Letters (Week of 8-13-08)

Higher taxes is not what we need here


Highest fuel prices in history. “We need to raise taxes!”

Food costs have taken the highest jump in modern history. “We need to raise taxes!”

The Kansas farmer finally made some money this year only to have the quadrupling costs of inputs take a majority of it away. “We need to raise taxes!”

New swimming pools in our county’s two largest towns. “We need to raise taxes!”

A new jail really is needed. “We need to raise taxes!”

Some of our county roads might become gravel again. “We need to raise taxes!”

Did you know that according to the Tax Foundation, only 12 states have higher per capita property taxes than Kansas does?

Did you know that regarding corporate taxes, Kansas is one of the worst states?

Did you know Missouri, Oklahoma and Colorado have lower business tax?

Did you know Kansas ranks 25th highest in individual income tax?

Did you know that of the 105 counties in Kansas, Marion County is the 22nd poorest?

Did you know Marion County is one of the 88 Kansas counties whose population is declining?

Did you know that at least two adjacent counties have lower taxes, higher per capita income levels and a growing population?

These facts and statistics portend difficulties regarding the future of Marion County. I do not pretend to know all the answers. However, I am certain that the cure our county so desperately needs will not include the words, “We need to raise taxes!”

Don Mashburn



Is it ‘outside the box’ or daydreaming?


Dale Suderman’s thought-provoking insights, Paul Penner’s practical wisdom, and David Vogel’s delightful examination of youthful living have been the best reading of the Free Press.

And a Jerry Engler by-line usually means I’ll get an accurate report. You understand the basics. At least that is what I thought until last week (Staff Notebook, Aug. 6). But now you’re a little like the minister who is very good until he preaches on my sins instead of other people’s.

You have exposed my weakness. You call it “thinking outside the box.” That implies thinking through all facets. In the referred to “buffalo grass” suggestion, it might better be labeled “woolgathering without spinning or weaving.” Maybe “daydreaming.”

Anyway, let me try to explain before the public laughter turns to mockery and gets out of hand.

Jefferson’s grid causes our roads to be very hard to maintain. Up hill and down, across natural barriers, streams and rivers, we laid out and graded up our roads along the sides of our rectangular land parcels.

Smooth, raw dirt makes easy going—until it gets wet and the traffic churns it or it washes into our streams and reservoirs where we don’t want it. Then we smooth it out after nearly every rain, and occasionally replace what is washed away by digging up more from the ditches.

Some of our roadbeds are now substantially below the level of the hill over which the road was laid out, due to our traffic and maintenance. Can you imagine the Indian in heaven looking down on our road system is saying? “Crazy white man.”

Ah! The traffic, our going and coming. That’s the rub. Before the county unit system—a great transportation advance for rural residents—which James Meisner organized just after World War II, our township roads were all dirt roads. We either stayed home or risked damaging our cars due to mud.

Changing times brought the school bus and the milk truck and sent the farmer or his wife to a job in town. All-weather roads became a necessity. The county road department decreed “gravel road to every rural home.”

Farms grew larger and dirt roads furnished access to distant fields and pastures in all weather. Deer and turkey hunting brought vehicles to remote roads in all weather. Increased traffic, and larger trucks and tractors continued to churn dirt roads and rut up gravel roads, until we now have a system requiring ever more costly machines and energy to maintain.

What is the solution? Maybe the rains will stop coming, we won’t have mud, we’ll have no farming, and after a few years we won’t need rural roads.

Maybe we’ll find enough oil under the North Pole to cheaply blacktop every road in the county.

Maybe we will all become frugal with county money and not use gravel or dirt roads except while dry.

I don’t think so.

Maybe the costs of maintenance could be paid by user fee-payers instead of county-wide payers. Kind of like a toll road where the vehicles causing the most wear pay the larger fees.

In the case of mud drivers, fines or fees for any needed repairs caused by that use. Would we know who did the damage? Could we prove it in court? Would the expense of collection be worth it?

For dirt roads, the “buffalo grass” idea might work on well-drained, seldom used, remote roads, posted for dry-weather use only. Some graveled dead-end or “gravel ends” posted roads with little traffic might benefit from buffalo grass if the road base is firm enough.

A spring rolling to firm the gravel under the grass would probably be needed. The idea is small-scale, and probably not practical for most roads in the county.

Jerry, that brain flash you heard was only partly tongue-in-cheek. I do anguish over erosion caused by my actions, and I have been guilty of rutting up roads, both dirt and gravel many times in my life. There have been other sins as well. It’s guilt that stirs up ideas like that.

Public roads, like public restrooms and parks, will always be subject to abuse by the unthinking and the miscreants among us, because we have the public purse paying the bill.

Some of us regard it as our right to use public property howsoever we please because “I pay taxes for that!” Good citizens honestly try to conserve and care for all of our commonly owned assets. I hope I’m one of those—I’d even sow some buffalo grass if you would!

Keep up your good work, Jerry, but try to forget the crazy things you heard me say.

Howard Collett

Former county commissioner



Fair board appreciates your support, ideas


On behalf of the Marion County Fair Association, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the 78th Annual Marion County Fair. All exhibitors, participants, parents, leaders, vendors, fair goers and sponsors—without you, the fair would not be a success.

While there were some changes this year, we fully intend to review and continue to make improvements to various areas. We welcome any suggestions you may have that would help us to progressively develop constructive experiences at the fair.

Our ultimate goal is to provide a positive, educational learning environment for youth and adults, as well as to envision the ability to change and make the unusual the usual.

Please send your suggestions or comments to: MCFA, Box 304, Hillsboro, KS 67063. Or e-mail your suggestions to mncofairmanager@yahoo.com.

Again, thank you to everyone who helped make the fair a success. Please plan on joining us next year during the dates of July 29 through Aug. 1.

Stephanie Richmond

MCFA secretary and

fair manager


Dairy goat exhibitors ask for more respect


The absence in the Free Press 4-H results last week of photos featuring the dairy goat champions caps off an extrememly frustrating 2008 county fair experience.

This year, the 4-H dairy goat exhibitors were not allowed to show their animals in the arena in their barn, as it was needed for beef-trimming chutes, and that division wouldn’t hear of sharing a section of it for a few hours on Thursday morning for the dairy goat show.

Also, there were not enough pens or space for the dairy goat exhibitors at the fair this year because more space was needed for the sheep and market goat divisions. Dairy goats were crammed five or six to a pen that usually holds four, or were put in temporary, tarp-covered pens outside the perimeter of the barn to make room for the other animals.

For the past 10 years, there have always been 60-plus head of dairy goats at the Marion County Fair, but they were the first to get shoved when a few more sheep showed up.

Then, to add insult to injury, the dairy-goat exhibitors were asked to show on the grass, under a “tent” provided by the fair board, which turned out to be nothing more than a small canopy that blew over during the first showmanship class.

To top that off, a water fight by swine exhibitors went through the “goat show” area on the grass during the middle of the dairy goat show.

Prior to the fair, the need for some changes was discussed in detail with extension agent Rickey Roberts, who assured the dairy goat “families” he would make the case for needed changes for the dairy goat division to the fair board. Either he failed to do his job, or the fair board completely missed the mark. We are hoping for a little more respect in 2009.

Jennifer Stultz


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