Slow rains prompting requests for gravel on roads

Recent slow rains are creating such mud problems on gravel roads that Marion County commissioners and Road and Bridge Department workers said Monday they are handling near record requests from residents for more rock.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director, said there isn’t necessarily more rain now than in 1993, but rain then came hard enough to run off, while this slow rain is “mostly soaking in,” even through road bedrock.

The experience has proved the benefit of mixing sand with gravel on roads, Kelsey said, to create a smoother packed surface that drains more easily. Kelsey and commissioners informally are discussing more use of sand and some mixing of harder rock with local rock.

What the roads need now are several days without rain to enable road grading to blade gravel to the surface, Kelsey said.

Commissioners gave Tom Holub, road and bridge maintenance chief, permission to spend from $3,400 to $3,500 in funds to buy a grader bit pipe that mounts by two pins to a road grader blade to rip up chuck holes at a shallow depth to help bring gravel to the surface.

Holub said the tool will be interchangeable between graders, which will enableworkers to exchange it at the borders of areas they work.

Michele Abbott-Becker, director of Communications and Emergency Management Department, showed commissioners the Lt. Col. Carl Gray Memorial Award plaque she was given for exceptional service Oct. 14 at the Kansas Association of Public Safety Communications Operators meeting.

Abbott-Becker told commissioners she also had bad news, that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has informed her department that because of state cutbacks, the state connection line used here for things such as license and criminal background checks will rise from its current $143 monthly charge to Marion County to $402 a month in 2004.

Full-time law enforcement personnel in Marion County-including sheriff’s officers, police, some Corps of Engineers personnel and highway patrolmen-have received their first federally funded anti-terrorist kits including protective suits, boots and gas masks, Abbot-Becker said.

Noreen Weems, director of the Elderly Department, said a plaque of appreciation was awarded to Gene Andersen of Peabody by the Senior Citizens of Marion County. Andersen served three years as a trustee of the Flint Hills Foundation and as the county’s Silver Haired Legislator, she said.

Senior citizen board members elected for 2003-2005 are Ron Freeman in District 1 and Magdalen Dvorak in District 2, both serving second terms, and Arlene Unruh in District 3 serving a first term.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said county workers who responded to a question on whether they would prefer direct bank deposit for payroll or continue to receive pay checks had voted 52 to 34 in favor of direct deposit.

Maggard said there wasn’t much difference in effort for her department between electronic deposit or laser printing of checks. But commissioners have felt there is expense involved in efforts by supervisors to hand-deliver checks.

Commissioner Howard Collett said some employees may prefer to just cash checks, and that the vote might not be overwhelming enough to justify a switch.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta suggested a compromise to use electronic deposit for those who wished it, and to mail checks to those who wanted them, thus also saving supervisors’ time.

Commission Chairman Bob Hein said employees would need to realize the mailing could mean a two- or three-day delay in getting paid, but he and Collett agreed to approve the split pay system 3-0.

The commissioners approved a purchase for $18,795 less $4,350 trade-in by Bill Smithhart, Noxious Weed Department director, of a used one-ton, four-wheel drive 2000 Chevrolet 3500 truck to replace a department truck that burned.

Commissioners met in teleconference executive session with Jim Kaup of Topeka, attorney for solid waste matters, with no announcements.

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