COLUMBUS - Copperhead snakes are forcing the location of some new water lines inside county rights-of-way in a few areas, the Cherokee County Commission was told Monday.

The lines are part of a project by the Spring River Public Wholesale Water District No. 19. The district is planning to put distribution lines, a water tower and a new treatment plant in the county, but according to Samantha Dillon, of Professional Engineering Consultants - the engineering company planning the new infrastructure - the company would have preferred not to put the lines inside existing rights-of-way.

She said environmental studies by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks said the originally proposed routes would disrupt habitats in several areas - including the habitats of the poisonous snakes.

Dillon told the commission that in most cases the lines would be placed in ditches rather than under actual roadways.

Commissioners approved the changes to the plans.

The commission also gave permission for Emergency Management Director Jason Allison to solicit bids from county banks for matching fund requirements for 10 new storm sirens to be placed in unincorporated areas of the county.

Allison said the sirens are being purchased with a state grant, which covers 75 percent of the cost but does require a 25 percent match from the county.

In other business, the commission:

Elected Commissioner Richard Hilderbrand commission chairman.

Elected Commissioner Jack Garner commission vice-chair.

Voted to give Hilderbrand permission to gather names for a steering committee to look into extending water and sewer to the I-44 corridor.

Appointed Kevin Cure as county counselor, Cecil Brown as county noxious weed director, Leonard Vanatta, as county engineer, Gene Langerot as county lot supervisor, Jason Allison as emergency preparedness director, Betha Elliot as county health department supervisor, and the firm of Mense, Churchill and Mense as county auditors.

Named American Bank the official county bank, and:

Named the Columbus News-Report as official county paper as part of a rotation between the three county papers.

The commission will not meet Jan. 16 due to Martin Luther King Day, but will meet again 9 a.m. Jan. 23 in the Cherokee County Courthouse.