is needed and the county would have to buy back that land or gain access to it.

West said Evergy’s real estate staff has worked on the agreement and agreed that the county would not have to pay to move utility poles if it needed the land in the future for projects. She also reiterated that the utility lines would go over the cemetery, not through it.

Kinzie said he wanted to make sure the utility would not impact graves or cemetery plots at Mitchell Cemetery. 

Johnson said he and Proehl have exchanged emails with Evergy over the issue.

Johnson said no Evergy poles would be in Mitchell Cemetery. In certain areas the utility may need to get into the cemetery for the pole installation.

Kinzie said his concerns were making sure the lines were above the cemetery and that the county would not have to pay for moving the utility poles in the future if the land was needed again.

Johnson reminded commissioners that if the county wanted to buy back the land from Evergy in the future there could be a problem.

Proehl said the upgrades will help market Great Plains, which needs the additional power capacity provided by the improvements. Citizens will benefit from the improved power grid as well, he said.

“We’ve got to move forward in Labette County. It’s just that simple. I think Evergy is working, doing all they can to improve the grid and to … address our concerns. I understand those concerns but at some point we’ve got to move forward,” Proehl said.

Commissioners voted 2-1 to grant the easement to Evergy. Addis voted no.

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