Commissioners reimpose burn ban in county

Dry weather and the economy both were high on the Marion County Commission’s agenda Monday. The commissioners reimposed a ban on burning put several financial requests on hold.

The county-wide ban on burning because of the tinder-dry drought conditions was to take effect Wednesday. The commissioners voted 3-0 to continue it probably on a weekly basis with the first week to expire Dec. 19 until rain or snow arrives to relieve the situation.

The ban came about on the suggestion of more than one county official. Michele Abbott-Becker, emergency management director, said fire departments had responded to at least seven fires in the county Sunday with most of them being controlled burns that got out of hand.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director, said Marion and Lincolnville fire fighters had especially been busy in the Pilsen area and north.

Commissioner Bob Hein said, “I think we need the ban, as dry as it is with the wind.”

David Brazil, planning and zoning and sanitarian departments director, began the economic considerations with a suggestion that he use balances that might come in as much as 8 percent under budget for the year in both of his departments toward projected computer needs.

Commissioners agreed with Brazil that in the future he would need improved computer memory and speed because of the data base being created, but they stopped short of approving the estimated $600 per department it would take to upgrade systems at this time.

Hein thought the expense might make this year’s budget come in “tight” instead of with a definite surplus.

Commissioner Howard Collett thought the advance planning was good, and the commission might approve the need for the computer upgrade later, but “we have to pay for things we didn’t plan on this year too.

“With the state of the economy since Sept. 11, and the fact that we don’t know what kind of program we will be looking at in a year or so, I think we need to start holding the line on all our expenses.”

Abbott-Becker got much the same response on the request tabled from last week for a $2,000 contribution from the county for Jaws-of-Life equipment for the Florence ambulance.

After some discussion, Collett said he would like to see the request tabled until after the first of the year “so we can see as much carryover as we can into next year. We need to economize in county government.”

Hein said he would hope that in the meantime, emergency needs that require more help for the Florence area could be met with backup out of Peabody and other areas.

Commission Chairman Leroy Wetta noted that it has been brought to commissioners’ attention that Jaws of Life in fire departments aren’t always manned for as quick of a response as those with emergency medical services, which could leave a gap in a response from Florence, particularly with activity on the U.S. Highway 50 corridor.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a request from Abbott-Becker to transfer the balance of grant money she has received from the general fund into the emergency management fund.

They also approved 3-0 Abbott-Becker spending $650 in 911 funds for a topographical survey and study to help put 911 services on a single broadcast band in the county that would “help eliminate dead zones” of reception.

She explained that right now the county is divided with the north on one band and the south on another. A new system would use two repeaters on the same band on grain elevators at Tampa and Peabody, and probably eventually be done at a cost in the $34,000 range, she said.

She would expect a slow change-over in local emergency departments with equipment adapted to the new band as it is acquired.

JoAnn Knak, EMS director, said she has passed her coroner training, and is awaiting notice of final approval so that she can serve as coroner for Marion County and in nearby bordering areas of neighboring counties.

In her monthly report to the commission, she listed 48 emergency medical calls: 23 for Hillsboro, 20 for Marion and five for Peabody. Of these 10 were for transfers, two for cardiac, 21 for medical emergencies, one for stand by, four for vehicle accidents, and six for falls.

Goessel had seven first-responder calls and Burns had two.

Knak will take a terrorism class in Salina Dec. 12, and conduct a first aid/CPR class for Boy Scouts Dec. 31.

Commissioners approved 3-0 a bid presented by Dale Snelling, park director, from Baker Furniture at Peabody for $1,822 to provide 10,000 county lake park brochures.

Commissioners approved 3-0 a request from Dianna Carter, county appraiser, to spend $274 extra for two flat-screen monitors instead of regular monitors on new computers to ease employee eye strain and for a free standing fax instead of a fax board.

The commissioners met for a half-hour by telephone in executive session with Jim Kaup, the attorney who represents them in solid waste matters.

They came to no announced decision, and commented only that negotiations are continuing on an interlocal agreement with cities on the KC Development transfer station solid waste disposal contract.

In the meantime, a KC representative confirmed that a “notice of default” on the contract was served Wednesday, Dec. 5, on Brazil as the representative of the county as per contract terms.

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