Commissioners give Marion ‘bite’ of courthouse ground

The Marion County Commission decided Monday to give the city of Marion a small triangle of courthouse ground for a new street by the library/railroad depot rennovation project.

But the decision wasn’t made without dissent. Commissioners Bob Hein and Howard Collett voted to give the city deed to the ground while Commissioner Leroy Wetta voted against it.

Dennis Nichols, Marion city administrator, asked the commission for the ground on behalf of the city. The area begins 20 feet wide at the southwest corner of the courthouse grounds and runs more than 200 feet on the north and south sides to a point, all parallell to the north front of the depot.

A portion of earthen lot separates the hard-surfaced parking at the south end of the courthouse grounds from the proposed street, and the location of a county utility shed would remain the same.

Nichols said that besides providing access to the new library/depot, the street would help provide a courthouse-square traffic pattern to help traffic flow, and encourage development around the courthouse.

Wetta said he was concerned that even though the piece of ground is small, the county also may need ground for future office space and orderly grounds devlopment.

“We’re starting to nibble our space off,” he said, “and this area to the south is the only part we have to expand in.”

Nichols suggested that some expansion for the county might go north, perhaps even into the street between the present grounds and store buildings. He said without the county ground for the street, the street probably would go in as a narrower one-way.

Collett said: “I think cooperation between our cities and the county is important. The city has an expensive project to complete, and the access street can’t be moved closer to the depot. I think we need to transfer (not lease) the needed property to the city, and I hope that the city finds ways to cooperate with the county in the future too. We have been at odds at times in the past.”

Nichols agreed on the city’s behalf to provide curb cuts for entry from the county parking lot into the new street.

An effort to put Marion County Lake, which was built from 1936 to 1939 mostly with Depression-era work programs, on the National Historic Register was also met with some concern.

County Clerk Carol Maggard, early in the meeting, presented an application prepared by Dwight and Helen Beckham, lake residents, to be considered Feb. 23 by the State Historical Society.

Later, when Dale Snelling, park superintendent at the lake, came in for his monthly report, he brought County Attorney Susan Robson with him to express concerns.

Snelling said he thought it would be expensive for the county if every time he wanted to “plant a tree or nail a shingle down,” he had to go to the state to get permission.

He was concerned the county might be required to get professional engineering for jobs that are able to be done now within the county staff.

Robson advised it would be wise to know “all the ramifications” from the Historical Society before proceeding.

Maggard said she thought professional engineering requirements would apply only when working on old WPA-built structures and not to newer structures or landscaping.

It was noted that much of the historic work is old cut stone, some of it, such as in outdoor ovens, heavily damaged by fire.

It was decided that Collett and Snelling would contact the Historical Society about coming to the Feb. 23 meeting.

Wetta noted that contacting the Society in advance would give commissioners time to take any actions on resolutions they felt might be required at the Feb. 19 commission meeting.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to provide $2,000 this year for the Kansas Legal Services office.

Maggard advised the commission that she had discovered that an earlier $3,000, earmarked to bring the courthouse boiler system to state standards, would do for only the main building, and they voted to bring the total to about $4,800 to take care of the jail boiler, too.

They approved spending $194 each for four replacement back-up batteries for the courthouse computer system in case low voltage or outage causes disruption.

Arthur Wedel and Ron Weibert asked commissioners for improvement of Roxbury Road in the northwest part of the county. Wedel said the first two miles of the road are rough.

Weibert thought the road should merit the same quality of blacktop surface as that coming west from Tampa. They noted that the road had been hard-surface at least into the 1960s.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge superintendent, said the road has been treated with magnesium chloride to stabilize it, and provide a better base and surface. He noted that the road out of Tampa is hard-surfaced because of the activities of the grain elevator there.

Hein said chip and seal surface may be put on the road later this year if enough is left from the budget.

Kelsey said the magnesium chloride dries very hard but can be softer in wet weather. He said he would recommend grading the road after the next rain.

Kelsey presented bids for engineering inspection of 301 county bridges, and then had to recommend one after a tie bid.

The bids were $45.50 per bridge from BG Consultants of Manhattan, $40.50 from Cook, Flatt and Strobel of Topeka, and $40.50 from Kirkham and Michael of Ellsworth. Kelsey decided on the Topeka company because the firm has already done an “excellent job” on inspections for several years.

The current report from the engineers lists at least two bridges in poor condition and another deteriorated, but with many bridges dating back to the early decades of the 1900’s still doing good service.

Kelsey said his department bought enough bridge beams last year to be able to rebuild three or four bridges.

The commissioners gave David Brazil, county sanitarian, permission to assist the city of Lost Springs in a survey for utility improvement funds.

Sheriff Lee Becker told commissioners the new undersheriff is Randy Brazil, who succeeds Bob Soyez, who retired because of health considerations.

Bruce Wells and Peggy Blackman of the Flint Hills Resource Conservation and Development Council representing Marion, Morris, Chase, Butler, Lyon and Greenwood counties presented their annual report to the commission.

Their activities covered such programs as deer hunters donating venison for low income food programs. A more complete report on their activities will be in next week’s Free Press.

JoAnn Knak, EMS director, reported 33 January ambulance calls for Hillsboro, 30 for Marion, 11 for Peabody and five for Tampa. Two calls were for first responders for Goessel, seven for Lincolnville, two for Durham and three for Burns.

The commissioners approved a bid presented by Becker for $3,838.90 from Webster Auto for replacement of an engine in a Crown Victoria squad car.

They met for 20 minutes in executive session with James Kaup, Topeka attorney, for discussion of solid waste matters with no announced decision.

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