Commissioners initiate burn ban, fireworks cancelled

Citing the prolonged heat and dry weather, the Marion County Commission initiated a county-wide burn ban Monday which became effective immediately and until further notice.

The ban forces the cancellation of a fireworks show planned for Marion County Lake on Sunday night, Sept. 3. The show had been sponsored by the Marion County Economic Development Council.

Michelle Abbott-Becker, Marion County dispatch supervisor, asked for the ban on behalf of the sheriff’s department and area firefighters.

“With the heat and dryness,” Becker said, “it is important to consider the firemen’s safety and how fast a fire can go out of control.”

One local firefighter recently had to be taken to Herington because of the heat.

She also asked the commission to consider passing a resolution that would enable officials to initiate a burning ban without waiting for a commission meeting. The criteria would include wind and weather conditions.

The current resolution requires individuals to call the sheriff’s office to check the burning conditions before starting a fire.

“If someone starts a fire without calling in first,” Becker said, “they are already in violation of the resolution.”

The conditions for burning are currently a day-to-day consideration, based on wind speed.

Becker said several surrounding counties have already put a ban into place.

Linda Peterson, commission chair, said she was “very concerned” about safety of the citizens and firefighters.

“Yes,” agreed Robert Hein, commissioner. “This is the thing to do.”

In other business, Lester Kaiser, fire chief of Marion County Fire District #5, reported the district had been given a house to burn for training purposes.

He said the house could be used for several weekends of practice in various situations, such as: search and rescue using a smoke machine, small fires, forceful entries, ventilation practice, and eventually a full structure fire.

The training will be available to other departments in the entire county, and possibly Herington since that department is used in the northern part of the county when needed.

“The state requires the house be checked for asbestos,” Kaiser said. “To do so could cost up to $600.”

In his preliminary examination, Kaiser found no evidence of asbestos, but the state requires the house be checked by properly certified professionals.

The fire district has agreed to put in about $200, Kaiser reported. He asked the commission to pay up to $400, “if it would take that much.”

Hein agreed the house would provide good training. Peterson wondered if Kaiser had approached local fire departments for financial help. Kaiser said he had not because they were already working on other projects.

The commissioners voted to approve the request for no more than $400, which will be taken from the sales tax funds.

Kaiser thanked the commission and agreed to “work it out as cheaply as possible.”

Noreen Weems, director of the Marion County Department for Elderly, reported that a big concern for the Marion site is the retirement of Shirley Bowers, Marion Senior Center site manager.

“It is very hard to find people willing to work for minimum wage,” said Weems. “We have had several individuals apply for the position, but for whatever reasons, they chose not to fill out an application.”

The North Central-Flint Hills, Area Agency on Aging is the actual employer of area site managers and cooks. The agency pays minimum wage and expects the Senior Centers to subsidize the wages.

Weems pointed out if the center would subsidize $1 an hour for a six-hour day, it would cost an additional $1,500 per year just for the Marion Center. If the wage increases were carried out to the other sites, it would be an additional $12,480.

“In the early ’70s, retirees were subsidizing their retirement funds,” Weems said, “and minimum wage was enough. Now, people are working longer and don’t need the extra money as much.”

Weems realized there was no easy solution to the wage problem, but wanted the commission to be aware their help may be needed in the future.

A reception will be held for Bowers’ retirement at noon Friday, Sept. 1, at the Marion Senior Center.

The NC-FH,AAA Senior Services Fair in Salina will be Tuesday, Sept. 19, Weems reported. Each county is asked to submit the name of a “star volunteer,” 85 years or older, who is active not only in their senior center, but also within the community.

Gladys Jewell, president of the Peabody Senior Center, is the Marion county star volunteer for this event.

In addition to her position with the senior center, Jewell is a member of the county board, an active volunteer at church and in the community.

Gerald Kelsey, director of the county road and bridge department, and Tom Holub, shop foreman, presented bids for the purchase of a new roller. Commissioners agreed to purchase a 2000 Caterpillar Pneumatic compactor with a five-year warranty for $49,955 and a 2000 Ingersollrand Vibratory Asphalt Compactor with a two-year warranty for $66,815. An additional three-year warranty for $4,000 will be added, making the total $70,815. The prices include trade-in value for the county’s present rollers.

County Clerk Carol Maggard announced a Comprehensive Land Use Plan meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, 7 p.m., Sept. 27. The location will be announced.

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