Solid-waste issues enveloped county in 2002

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
It wasn’t glamorous, but issues related to solid waste dominated the news across Marion County in 2002.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners ended up buying a transfer station in Marion, but the road to that decision was a bumpy one and drew some resistance from city governments.

Meanwhile, voters in Marion had a chance to express their opinions about the possibility of having a Subtitle D landfill on its doorstep. The vote against the idea was nonbinding, but the issue did seem to lose steam by year’s end.

Following is a chronological overview of the year from a county-wide perspective.

January

Marion County registered a “pull factor” of 0.48-ranking it 76th among the state’s 105 counties-in a study of retail health conducted by Kansas State community development economist David Darling. A pull factor of 1.00 would indicate the county was attracting as much retail business as it is losing to other counties.

The Marion County Clerk’s Office reported the cost to care for 71 horses and 13 head of cattle removed from a Marion farm March 12, 2001, was $80,768 through Nov. 30. In addition, the cost to the state of boarding 26 dogs taken in the same raid was $45,000.

A reapportionment plan being debated in the state senate would divide Marion County almost in half, with the eastern half, including Hillsboro, falling into the 17th District represented by Jim Barnett of Emporia, and the western portion continuing in the 35th district represented by Jay Emler of Lindsborg.

The Marion City Commission raised the rental fees for city-owned facilities for the first time in the collective memory of those present.

Bob Hein of Hillsboro was elected chairman of the county commission for 2003, succeeding Leroy Wetta of Peabody.

The Marion City Commission approved a bid of $339,535 to put in water and sewer at Batt Industrial Park. The cost of doing so was originally estimated at $441,978.

An unusual sighting of a snowy owl was reported at Marion Reservoir. Gerald Wiens, a wildlife photographer from Marion, was able to photograph the bird several times.

Proponents of $4 million modernization project at Marion Reservoir hadn’t given up hope that the plan would be funded in the foreseeable future, Col. Robert L. Southard Jr. of the Tulsa District of the Army Corps of Engineers told a group of about a dozen or so leaders from Hillsboro and Marion during a visit Jan. 9.

Unseasonably warm and dry weather prompted Rickey Roberts, county extension agent, to suggest residents might want to water their lawns to prevent permanent damage.

Marion city commissioners voted 3-0 Jan. 21 to hold a non-binding advisory public election-probably in early March-on whether to seek locating a regional solid-waste landfill at the Martin Marietta Quarry north of Marion.

Rex Savage, president of KC Development, presented a letter with invoices to the county commission saying the commission was “in default” pursuant to its November 1999 agreement to act as the payment agency for all solid waste delivered for disposal in the county.

Seven Goessel High School junior and senior high students and their science teacher will be testing the water within the school district, thanks to a provision of the charter school program established by the state board of education last spring.

Peabody Junior High student Andrew Topham received an award from Gov. Bill Graves at the Capitol for his entry in the League of Kansas Municipalities’ “If I were Mayor” essay contest Jan. 24.

February

Marion city commissioners were told Feb. 4 that the value of construction in Marion for 2001 was about double what it had been each of the previous two years.

A snow-and-ice storm around the first of the month ended a county-wide burn ban that had been in effect.

About 100 people turned out Feb. 5 to talk with representatives from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment about a possible Subtitle D landfill in the Martin Marietta quarry north of Marion.

By a 2-1 vote, county commissioners decided to give the city of Marion a small triangle of courthouse ground by the library/depot renovation project. Commissioner Leroy Wetta voted against the proposal.

Effective lobbying prevented the Head Start program in Marion, Florence and McPherson from suffering from a funding cut recommended by President Bush, according to Mary Ann Conyers, director of the local programs.

Marion County was one of six Kansas counties chosen to receive a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Small Cities Community Development Block Grant. The funding was designated for making loans to small businesses.

The following were selected as award winners by the Marion County Soil Conservation office for 2002: Andrew David (Continuation), Ira Penner (Banker), Gerald Jost (Banker), Gary Steiner (Grass Buffer), Everett Brooks (Wildlife Habitat), Robert Sellers (Grassland), Steve Bartel (Young Conservation Farmer), and Marci Cain (Teacher of the Year).

The 8th Judicial District Youth Court was launched. The program gives juveniles who are first-time offenders and have pled guilty or no-contest to misdemeanor charges the option of going before a jury of their peers.

County mayors proposed to the county commission a county-wide assessment of about five mills that would give trash-dumping privileges to all county residents. The proposal was offered as a way to settle funding of the county’s contract with KC Development. The proposal was not accepted.

County commissioners agreed to support the recommendation of the Marion County Park & Lake to the National Register of Historic Places when it learned the designation would not encumber the way the county runs the park.

March

Leaders of the St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church in Pilsen projected Easter as a target date for moving into their newly restored building. Restoration plans were approved by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita and inspired, in part, by the push to designate Father Emil Kapaun a saint for his service as a chaplain during the Korean War. Work on the project began in November.

