Motion dies to ignore landfill election results

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Commissioner Jim Crofoot made a motion at the Monday Marion City Commission meeting to honor the results of the non-binding election by not continuing to seek negotiations with Waste Connections or any other company to site a regional solid-waste landfill.

But his motion died for lack of a second.

Crofoot said the commission had asked city voters to speak for or against the landfill last week-58 percent of the voters had voted against it, a margin of 99 votes.

“The city needs to honor the election results,” he said.

Crofoot acknowledged that some persons felt the difference in votes wasn’t much, “depending on who you talk to, but I feel it is a substantial margin.”

Proposals were for a landfill to be located at the Martin Marietta quarry north of Marion on land owned by the Rocky Hett family that was annexed by the city for that purpose.

Mayor Eloise Mueller said the 615 persons who cast votes were only 42 percent of the electorate, meaning a disappointing 58 percent didn’t vote-apparently meaning they didn’t care what happened.

She said that when the nonvoters are added to those that favored the landfill, the margin of 99 seems very small.

Crofoot replied that this type of voter turnout is typical, noting that it was about the same in the sales-tax election and the last mayorial election, which he noted Mueller won by only 98 votes.

Mueller said: “I just don’t want to burn our bridges behind us. We don’t know yet what the county might do in the next year or two. I suggest we just drop this for the moment.”

Commissioner Bud Pierce noted the regional solid-waste plan for the four counties of Marion, McPherson, Dickinson and Harvey is due for approval the end of March.

“I’ve read it three times,” he said, “and personally I don’t like it at all. It’s a terrible plan. They are wanting to dictate to us what we will do to get rid of trash. I think Marion County and the city of Marion should withdraw from it.”

Crofoot said, “I’m not sure a city can pull out of the plan.”

City Administrator Dennis Nichols said any withdrawl from the regional plan would require approval from the county commission.

Mueller asked if there were any other motions on solid waste.

Pierce said if the mayor wanted a motion, he would make one for the city to withdraw from the four-county plan.

Mueller said: “I suggest we not do anything for a while, just see what happens. I wouldn’t pursue a landfill for now. But that doesn’t mean that in a month or two we won’t have to look at it again. That’s just my opinion.”

Hett reported to Marion police March 8 that a sign he erected at the quarry gate in support of a landfill had been vandalized. He said the sign had been smeared with black paint and a smiley face he put on it with his name had the eyes shot out with a firearm.

Fire Chief Thad Meierhoff reported he and Development Director Susan Cooper are pursuing 90 percent federal-grant funds that are more easily available since Sept. 11 to purchase a fully-equipped fire truck estimated to cost $185,000 to $190,000 to replace the city’s 33-year-old truck.

Nichols said the city has $20,000 set aside for its share in purchasing a truck.

Meierhoff said the newly organized Marion County Fire Chiefs Association is getting departments to work and train together. He asked all city personnel who can, to attend a training session of the association with the county emergency preparedness director March 25 in the city building.

Crofoot said in light of fire department costs, the city should continue to pursue billing patrons who file false fire alarms.

Meierhoff reported 57 fire runs in 2001 with 432 men participating on calls to four townships plus the city. Firefighters also took part in 799 hours of training, he said.

Police Chief David Mayfield presented a substance-abuse policy he worked out with City Attorney Dan Baldwin for drug and alcohol screening of potential city employees, random testing of employees and assistance for employees seeking help with a substance abuse problem.

Mayfield said the program isn’t “reactive” to any existing problem, but is “proactive” to prevent future problems.

The commissioners approved Mayfield’s proposals 3-0 to contract with Employment Safety Professionals, which is co-owned by Bob Seacat of Marion, to provide individual screenings at $41 each for three new hires and 12 random tests over the next 12 months at a total cost of $615. Testing would be done in Marion.

The approval also covered $270 for an employee-assistance program for employees with existing problems annually through Prairie View no matter how many employees use the service.

Cooper said Bob Brooks, developer of the proposed assisted-living facility in Marion, is ready to look at potential building sites for the facility.

Cooper said the facility would have 20 or more employees, and add significantly to the property-tax base in the city.

Harvey Sanders, utilities superintendent, said the new sprinkler system in Central Park has been tested and is performing well. The system for the new Liberty Park downtown also is done.

He said new electrical service was finished last week for the new farmers’ market in Liberty Park and for upgraded installation at Marion Country Club.

Marty Fredrickson, street superintendent, said water, gas and gravity sewer lines are complete at the new Batt Industrial Park, but work on pressure sewer lines has gone slower because of hitting rock.

The commissioners approved a plumbing license for Doug Helmer.

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