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By Terry Bailey

The Mitchell County Commissioners held an open meeting Monday morning to publicly debate and discuss the 2025 County budget. A large crowd was in attendance, but the budget discussion was not the main drawing card. The consideration of a high energy transmission line requiring a five-mile swath of land 780 miles long from Spearville, Kansas to a point in eastern Indiana generated a great deal of interest.
It appears that someone, some company, some group of interest is proposing the construction of ten (10) National Interest Electrical Transmission Corridors (NIETC) to facilitate the movement of electrical energy from areas that create this energy (in our case, southwest Kansas near Spearville) to areas of the country that have a need for more energy than is currently available to them.
One point of contention is the safety afforded by these extremely high energy transmission lines. According to one source, these will conduct a much higher load of electricity than ever transmitted before. The exact safety of these high transmission lines seem to be in question. That might explain the five-mile swath of land being restricted on either side of these high-volume lines. One person in the crowd observed that this swath of land could be considered a dead zone. No one can live within this five-mile swath. It is unsure as to the conducting of farming or other activities there.
Beth Salmans of Marysville, Kansas, led the discussion with the group of over 30 people crowded into the County Commissioners meeting room. The Commissioners agreed this was the largest group that had ever gathered in their room.
Questions abound but answers are scarce. Who is the exact owner of this high powered potentially deadly transmission line? The ownership is unclear. How safe is the area underneath and withing the five-mile restricted zone? The health hazards appear to be significant, but nobody knows for sure.
Ms. Salmans said she had contacted Senator Roger Marshall's office about her concerns. She was told that Senator Marshall was working closely with the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) to monitor the situation. Upon contacting the KCC she was told they have nothing to do with the situation and certainly are not working with Marshall on the project.
Salman said she had contacted several state legislators and senators to express her concerns. She was not entirely excited about the response she received from Senator Elaine Bowers.
The timing of the project is also somewhat in question. The announcement about the project was made on June 15, 2024. Parties were given until June 24 to comment on the propose high energy transmission line.
Commissioner Tom Claussen did some quick calculations that resulted in these numbers. A five-mile swath of land 780 miles long resulted in 3,900 square miles which equates to 2,496,00 acres. Using a conservative amount of $3,000 per acre the grand total of the "Land Grab" would be $7,488,000,000. Who has that kind of money lying around to buy Kansas farm ground?
The Mitchell County Commissioners adopted a Resolution patterned after the Nemaha County resolution stating they would not consider the development of a large project impacting Mitchell County nor will it hear any requests to use the road and infrastructure of the County relating to such projects for a period of 12 months.
This will enable the Commissioners to become fully aware and knowledgeable of this project.
Stay tuned. More, much more, is coming our way soon.
At the conclusion of the discussion of the high energy transmission lines, the Commissioners turned to considering the 2025 budget. At this point, most people took the opportunity to vacate the room. Most who remained were department heads who had a vested interest in the budget deliberation.
Jeff Reese, accountant for the auditing firm of Lindberg, Vogel, Farris, and Chartered, had the difficult task of leading the discussion of the entire county budget. The group went though the entire budget, line by line, and compared last year's costs, this year's expenses to date, and the requested amount for the upcoming 2025 budget.
After the first trip through the budget from start to finish, they were looking at an increase in spending of approximately $2,000,000. An increase of this amount would trigger the mechanism known as the Revenue Neutral Rate automatically requiring a public hearing on the budget. This is not the end of the world, but it does complicate the process significantly.
Back through the entire budget went the Commissioners. Cutting some here and some there and adding a little in other places. If they were using a #2 pencil it would have had a very fine point on it.
After lots of deliberation, when they finished, the two-million-dollar increase had been reduced to zero avoiding the Revenue Neutral Rate hearing.
The final numbers will be worked up by Mr. Reese and passage of the budget will be deliberately at next Monday's Commissioners meeting.


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