Marion leaders reject landfill offer

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The proposed Waste Connections, Inc., landfill offer that was put on hold by the company for 60 days was rejected by the Marion City Commission Monday in a 2-1 vote.


The commission moved on with other potential development for Marion, voting 3-0 to put a three-fourths-cent sales tax proposal on the April 3 election ballot that would support bonds to develop Batt Industrial Park.


City Administrator Dennis Nichols said Marion has a major employer negotiating to come into the park.


At the end of Monday’s meeting, following a 30-minute executive session, Commissioner Larry Reiswig moved to reject Waste Connections’ offer no matter whether the company returns to take up the offer. The company is said to have taken the leave from negotiations with Marion to explore landfill possibilities in Harper County.


Commissioner Jim Crofoot seconded Reiswig’s motion, and their two votes carried the issue. Mayor Max Hayen apparently stuck by his contention that the landfill would be a good development for Marion by voting against the motion.


The landfill would have been located northeast of Marion in the Martin Marietta quarry, which is still active.


The move to finance the industrial park was seen as positive by Susan Cooper, development director. She said she receives many inquiries from companies that might move in quickly if the facility was ready for them.


At last week’s meeting, Nichols said a proposed tenant for the northern portion of the heavy industrial park would need the city to proceed with development of the park within a short time.


Since then, Nichols said, there have been conversations with a second small manufacturer interested in the park. Batt Industrial Park is to be developed on the opposite side of U.S. Highway 56 from the light industrial park south of the Martin Marietta quarry.


Nichols said both companies would be pleasing additions for Marion, but their names can’t be released yet. He explained that companies in the negotiating stage normally don’t want information released until it fits their timetable. He is hopeful that at least one name can be released before the city election.


Nichols said development of the industrial park would cost close to $1.045 million. This would include $185,000 for turn lane, passing lane and entrances from U.S. 56, which would also serve the retail industrial park north of the highway.


Other costs would include $150,000 for a street at the entry, $500,000 for sewers including a $200,000 lift station, $125,000 for water, $50,000 for drainage, $15,000 for electric, and $20,000 for fees and services.


In addition, at last week’s meeting, Nichols said the manufacturer in question would require use of industrial development bonds to finance construction, property-tax abatements and additional incentives.


The commissioners needed to act immediately to make the April 3 ballot, Nichols said. He said the tax needed to be three-fourths rather than a half percent to “get the bond rate we want.”


Hayen said he normally is opposed to a sales tax to raise revenue because he feels it puts more burden on poorer people, but he was willing to see a public vote.


Nichols said the total sales tax, including state taxes, would be increased to 6.65 percent. Hillsboro already has a 6.40 rate from which it received $167,000 in 1999, Nichols said.


Marion hasn’t had a sales tax, but Nichols said residents are used to paying a higher tax elsewhere.


Using state information, Nichols said that in 1999, 157 cities in Kansas used a sales tax for additional revenue. Of these cities, 127 cities (81 percent) have a a sales tax of at least 1 percent or better. In counties that have a 1 percent or better county sales tax, 82 cities had a combined city and county sales tax of 2 percent or more.


“As Marion looks to its future, if it wants to grow, the city must somehow develop an industrial park,” Nichols said. “Until that is accomplished. it is virtually impossible to recruit manufacturer concerns.


“It is believed that once the industrial park is completed and the city has at least one tenant, it will open the door for others and that the city should see a turn-around in economic development.”


On the question of whether to allow a beer garden in Central Park during Chingawassa Days this summer, the commission was asked by the Chingawassa Days committee to delay having it on the agenda until March 12.


In earlier meetings, David Crofoot, representing the committee, said the beer garden was being proposed to help finance an appearance by the rock band Three Dog Night.


The beer garden was opposed last week by the Marion Ministerial Alliance represented by Bill Sherfy, Emmanuel Baptist pastor. Sherfy said the church ministers especially oppose any encouragement of public drinking in a community that already has young people involved in alcohol and substance abuse problems.


Don Jolley, Marion recreational director, said he was involved 26 years ago in organizing the Smoky Hill River Festival at Salina, and that a similar beer garden there had caused such problems that it was discontinued.


David Crofoot and Gene Winkler said supporters of the beer garden feel there are more problems with the public attempting to bring alcoholic beverages in coolers.


City Attorney Dan Baldwin, in a memorandum to the commission, said it is now understood that the Marion Country Club would apply to the city to actually operate the beer garden, but that would not limit the city’s liability because it would be involved “in spirit, if not in deed.”


At the Feb. 20 meeting, commissioners approved warrants for $129,182.67. At the Feb. 26 meeting, they approved warrants for $21,911.86 and a payroll of $19,874.73.


By request to Baldwin, John Jacobson, doing business as Baja Johnny’s, had his request for renewal of a cereal malt beverage license at 1015 E. Main taken off the agenda for the meeting until he is ready to renew the request.

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