Marion natural gas bill up 160% from the previous year

Colder weather and higher gas bills are putting the same burdens on the city of Marion that households must bear, said Dennis Nichols, city administrator, Wednesday at the Marion City Commission.

The meeting had been postponed from Monday because of Christmas.

Nichols said the city’s current bill from Greeley Gas Co. was $3,905 compared to $1,479 for the same period one year ago.

“Per-unit rates have gone up 43 percent from the same period one year ago,” he said. “These increased rates will challenge the city to stay within the 2001 budget.”

More encouraging was Nichols’ report that the city library fund-raising project for remodeling the railroad depot into a library now stands at $90,000, and he expected it to be at $100,000 at year’s end with addition of donors who may need tax deductions.

Final landscape plans for the depot may be viewed in the city commission meeting room. Nichols anticipated that bids for the project will be let in February with bid opening in late February or early March. This means the project probably will be completed in early 2002, he said.

Commissioners Jim Crofoot and Larry Reiswig approved use of $628 in the diversion fund from the Municipal Court to purchase a digital camera for the police department to assist in crime investigation.

Police Chief David Mayfield said police had to have a Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent come to Marion this year to take digital pictures of a child abuse victim for viewing by medical personnel.

In another case, the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office took digital pictures of a lawn tractor and e-mailed them to Marion. The pictures led to identification of the tractor as one stolen from the John Deere dealership in Marion more than a year ago, he said.

City Attorney Dan Baldwin supported the need for the camera for use in cases where police may speed the process of getting search warrants by having pictures of premises.

Mayfield proposed a Sony Mavica digital camera for $500 to $600 that can transfer an image to a 1.44 floppy disk and then be downloaded to the police computer. Reiswig recommended also looking at a camera in the $300 to $400 range.

David Branson, baseball coordinator for the Marion Baseball Complex, told commissioners a revised fee schedule and use-policy for the complex has been completed, which includes use of a lightning detector.

Branson asked if anything was being done on the baseball coordinator annual contract because that person should begin preparing for the year in January.

Crofoot said the city is “in conversation” with the school district regarding all recreation activities.

Reiswig added there may be an effort to create a new recreation commission that would put all activities under one umbrella, “but we’re not there yet.”

The commissioners said they would have something by mid-January. Commissioners didn’t expect that to interfere with Branson’s work, and everybody laughed when Crofoot added with a smile, “There isn’t exactly a long line of volunteers for the job.”

Branson said that if the lightning detector locates lightning within eight miles of the complex while ball is in play, the field will be cleared for 30 minutes, and a decision then made whether to continue.

The detector can detect lightning up to 20 miles away, but Branson said it will be set for eight miles.

One forseeable problem is the detector’s ability to find lightning that can’t be seen yet by humans. Branson said the field would need to be cleared anyway.

Noting that one strike would make anybody a believer, Branson said, “We don’t want anybody in Marion killed by lightning.

The commissioners approved renewed city licenses for electrical to Harvey Sanders of Sanders Electric; for plumbing to James R. Carr of James R. Carr Construction, Matthew Hiebert of Jost Plumbing, James F. Cain of Kansas Pumping Service/Roto-Rooter Plumbing, and Quinn Trapp of Suffield Heating, Cooling and Plumbing; for off premises cereal malt beverage to Cooperative Grain and Supply/ Ampride, and Carlson’s Grocery.

The commissioners approved warrants for $20,589.30.

Attorney Baldwin gave the commission a resolution delineating boundaries of the city which included all property annexed in 1999 and 2000. It required no action.

Linda Holub, city clerk, said a drive-by of homes filing for electrical rate credits because of the city Christmas light program was done, “and everyone was honest.”

City crews were reported doing mostly salting, sanding, equipment maintenance and indoor jobs as much as possible because of the cold.

Commissioners met in a 20-minute executive session to discuss personnel matters.

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