Commissioners vote to upgrade fleet of aging county road graders

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission agonized over its aging road graders Friday before voting 3-0 to sieze an opportunity to upgrade the top three graders to bigger machines.

Peabody and the future of the rest of Marion County regarding neighborhood revitalization plans also were discussed.

Jerry May of Foley Caterpillar told commissioners his company would continue to operate with its lease-purchases in a situation where it is not making a profit with the road graders, but was likely to correct to higher prices next year.

Commissioners used the situation to upgrade from newer 120-series machines they are leasing at $1,455 a month to new heavier 140-series machines at $1,540 a month.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta made the motion for the upgrade with a provision that the commissioners use next year-which is a year out of cycle for road-grader purchases-to budget for trading the lower three or four of the county’s 16 graders for better machines in an effort to stop deterioration of the grader fleet.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge supervisor, appearing with his department chiefs Tom Holub and Jim Herzet, advised commissioners that older graders are averaging 12,000 to 18,000 hours of service, making it tougher to keep them on the road without repeated repairs.

Holub said it can cost the county shop $10,000 to $12,000 to overhaul a grader.

Commissioner Howard Collett, taking note that the lease-purchase is costing in the annual range of $18,000 to $20,000, said he wished the county could get itself into a regular rollover situation keeping upgraded with newer machines annually.

May said he is working with many counties caught in the same dilemna: much higher costs for equipment with older road graders purchased when county governments gave little thought to future purchase programs but simply bought a grader when they had to.

Commissioners rescinded a vote to purchase 160 grader blades from Welborn Sales Inc. of Salina for $4,776 when they realized companies bidding may have been doing so under different guarantee specifications.

Commission Chairman Bob Hein agreed-after Wetta pointed out guarantee differences-that the county can’t afford even a small precedence of any unfairness in bidding.

Hein again cited precedence as commissioners concurred in rejecting approval for another fireworks permit that came in after the June 21 expiration date for requests.

“If we don’t honor a deadline, what good does it do?” he asked.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said the request was postmarked June 24.

Cindy Saenz, representing the City of Peabody, received the commissioners’ approval on a city neighborhood-revitalization program and interlocal agreement similar to those already approved for the City of Burns.

The program, which reduces property-tax rebates over 10 years on properties owners improve, covers the entire city. Saenz said Peabody has many vacant lots on which residences could be built and an industrial park that needs to be filled.

Wetta said it seemed to him that if Peabody was to expand beyond those areas, it would have problems annexing property across the Doyle Creek flood plain to the south or extending utilities north across the highway.

Collett noted that Peabody is in a favorable location in the county for taking advantage of higher development further south.

The commissioners discussed whether such programs are developing toward the entire county having such plans. Collett said many businesses are operating outside cities which receive no incentives from any programs.

Maggard presented commissioners with a payday figure of $636,183.

She said $145,000 was committed out of road and bridge funds for cold mix.

Maggard said sales-tax receipts are recovering from the economic downturn.

She reported April returns at $38,121 compared to $36,461 a year ago. Total returns recorded this year through April are still down $6,848 compared to 2001, she said.

Maggard announced receipt of a letter from Morris County with a resolution on how it will work with neighboring counties as the result of any bioterrorism attack-a development coming as the result of a state conference last week.

Maggard will work with Michelle Abbot-Becker to put together a resolution for the commission. Hein said Harvey County also has developed a resolution.

Sheriff Lee Becker said his department is watching for overweight grain-hauling trucks that may be traveling county roads at night.

He reported two speeding stops last week when pursuits reached 95 mph to more than 100 mph.

Commissioners awarded herbicide bids presented by Bill Smithhart, noxious-weed director, for $4,565.90 to Markley Service for 50 gallons of Banvel and 30 gallons of Crossbow, and for $1,600.20 to Ag Service for 180 gallons of 2-4D amine.

Commissioners awarded a road and bridge fuel bid for four areas of $5,160 to Cardie Oil.

The commissioners met by telephone in executive session with Jim Kaup, their attorney for solid-waste affairs, who is based in Topeka. Commissioners made no public announcement following the meeting.

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