ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Harry Bennett came to the Marion City Commission Monday as a member of the regional solid waste planning commission to offer advice on why the city shouldn’t hold a proposed advisory election about seeking a regional landfill.
But when he was done, the commissioners voted 2-0 for a resolution to set the election from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 5. The site under consideration is the Martin-Marietta quarry north of town on land owned by the Rocky Hett family.
City Attorney Dan Baldwin said after Bennett spoke, the city commission had not taken any formal action on the election until the resolution was passed.
Mayor Eloise Mueller asked City Administrator Dennis Nichols to read the resolution. Then she asked for a motion to approve the resolution.
Commissioner Bud Pierce did so, Mueller seconded, and they passed it. Commissioner Jim Crofoot was absent.
The commission also announced a 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 5, public information meeting on the landfill proposal at the Veterans of Foreign War post. Two experts, Dennis Degner, chief of the Solid Waste Permits Section in the Bureau of Waste Management for Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and Paul Graves, chief of solid waste landfills unit in BWM for KDHE, will provide information at the meeting.
Bennett, with a dozen “Stop Landfills Around Marion” members also attending, a group Bennett has spoken on behalf of, said he started with the regional commission in 1993, when only Marion and Dickinson counties were members.
Then, he said, McPherson and Harvey Counties joined the others in 1995 to form the current four-county group. This group introduced the solid-waste plan in 1996, with the stamp of approval of KDHE, Bennett said.
Bennett noted that Jack Regnier, also at the commission meeting, was a regional planning member, too.
Bennett said the waste plan must be updated every five years with the current completion to be the end of February with accompanying public information meetings and press coverage. He said trying to have an advisory election near the same time would be confusing and counter-productive for the public.
Bennett said all active landfills in the four counties are closed now, and the agenda to build a new one is actually “driven by” interests in Harvey and McPherson counties who want control over future efforts.
Bennett said authority and planning for solid waste in the four counties rests with the regional commission, and that commission can accept or reject waste disposal plans, either public or by private companies.
He said from the regional commission, planning goes to county commissions of the four counties, and after that to cities. When it comes to authority to do anything, Bennett told the commissioners, “You’re down the road.”
Mueller asked him who had the final authority.
Bennett said the counties assigned the authority and that it rests on state rules with KDHE providing financial backing from state tipping fees.
He added that nobody had ever gone through proper channels applying first to the regional commission to seek approval for siting a regional landfill north of Marion.
Bennett said the commissioners should also consider that Waste Connections, the company considered for the past year as the possible operator of a landfill at the quarry, has had 11 violations with the state of Oklahoma in recent months. Infractions included not filing required limits to the waste stream and failing to properly contain leachate.
Bennett cited European evidence of living proximity to landfills causing genetic defects in children.
He noted that a Florida power company has approached Chase County about building a windfarm there, and that the same company already is paying $2,000 a year for 20 years to each landowner where one of its 170 windmills is in Gray County.
Bennett said this shows there are other economic alternatives to look at besides landfills.
Bennett said his final issue with the city’s election proposal was why such an election should be limited to city voters when a landfill “could impact so many people” on neighboring land. He said it should at least be extended to residents of the townships that border on Marion.
The commissioners also approved purchase of a New Holland TC25 tractor for $17,430 from Straub International for mowing the cemetery and working on ball fields.
They authorized Nichols to proceed on a contract for $300 a month ton continue employing Morgan Marshall as contract operator for the city water plant until John Maxfield, city employee, gains eligibility through work experience at the water plant to sit for the Level II exam in August.
Nichols said Pearson Excavation has completed excavation work at Batt Industrial Park, and both Middle Creek Mining and Mies Construction will begin installing water lines and the sewer system Feb. 4.
The latter two companies also have agreed to bid on water and sewer line replacements from Main St. to John Deere Jan. 31 with the winning bids to be approved Feb. 4, Nichols said.
Bob Brookens, chairman of the auditorium advisory board, will report the commission Feb. 25 on auditorium goals for new bathroom signs, new back and side curtains, rubber treading on stairs from basement to stage, stage light additions, curtain adjustments and dressing room improvements.
Police Chief David Mayfield proposed seeking grant money to add another police officer after outlining his annual report including such statistics as 73 felony cases for the year.