Ten Goessel Grade School students competed March 2 in the Lego MindStorm Competition at Wichita State and brought home four trophies.

Kansas Advocates for Better Care awarded Bethesda Home in Goessel an intergenerational-program award March 8 for Generation Bridge, which links about 30 residents with 24 Goessel Elementary School students.

St. Luke Hospital in Marion and Hillsboro Community Medical Center announced they would not hold a county health fair in 2002.

Fifty-eight percent of voters who participated in the non-binding advisory election in Marion voted against having a landfill located in the Martin Marietta Quarry. Mayor Eloise Mueller said the election involved only 42 percent of the electorate, indicating the majority of voters didn’t care what happened.

A group of Burns citizens, in protest of a decision by USD 298 to close and raze the grade school in town, called for the immediate resignation of Board President Doe Ann Hague March 13. The group claimed Hague violated the state’s open-meetings law and subverted the democratic process.

The Pilsen State Bank was robbed at gunpoint March 20. The robbery, which occurred at 10:05 a.m., was the second at the Lincolnville bank in the past six months. A single suspect escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash, and no one was injured.

County commissioners signed a letter of intent with KC Development March 28 to pay $825,000 for KC’s solid-waste transfer station in Marion. The decision was expected to result in a county-wide sales tax.

April

Northview Developmental Services Inc., which serves Marion County residents with special needs, called a press conference to ask the public to contact legislators in an effort to reverse proposed funding cuts at the state level.

Larry McClain defeated Keith Collett for a seat on the Marion City Commission. McClain succeeded Bud Pierce.

Attorney General Carla Stovall, a Marion native, withdrew from the race to be the Republican nominee for governor. Stovall, who was considered by many to be the front-runner, said she lacked the passion to run for statewide office or serve as governor.

A fire in a camper trailer April 11 led to the discovery of a large meth lab on the outskirts of Durham. Loretta Schmidt, 35, of Marion, was arrested on related charges.

Susan Cooper, development director for Marion, told the Marion City Commission that the local housing authority was looking for properties for a developer to build income-sensitive housing.

Linda Rath, 48, and Emma Rath, 12, of Goessel were killed on a two-car accident April 23 in McPherson County.

The first sobriety checkpoint lane sponsored by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office south of Hillsboro didn’t catch any intoxicated drivers but was still deemed productive by department personnel. From 10 p.m. to midnight, 145 cars passed through the checkpoint.

Two years of fund-raising ended April 29 with the presentation of a $150,000 check by the Marion Library Board to the Marion City Commission for the construction of the library/depot project. July 14 was targeted for a dedication service for the new library.

May

County commissioners approved the four-county regional solid-waste plan May 13-subject to the deletion of references to transfer stations and clarification of financial control.

The county commission encumbered $84,000 at its May 25 meeting to meet an expected future state mandate to upgrade 911 telephone equipment to locate cellular calls.

June

Marion’s Chingawassa Days drew a record crowd. A highlight of the weekend was a concert by .38 Special. Organizers said later income did not cover expenses.

The Marion City Commission opted not to pursue the development of new low-income duplexes in part because of concern about the city’s tight budget and the need for housing for young people.

The Marion County Health Department organized “mini health fairs” in seven communities around the county, beginning in June and running through mid-September.

The county commission approved a $6.75 per month solid-waste fee for every household in Marion County, effective Jan. 1.

A group of 40 Methodist youth from Texas spent a week doing service projects in Marion during mid-June.

More than 250 volunteers turned out June 9 to form a ceremonial book chain to transfer more than 1,000 books from the old city library in Marion to the newly renovated library/depot.

Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer was the guest speaker at the dedication ceremony June 18 for Marion’s newly developed Batt Industrial Park on the city’s southwest corner.

July

Marion city commissioners decided to seek a Kansas Department of Transportation grant for 75 percent of the $150,000 needed to modernize Eisenhower Drive on the city’s east side.

Supporters of bringing United Way into Marion County made their case to a group of community leaders July 11 at Kingfisher’s Inn near Marion. Options included linking with Harvey County United Way for a time.

Marion County farmers, blessed with timely rains compared to most other areas in Kansas and surrounding states, could reap economic benefits by selling hay to cattle growers in those areas. In an effort to alieve the feed shortage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released Conservation Reserve Program lands in all of Kansas for grazing and haying.

County commissioners said a salary freeze was possible for county employees in 2004 if the area’s economic situation does not improve during the coming year.

August

The county commission said Aug. 12 that it might take the Central Kansas Conservancy to court to force compliance with zoning, planning and liability responsibilities in developing a recrea- tional trail on abandoned railroad right-of-way in the county.

Burns was awarded a $338,381 KAN STEP Community Block Grant to construct a community building. With volunteer labor and discounted materials figured in, the project was estimated to be worth $609,640.

To calm concerns of some patrons, Kurt Spacjek, president of Pilsen State Bank in Lincolnville, said the institution will remain open even though it had endured two armed robberies in less than a year. Speculation had risen when the Alden State Bank in Plevna said it would be closing after it was robbed twice over a similar period.

