Marion leaders OK non-binding landfill vote

by Jerry Engler

The Marion City Commission Monday voted 3-0, after some hesitation, for a resolution to hold a non-binding advisory public election -probably the first part of March-on whether to seek locating a regional solid waste landfill at the Martin Marietta Quarry north of town.

Mayor Eloise Mueller, who along with Commissioner Bud Pierce, voted earlier this winter to seek negotiations with Waste Connections, Inc., again on getting the landfill, suggested the election to determine public interest.

Mueller said since she is an elected public official, she owes it to the citizens of Marion to seek their opinion on the matter.

Both the city of Marion and Waste Connections had withdrawn from previous negotiations over the last year on whether to locate the landfill. Waste Connections had said it wouldn’t pursue other alternatives while it was involved in seeking to locate a landfill in Harper County.

Commissioner Jim Crofoot, who earlier voted against seeking to reopen negotiations, said, “This election will cost the city $600 to $800 and just open a festering wound again. We don’t know if Waste Connections or anyone else will be interested in coming here for a landfill, unless they’re going to get kicked out of Harper.”

Dennis Nichols, city administrator who had been asked by Mueller to research having an election, said, “Well, we know if Waste Connections isn’t the one, then Rocky (Hett, owner of the quarry land with his family) will generate interest from another company. This election might be a help in settling the issue.”

A lawsuit against the city by landowners around the quarry, which contends that the city acted illegally in annexing the quarry, is pending action from the court.

Mueller asked for a motion for a resolution to hold the election. When none came, she made the motion herself, Pierce seconded, and Crofoot added his vote.

City Attorney Dan Baldwin had begun planning in September 2000 for such an election that the commission decided against holding. He was directed to join Nichols in preparing for the election with Marion County Clerk Carol Maggard.

Nichols said Maggard had indicated the early March date would work well for her since it can’t be held at the same time as the April general election.

Nichols and Baldwin will work out whether to have one polling place or two.

In other business, the commission approved a $100 membership in the Marion County Lake Association. The organization promotes tourism and activities at Marion Reservoir. The city also joined the association last year when the group was launched.

Marty Fredrickson, street superintendent, said he has made regular inspections of work by Pearson Excavating on excavation work at Batt Industrial Park, and is pleased with the company’s organization and “excellent work.”

Pearson will finish its work late this week, and Fredrickson recommended the company’s name be retained on city listings for future bids.

Nichols recommended that until a business is interested in purchasing the lot next to Stone City Cafe, where the city demolished a building and took ownership at 201/203 E. Main, that a temporary park be created.

He said installing a sprinkler system for under $2,500 and planting grass would both improve appearance and reduce maintenance.

The commission approved Nichols’ suggestion that it be called Liberty Park to keep the spirit suggested by the flag mural on the west outside wall of the cafe.

Susan Cooper, development director, has worked with the Chamber of Commerce on the possibility of hosting a farmers’ market in the downtown park as a city attraction. She said the Chamber would like to be in charge of the market.

Cooper said Larry Richardson of Senior Market Research Associates has completed his feasibility study for building an assisted-living facility in Marion, and has recommended no more than a 30- to 35-unit complex.

Richardson recommended the facility include full food service, an activities department and activity areas, washers and dryers, a beauty salon, an emergency call system, cable-ready units, a library, a computer room and a chapel.

Cooper said the city’s elderly population, 65 and older, is at 29 percent and the county’s at 23 percent “which is an excellent climate for an assisted-living facility.”

Neighboring communities with such facilities averaged a 95 percent occupancy rate.

Cooper and Mueller will be visiting facilities for ideas this week in Eureka, Parsons, Baldwin City and Manhattan.

Cooper said the next step will be for Bob Brooks of Brooks Development to gather potential investors. Once investors have been committed, design and location can be determined, she said.

The Marion Police Department reported to the commission that a narcotics search warrant at 413 S. Fourth served with assistance from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks resulted in confiscation of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and possibly other drugs with future arrests to be determined by the county attorney.

The commissioners commended Harvey Sanders, utilities superintendent, for the improved appearance of the small fountain in the city park after removal of posts once placed there for insurance liability.

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