Hein elected chairman of county commission

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER

Bob Hein was elected chairman of the Marion County Commission Monday to succeed Leroy Wetta as part of a normal rotation of the post.


Technically, Wetta went down to low man on the Commission with Commissioner Howard Collett named as vice-chairman.


In his first act as chairman, Hein thanked Wetta for his dedication in the post in the past year and hoped for a better year ahead.


The commission once again extended the county burn ban until Jan. 23 as the warm, dry conditions continue. The emergency management director continues to be empowered to end the ban if precipitation falls before the expiration date.


Hein questioned Sheriff Lee Becker about an incident Christmas Eve when firemen responded to put out a purposely set fire south of Hillsboro. He said members of the public had been calling to say they see no need to comply with the ban if there is to be no prosecution of violators.


Becker said later a report of the case was turned into the county attorney Jan. 9, and charges against the violating party can now be made by her. He noted that a successful prosecution can result in the violator paying up to a $2,500 fine.


Becker told the commissioners that his office relys on fire chiefs to determine the source of fires and to request follow-up by sheriff’s officers.


Becker also reported to the commissioners that all the horses confiscated in an animal cruelty case west of Marion have been given away to the public.


He said calls expressing interest in the horses came from persons across the state including some touching cases such as an autistic child who received one for continuing therapy. Preference was given to requests from Marion County, Becker said.


The commissioners voted 3-0 to name The Marion County Record the official county newspaper for legals publication with the same price as last year for inclusion in all three of the Hoch Publishing newspapers and no competitive bids asked for.


The commissioners named all banks within the county as depositories for county funds with payroll funds to remain in Marion National Bank to avoid confusion.


County Attorney Susan Robson informed the commissioners that the Central Kansas Conservancy Group, active in the rails to trails effort, has lost its bid in the courts to be a non-profit group for tax purposes. Robson said this means the county can expect the group to pay taxes including back taxes.


County Clerk Carol Maggard gave commissioners a license renewal to sign with the state of Kansas for another year of operation for the KC Development transfer station. She said the license had been obtained in the county’s name.


Along with the license, Maggard said KC reported disposing of 6,544 tons of solid waste from the county in 2001.


In related business, the commissioners met in a half-hour executive session by telephone with Topeka Attorney James Kaup concerning solid waste issues with no announced decision.


Eileen Sieger, chairman of the Marion County Planning Commission, and David Brazil, planning and zoning director, returned from last week to again discuss the County Commission’s approval or disapproval of the county’s comprehensive plan.


Wetta, referring to written comments he had prepared, said he was regarding the comprehensive plan as the “touchstone of all plans” that will determine how the county develops. He said he wanted to be able to address concerns, and understand planning commission ideas and reasoning in a non-adversarial manner.


Wetta said he wanted to be able to have an informal discussion of the plan without officially needing to act on it within the 30-day statuatory period set by state law.


Sieger said she would also value such a friendly, rational process, and by her reading, the state statute didn’t require the 30 days if the county commissioners hadn’t formally rejected any portion of the plan. She said she wanted the plan to fit Marion County, and not be a “canned copy” applicable anywhere.


Sieger said there was time before a planning commission nominations meeting Jan. 24. “After all, there should be no rush since this is the first time to revise the plan since 1972.”


Brazil confirmed for commissioners that there shouldn’t be major charges from consultants if minor one- and two-word changes are made to the plan. If there was more than that he thought the consultants should be able to expect another contract to rewrite the plan.


Commissioners last week had concerns with such issues as soil classifications to determine land use and acreage requirements for home building.


Becker requested the commissioners to consider his salary noting that pay for elected officials has not kept pace with pay for hired workers in the county leading to a situation where a deputy might get paid more than the sheriff.


Becker said such a request had been brought up in a past year noting lower pay for the sheriff and the register of deeds which had resulted in a pay increase for the register of deeds but not the sheriff.


Data obtained by the county clerk showed an average annual salary of $34,324 for sheriffs in counties comparable in size to Marion County. Becker’s salary was at $30,456 despite a 3.5 percent across the board raise for county employees.


Collett said he was reluctant to recommend a salary increase for anyone after the budget had been set because of the precedent it would set for further requests.


Hein said he would like to increase Becker’s salary to $32,500. Wetta moved to do so, Hein seconded, and Collett joined in for a 3-0 approval.


The commissioners directed Becker and Road and Bridge Director Gerald Kelsey to come up with funds from both departments to obtain portable truck scales for $13,400 to enforce county road-weight limits. The scales can be hauled in a vehicle trunk.


Willard Hett met with the commissioners to confirm that he will sell the county dirt from his farm for covering of the old landfill southwest of Marion as required of the county by a court judgement for the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment to force proper closure.


The dirt will be moved by county road and bridge crews. Hett wanted to know how much dirt will be needed, but Hein said that is still to be determined as consulting engineers survey the site.


Wetta noted that the plan for closure will need to receive final approval from KDHE.


The commissioners said they appreciated Hett’s response to questions on price that he was willing to accept “the going price” for cover soil, “to be paid fairly but not excessively.”


Kelsey said the deck has been completed on the Ebenfeld Bridge with forms to be removed in 14 days and approach work to begin.


JoAnn Knak, emergency medical services director, reported 76 ambulance calls for December, 20 from Hillsboro, 36 from Marion, 18 from Peabody and two from Tampa.


She said there were seven first responder calls, one from Goessel, five from Lincolnville and one from Burns.


Among other activities, Knak gave first aid and CPR class to 13 Boy Scouts in December, attended a Kansas Highway Patrol anti-terrorist seminar in Salina, and passed her coroner’s test.

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