Residents, commission debate value of landfill vote

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Louis Wegerer suggested Mayor Eloise Mueller resign at one point during Monday’s Marion City Commission meeting as citizens opposed to any regional landfill questioned commissioners’ intention to honor the nonbinding advisory election.

Wegerer, who was on the agenda for the meeting, has been active in the citizens’ group called Stop Landfills Around Marion.

Fred Helmer was also on the agenda to question the city’s intent.

So was Rocky Hett, whose family owns the land where the Martin Marietta rock quarry was sought as a site for a landfill. But he wanted city permission to burn wildlife habitat food plots there to promote more quail.

Wegerer, speaking to the commission before about 20 landfill opponents at the meeting, said he came to question the city’s intent in not taking action on a motion last week by Commissioner Jim Crofoot to honor the election by not seeking to locate a landfill again.

He likened the landfill question “to a festering wound that irritates more and more people. It won’t go away until we make it go away.”

Mueller noted the election was a non-binding vote and that too many people didn’t vote, therefore raising the question of whether a majority of people really were against the landfill.

She said 26 percent of registered voters indicated “no” on seeking a landfill, 18 percent voted “yes,” and 56 percent didn’t vote.

Wegerer questioned how many of the 56 percent could be accounted for by the fact that the voting list was old, and some known names on it, such as that of a well-known medical doctor, have moved away.

He cited many previous city elections where the voter turnout was similar to the nonbinding election, or even less.

Wegerer said: “I had a hard time voting because of work. It was a hardship for many people to get here to vote. And now you’re saying my vote didn’t count?”

“I didn’t say that,” Mueller replied. “I just don’t want to say that we might not do this some time in the future for the sake of the town. We need to consider all the alternatives.”

Wegerer said for the future of the town, the commission needs to kill the landfill question, and start collecting sales tax “for all the rock going across the scales that’s subject to taxation at the quarry” because annexation of the land to seek a quarry has put it within city taxation.

Wegerer contended the city had overstepped its authority in ever seeking a landfill because that would be in the domain of Marion County and the four-county regional solid-waste plan.

Mueller said the city could try to get permission from the county if a landfill were to be sited. She said the city also had received reliable information for justifying a site from Waste Connections when dealing with the company.

Harry Bennett said he had participated in the four-county plan and that the group had rejected the Marion site in its last five-year plan because it is too near a population center.

Mueller said she understood the group favored locating a landfill near Durham, which would be unsuitable because it’s above Marion Reservoir.

Bennett said a landfill wouldn’t be located near a water source, that it would be done by careful effort “in the public arena, not done in the dark to get it through” by those who would benefit as it was in the Marion case.

Mueller said neither she nor Commissioner Bud Pierce had seconded Crofoot’s motion to discontinue seeking a landfill because they didn’t want to close off any future opportunity.

“We aren’t pursuing anything now,” she said. “We may get a better offer. I’ve thought how often Marion has missed the boat on other opportunities.”

She said the county is unsettled in how it will deal with solid waste, and in how it will continue in dealing with KC Development transfer station.

Wegerer asked Mueller what the city would be doing if the nonbinding vote had been in favor of a landfill.

Mueller replied that probably the commission would be pursuing getting one.

Wegerer said he had visited landfills with baseball fields around them that smelled so badly that nobody played ball there. He questioned whether the commission had sufficiently visited operating landfills.

Muller said she had visited the one at Topeka and one at Lamar, Mo., and thought they both looked good.

She asked City Attorney Dan Baldwin if the commissioners had done or were doing anything wrong in landfill considerations.

Baldwin said all he saw them doing was participating in the exchange of political opinion.

Crofoot said proponents of the landfill are like a kid getting his first paycheck. He might get the $500 he was promised, but is surprised when withholding knocks it down to $350, Crofoot said.

Crofoot said this would happen with a landfill, too. It would sound like big money to the community, but wouldn’t be near enough 30 years down the road when the company had walked away, and the community was left with the responsibility, he said.

Hett countered that landfill companies are required to pay into a fund held by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, currently at $1 a ton, for a 30-year period that can be extended to 90 years.

Helmer questioned whether landfills in other places were ever located so close to a town, noting that the landfill at Topeka is 10 miles outside the city limits.

Mueller said she had heard there are four landfills within the city limits of Tulsa.

Regarding Hett’s burn request, Mueller said there is an exemption in the city’s burning ban when burning is done for crop production survival, and that Hett’s quail production for his hunting business would qualify.

The commissioners postponed a decision to allow the burn to be done under guidelines set by Fire Chief Thad Meierhoff.

Development Director Susan Cooper presented a list of the lot prices at Batt Industrial Park at a rate of $10,000 an acre that was determined by the Economic Development Advisory Board based on comparisons with similar communities.

She said the prices were a guideline and could be changed all the way down to free if a company was shown to provide enough employment benefit to the community.

The commissioners approved the pricing 3-0.

They also approved a low bid from APAC of $167,142.70 for street surfacing, working with city crew for four-inch pavement on two blocks of Hudson east of Elm, one block of Library with curb and gutter and parking, and one block of Coble in front of Marion Manufacturing; for 6-inch paving on Roosevelt Street from Kellison to Batt Street; and for 8-inch paving on Batt and Industrial Streets.

City Administrator Dennis Nichols told commissioners that Marion Manufacturing is building new steel equipment under safety guidelines to replace homemade skate-park equipment because of insurance limitations.

He said Jamie Williams has raised $2,000 of the $10,000 required for construction and will continue seeking funds for the balance that has been covered by loan.

Cooper said the band, “.38 Special,” has been booked for Chingawassa Days, June 1.

Marty Fredrickson, street superintendent, said contractors at the industrial park have gotten through the worst of the rock which is slowing sewer construction.

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