‘Rails to Trails’ may be viable project soon

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
“Rails to Trails” from Marion to McPherson may soon become a viable project, the Marion City Commission learned Monday.


In a meeting dominated more by wishes about what could remain in the budget, the commissioners were told that Central Kansas Conservancy appears to be moving ahead on establishing the Sunflower-Santa Fe Trail.


Dennis Nichols, city administrator, said litigation by landowners along the former railroad right-of-way to stop trail development appears to have run its judicial course without stopping it.


As a consequence, Nichols said, CKC appears to be moving ahead on plans for the trail, and has asked communities like Marion for their collaboration.


Commissioner Jim Crofoot pointed out that the city and Cooperative Grain & Supply had worked together to secure ownership of former railroad right-of-way in the vicinity of the old depot that enabled the city to proceed with the library project, so any trail ending there would be on city property.


Crofoot said he couldn’t see any problem into looking into possibilities with CKC as long as it wasn’t seen as any commitment to funding from the city.


Nichols recommended, and the commissioners approved, 3-0, several persons to form a committee to work with CKC, including Mickey Lundy, Bruce and Belinda Skiles, Don Jolley and Casey Case.


With the exception of Jolley, who is city recreation director, the committee members have worked in connection with the trail before.


Following an executive session to discuss her appointment, the commissioners voted 3-0 to offer Morgan Marshall of Hillsboro a 90- to 120-day contract as lead water plant operator at $15.40 an hour and 31 cents a mile.


Nichols said Marshall is a Level IV water plant operator with a master’s degree in biology from Southwestern.


Fire Chief Thad Meierhoff told commissioners his department has raised $1,200 in contributions from Marion businesses and individuals for the National Fire Safety Council to provide fire safety information to the community including fire safety coloring books for all Marion school children.


Meierhoff said he had hesitated to do the program in the past because of the pressures on businesses to make contributions, but response to it was positive.


The commissioners approved ordinances without dissent, adapting the latest Uniform Public Offense Code for Kansas Cities and the Standard Traffic Ordinance for Kansas Cities.


Additions to these would include such things as Marion’s juvenile curfew or the city park curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. for all ages, fireworks prohibition, and cereal malt beverage on public property prohibition, Nichols said.


Police Chief David Mayfield and City Attorney Dan Baldwin discussed the possibility that the city judge may be trying to standardize traffic fines with neighboring cities such as Florence and Peabody. The commissioners suggested that when this is done, the fine schedule be brought before the commission for possible commentary.


Mayfield said young people working to maintain a skateboard development in East Park have done an excellent job cleaning up the area. They have requested signs outlining curfew time and prohibiting alcohol consumption there. Although city ordinances already cover such things, the commissioners agreed with Mayfield that such signs would be a good idea in all parks.


In 2002 budget considerations, Mayor Eloise Mueller said she didn’t like to see paving for the Central Park street left out, considering the effort put into the spring development there, nor did she like to leave out pavement for the library/depot area.


Commissioner Larry Reiswig said it would be his sense to prioritize any funds for paving to the library although the park project may be done, and ready for paving sooner.


Nichols suggested the commissoners wait to see if any savings are left from industrial-park development that might be shifted to the two paving projects.


Mueller suggested expenditures such as lease-purchase of a tractor and of trucks needed to be better explained because people in the community sometimes believe excessive amounts are spent on equipment.


Crofoot said actually the city often is “working behind the curve” to keep old equipment going to save money when it should have been retired.


“That old Ford (1953 tractor) is older than I am, and less reliable too,” he said.


Reiswig said reliability should be the main issue, but he thought it was also true that just the appearance of older, worn equipment reflects on the perceived ability of a city to get its work done.


Marty Fredrickson, street superintendent, said the old tractor and a Heckendorn mower sometimes used to do jobs it wasn’t designed for such as move dirt, need to be replaced with something designed for heavy work.


“Keeping the old equipment going is boiling down to buying parts, parts, parts,” he said. “It’s nickel and diming us to death.”


Harvey Sanders, utilities superintendent, said many times getting more equipment is actually more cost effective. For instance, having a sand truck during a snow storm may save diverting other trucks that can haul snow away, and as a consequence save the city 12 to 13 hours in city crew overtime pay.


Fredrickson said used vehicles obtained from the Kansas Highway Patrol for the city are an excellent purchase because they have been on a regular maintenance and parts replacement program, both cars and trucks, making them like new.


Nichols said the city is spending more than $20,000 annually for vehicle repairs, most of it for parts with city personnel doing most of the repairs.


He said saving much of that repair bill with better vehicles, while releasing personnel who do repairs to other work, might pay for a vehicle.


Sanders said the electrical department’s old truck isn’t reliable all of the time, and the people expect reliability. He said in storms and power outages, people want quick response and reliable work from city personnel.


He said the city of Hillsboro currently faces this problem because of the destruction of much its equipment in last week’s fire. Marion is loaning Hillsboro electrical work gloves, parts and needed small items to maintain reliability, and Herington has loaned Hillsboro a truck.


He said the situation also illustrates the need to keep some old equipment on hand because Marion may be loaning Hillsboro its old auger truck.


“It beats doing everything by hand, and it’s bailed us out a couple of times,” he said.


Sanders said in the 100-degree heat, city water towers are being drained and refilled to prevent chlorine dissipation, making 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. shifts for Frank Werner, water plant operator.


Sanders said the electrical crew was saved a future outage problem this week when a Kansas Gas & Electric crew checking a substation on the Hill discovered an overheating switch.


Development Director Susan Cooper said she and Fredrickson met with airport board representatives this week to work together to seek grant money for airport improvement.


Cooper said Robert and Cheryl Hartley are working with the city to make sure their new truck wash at the Retail Industrial Park abides by city regulations and restrictions.


Cooper said the business will wash the tractor portion of semi rigs, but not the trailers.


Oil trucks, livestock trucks, and trucks specifically contaminated with non-biodegradable substances are prohibited.


The facility will include an inspection port where a city representative can check substances going into the city sewer system, she said.


Cooper said she expects the Hartley wash business to be a great asset to the park with the large number of trucks that already go by.


Linda Holub, city clerk, said complaints are coming into the city that Galaxy Cable has mistakenly billed 7.5 percent for the new city sales tax instead of the correct .75 percent. Holub said customers who pay the excess bill should be credited by Galaxy on the next bill.


Nichols said five bidders are competing to build business park roads with bids due, either for concrete or asphalt streets, at 5 p.m. Aug. 8. Bid opening for the turn lanes will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 9.


Commissioners approved the 2002 budget 3-0, and the budget hearing will be a 4 p.m. Aug. 13 in the commission meeting room.

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