Edwin Winter of Durham was Marion County’s choice for “Hero of the Heartland,” a recognition program sponsored by the North Central Flint Hills Area on Aging. Winter was feted for his many years of leadership among seniors in the county. He was to receive the award Sept. 17.

Public allegations of nepotism, mismanagement and mishandling of funds were made against Michele Abbot-Becker, director of Marion County Communications, by Ronald Mueller, an Emergency Medical Services training officer from Tampa. After looking into the allegations, county commissioners later expressed their support for Abbot-Becker’s work.

Women’s ranch rodeo made its debut as a featured event at this year’s Marion County Fair. About 850 people attended the Wednesday night event, which was won by a four-person team from Canton.

Dennis Nichols announced his resignation as Marion city administrator, effective Sept. 13. He accepted a position as director of finances and city clerk in Hesston. Nichols had held the position in Marion for four years.

David Mayfield, Marion police chief, was appointed interim city administrator Aug. 28. Officer Mike Soyez was appointed temporary police chief.

September

An even bigger crowd was on hand at Marion County Lake for “Fireworks Fantasia,” the second annual Labor Day fireworks show sponsored by the Marion Economic Development Council and the county commission. Last year’s event drew about 2,000 cars.

Goessel-area residents celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Schroeder Barn during the Heritage Festival, Sept. 28. The barn is part of the Mennonite Heritage Museum complex.

Organizers of Marion’s Art in the Park reported that crowds at this year’s event exceeded 40,000. The crowd peaked at around 4 p.m.

Marion Reservoir will lose some U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel as the Tulsa District consolidates employees to redirect up to $7 million annually to help meet maintenance costs in an aging system.

Members of the Cottonwood Crossing Chapter of the National Santa Fe Trail Association met Sept. 18 with John Conoby, a representative of the National Park Service, about establishing a national historic site at the crossing location.

Two horses in Marion County tested positive for the West Nile virus in September. The two cases were the first reported in the county.

Two Marion residents came to the Sept. 30 city commission meeting to ask that the City of Marion further investigate buying water wholesale from the City of Hillsboro before making expensive renovations on Marion’s water plant. They were told Hillsboro did not have enough capacity to meet Marion’s needs.

The county commission voted 2-1 to approve a three-county regional solid-waste plan to help meet state deadlines. Commissioner Leroy Wetta voted against the plan because he was concerned it could cost taxpayers more money.

Burns received two awards through the Kansas PRIDE program. One was the “Community of Excellence” award, and the other was the “Star Award.”

October

The Marion Board of Education was told it may need to look for a new league with which to affiliate. Herington, Council Grove and Chase County may leave the Cottonwood Valley League, which means the league would disband.

The county commission approved a bio-terrorism plan from the county health department that is expected to begin bringing in $32,164 in federal funds annually. The funds would be used for equipment, consulting and training.

A film crew from Focus Worldwide Television Network was in Pilsen to work on a documentary about Father Emil Kapaun. The documentary would support a movement to canonize Kapaun for his work as a chaplain during the Korean War.

Long, slow rains created problems on gravel roads and prompted record requests for gravel from the county’s road and bridge department.

David Mayfield was named city administrator and Michael Soyez police chief on a permanent basis Oct. 28.

Lincolnville resident Brian C. Pagenkopf, 26, was killed when he was run over while attempting to stop his pickup truck from rolling away.

November

Republican Tim Shallenburger carried Marion County in the race for governor, but it was Democrat Kathleen Sebelius who prevailed in the Nov. 5 general election.

County commissioners signed a contract Nov. 12 to purchase the solid-waste transfer station in Marion from KC Development for $825,000.

The Marion Board of Education agreed to consider a draft of a policy that would allow for random drug-testing of students.

Work began Nov. 11 to erect a new water tower at Goessel. The project was expected to be completed in early December at a cost of almost $100,000.

The ninth annual Marion County Toy Run and chili feed raised around $7,000, which was distributed among four communities.

December

Marion city commissioners were told Dec. 9 that state money would be coming for airport improvements despite the state’s budget crisis. But the city may not receive all the funding that had been designated for normal budget purposes.

The Marion County Soil Conservation District announced it had received approval and funds for the first year of the Marion Reservoir Water Quality Protection Project and a buffer-coordinator grant. The grant for Phase II of the project will be $49,241; the local district will supply local funding of $31,440.

Patrick Clay, 26, escaped briefly from Marion County Jail, Dec. 10. Clay had been serving 128 months for aggravated battery on an infant. He was recaptured within nine minutes of his departure.

County commissioners were told state funds earmarked for renovations to the courthouse would not be impinged by the state’s budget crisis.

Marion city commissioners approved an ordinance that would raise water rates in the city effective Jan. 15. The increase was necessary to offset an $800,000 expenditure to upgrade its water-treatment plant to meet new state requirements.

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