County approves construction agreement

By Lucas Lord

The Cass County Commission last week approved an agreement with Excel Constructors, Overland Park, Kansas, for construction on the Cass County Jail expansion.

The vote came Jan. 27, but was mostly a procedural move according to Presiding Commission Bob Huston.

“We’ve already approved this project, so this is largely paperwork,” Huston said. “We already sat down and looked through all the bids and this is what we’ve decided on.”

After approving a buildout of the jail, which includes the addition of a new medical wing and secure entryway, the commissioners said they intend to continue using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to fuel various projects in the area.

With tax season underway, the commissioners also listened to a presentation by Cass County Collector Chris Molendorp about the county’s need to not only invest in its physical infrastructure, but their digital infrastructure as well.

“The way our taxpayers are paying is changing,” Molendorp said. “My folks are elderly and like to make a day out of it. But my kids pay on the website using their cellphones.”

According to Molendorp, in December, more than $5.2 million were processed by users who visited the county website to pay their taxes, resulting in multiple server failures and website crashes.

“So far this year, we have processed $8.3 million. That is a 59 percent increase year over year in the utilization of our website,” Molendorp said.

With more than 3,000 users visiting the website on Christmas Eve alone, Molendorp said the time has come to expand its capabilities.

“We are going to meet with our vendors and associates Feb. 18 to discuss ways we can work on improving the website’s speed and response times,” Molendorp said. “If you extrapolate this out to next year, then what are we going to have, $11.5 million or $12 million? We are seeing pretty explosive growth on the web portal, you can tell by the numbers. We have been seeing steady growth year to year, especially since 2020.”

South Commissioner Monty Kisner asked Molendorp if this was due to COVID, but Molendorp said it is only part of the reason.

“The new people coming into the county are younger and are wanting to do everything on their cellphones,” he said. “These new, young business owners are more tech savvy than we are, they are used to doing everything on their phones.

“My mom and dad are older; they like to say they used to say they were proud they didn’t have access to the innerweb, but that generation is passing. The new people coming into the county are younger and they are wanting to do everything on that cell phone. I think that’s reflected in our numbers.”

In a similar vein, the commission voted 3-0 to retain Service Tech Solutions as the county’s IT services provider. The company, located on the Harrisonville square, will work with the county’s staff to handle IT problems.