County and KCD may be nearing agreement

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission Monday came closer to an agreement with KC Development to pay the company for solid-waste disposal. The actual agreement might be reached next Monday.

The commissioners will still meet with solid-waste attorneys on this issue and the closing of the old landfill south of Marion in closed session Friday.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta said he wouldn’t be ready for a final offer without thinking it over for several days.

After months of debate, the commissioners last week made an offer to KC-which was rejected as too low for $38-per-ton base rate on trash delivered by county-licensed collectors plus a supplemental disposal fee of $6-per-ton paid by the county.

This week, Commission Chairman Bob Hein told KC owners Theo Bond and Rex Savage, “Last week we made a proposal for $6 supplemental fee, and this week we would like to sweeten the pot by saying that we’d go with $12 a ton.”

Bond said, “No.”

Savage said: “You got $6 closer to what was the low bid on a public contract. I get frustrated being asked to back off on a low bid.”

Wetta said the commissioners were only trying to make the contract economically viable for both the transfer company and the communities involved.

Hein said the KC contract price of $38,700 a month by some figuring could bring trash rates up to $70 a month.

Savage said: “My response to that is that there were four bidders in a public bid. We were the low bidder, whether that works out to $70 or $100 a ton.

“We are not trying to be difficult or change how things are done. How you do the money is your call.

“We are being treated this way because we are local and because we have tried to work with you. If the low bidder had been a large outsider, they would have put you over a barrel and slapped you silly by now.”

Wetta said the choice is boiling down to “do we capitulate or fight? We could win big or lose big. We both could lose big.”

Savage replied, “And at the end of it, you’d still have to pay to get rid of trash.”

Wetta said he couldn’t see how the county could finance more to avoid a win-or-lose situation.

Savage said KC couldn’t afford 20 to 30 percent cuts from what it bid for, but he appreciated the county’s position.

Hein said, “So $38,700 is it?”

Savage said, “That’s giving you about 10 percent lower already.”

Commissioner Howard Collett said, “As we see it, we have got to hold the towns on board, and part of that is to try to do as well for them as they can do out-of-county, especially on the south end of the county. It looks like you’re asking us about $66 a ton on 7,000 tons a year.”

Savage said, “You get the whole county, I think more like 7,500 tons.”

Collett said: “That might get it down to more like $62. That would make supplement more like $24 we would have to assess by household somehow. It wouldn’t be very palatible, but we have to get rid of the trash somehow. I think a fight would be too costly.

“The difference is $12 versus $24. We’re $12 apart.”

Wetta said: “I’m not ready to go to $24 a ton. I’d vote no if it came to a vote today.”

Collett said: “That would be $180,000 we would have to come up with.”

Bond said: “Our problem is you don’t want to do anything, so buy us out.”

Wetta said he didn’t want to see the county buy the brick structure that once was the Marion city power plant, then remodeled into the transfer station, at the appraised price-and then be left with a worthless building if the transfer station ever wasn’t needed.

Bond said: “So what do you want to do? Do you want to see us sue each other to see where it comes out?”

Hein asked, “Do you want to be bought out?”

Bond replied: “That would be my choice, Bob. I’m tired of it. You have us sit here, and beat us, and beat us, and beat us.

The commissioners discussed going back to a household charge instead of a tonnage charge for trash disposal.

Bond said people are only concerned about receiving the service at a price that seems reasonable noting that his cable television recently went up $5 a month, and he hasn’t heard complaints about that.

Hein and Collett looked to each other to move on a solution while Wetta continued to say he wasn’t ready to vote yet.

Collett suggested moving to a subsidy of $20 a ton at one point to take some action while Wetta said the base price of $38 isn’t “magic” and could be moved to $42.

Savage said: “That’s your side, guys, not ours. How you get there with the cities is up to you.”

Hein said a charge per household, somewhere in the range of $6.25 to $6.90 a month to pay for the transfer service, still would have been the better way to go.

Tampa Mayor Jim Clemmer said that would put him back to the point of asking how households and apartments were going to be counted.

Collett noted that when the contract expires in 2006 it will be time for a new deal, and he thought the county could work it out to pay for the four remaining years in the meantime.

He guessed that after meeting with Topeka attorneys Jim Kaup and Steve Pigg Friday, the commissioners would come back Monday with an offer.

Savage cautioned: “Keep it simple guys. Simple gets you there with less trouble.”

In other business, Emergency Management Director Michele Abbott-Becker requested the commissioners consider replacing not only a dispatcher who has resigned, but also an additonal dispatcher because of the growing number of 911 and advisory calls, mostly because of increased calls from cell phones.

She said calls increased from 3,267 in January 2001 to 3,900 this year, and from 3,900 in February 2001 to 4,020 this year.

David Brazil, planning director, presented a conditional-use permit for an automobile restoration and retail business on the southeast edge of Hillsboro with the operator still to be announced.

The commissioners reviewed and approved employee health-insurance plans with higher deductibles and cost shares reflective of price rises for insurance.

Dianna Carter, county appraiser, told commissioners that 15,000 appraisal notices will go out next week with some increases that will cause people “to complain to you.”

She said appraisers found some farms with soil types identified incorrectly that could cause as much as 12-percent increases, and cellular towers assigned values of $2,000 that should have been $200,000. Carter said tax-exempt properties also are updated in value.

Hein announced that Rep. Jerry Moran was not going to be able to make a scheduled question-answer session in Burns because of voting on the farm bill, but aid Kurt Johnson was taking his place.

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