County will seek new consultant for plan

by Jerry Engler

The Marion County Commission, at the Monday, Nov. 12, meeting, seized upon an offer from the state to help fund an emergency management plan for the county.

Michele Abbott-Becker, emergency management director, said the state had looked at a disaster plan for Marion County prepared by University of Kansas students, and came up with an alternative offer. The state offered to pay any cost above a cost to the county of $1,000 if the county would contract with a professional consultant for a new plan, she said.

After some discussion, the commissioners voted 3-0 to contract with Fire Rescue Consultants of Manhattan at a bid price of $5,300 to develop a plan. Abbott-Becker said the company has completed 27 county plans in Kansas which probably will all gain state approval compared to its two closest competitors, one which has completed one plan and the other which has completed none.

“I think that makes it very clear which company to go with,” she added.

Commissioner Bob Hein said, “I think we need to get going with them because we’re already so far behind on developing this thing.”

Abbott-Becker said the county has started getting protective clothing in to deal with various toxic substances, and is looking at developing decontamination areas.

She expects the American Red Cross to lead an “introduction to disaster” class for county and city employees sometime in December. Abbott-Becker said the cities of Hillsboro and Marion have committed to allowing employee participation on city time.

She expected volunteer firemen from many county communities to be on hand Saturday for a state-approved house burning in Lincolnville to provide a training drill.

Steve Garrett, Hillsboro city administrator, represented the mayors of the county at the commission meeting to set a time at 7 p.m., Tuesday, in the Hillsboro City Building for mayors and county commissioners to outline a resolution on the solid waste interlocal agreement.

The mayors are seeking changes in how KC Development, operator of the transfer station in Marion, will be paid by the county for solid waste disposal.

JoAnn Knak, emergency medical service director, raised concerns among commissioners with her report on the current EMT class which has 12 students. A request for help by one student with the $280 fee charged for the class and licensing fee prompted discussion on EMTs and whether adequate numbers of the volunteers are available to staff the county’s five ambulances.

Commissioner Howard Collett noted that “if we agree to pay for one tuition, then we have to pay for all.” He said if a scholarship was developed for EMTs, it would have to be tied to an assurance that the graduate would remain working in the county for at least one or two years.

Knak said ambulance services in urban areas try to attract the rural volunteers to move there with promises of high salaries for their expertise.

The city of Marion remains one of the tightest on number of volunteers compared to services required in the county, Knak said. She also noted though, that only looking at numbers can be deceiving, because self-employed EMTs or EMTs with understanding employers in the community, are there to respond when EMTs who work away are not.

Marion has seven current volunteers and two in the class, compared to 18 volunteers in Hillsboro, but Marion has a higher percentage of EMTs working in town. Knak said two EMTs must be available for every call.

In October, Knak said, Hillsboro had 20 emergency medical calls, Marion 20, Peabody 15 and Tampa 9.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta wondered about future logistics of ambulance locations, noting that if insufficient personnel were available in one area, an ambulance might have to be moved to where there are more volunteers. He noted that the county is only required to have one ambulance even though the situation calls for more.

Sheriff Lee Becker confirmed that he sometimes sees a need for three ambulances to respond to the same traffic accident.

County-owned ambulances are housed at city cost with two ambulances and a rescue truck at Marion, and one ambulance each at Hillsboro, Tampa and Peabody.

The commissioners approved 3-0 the three-year lease-purchase of a new four-wheel-drive Ford Explorer from Hillsboro Ford for the sheriff’s office. Becker said the plan allows him to take advantage of an $11,000 insurance check for the previous vehicle, damaged when used to stop a chase in Hillsboro and to also outfit the sport utility vehicle.

He also will use $2,900 from drug funds to help pay for the vehicle, which was selected from a group of bids received.

Becker said the vehicle will allow for transport of the drug dog and prisoners at the same time, allow better performance on dirt roads and give officers a high line of sight.

Diana Carter, county appraiser, reported to commissioners that her office has been approved by the state as within procedural and statistical compliance.

Carter said her office is processing 40 to 50 faxes daily, and she is in the process of looking into a new fax within the computer system that can be used by other offices in the courthouse, too.

Carol Maggard, county clerk, said new custodians for the courthouse are Darrel Helmer, Marion, and Martha Pagenkopf, Lost Springs.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director, said construction work has resumed on the Ebenfeld bridge, but with only a single crew from the contractor, not a double crew as hoped for.

David Brazil, county sanitarian, said the county attorney is being advised of illegal dump sites at 290th and Vista, 140th and Quail Creek, and 170th and Eagle with trash being left both along the roadways and on the landowners’ sides.

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