Commissioners proclaim algae scare as ‘local disaster’

The Marion County Commission Monday proclaimed a state of local disaster good for seven days because of possible toxins from dying algae at Marion Reservoir threatening water supplies for Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody.

David Brazil, county sanitarian, said the proclamation was necessary to enable local governments to receive state and federal aid including possible construction of temporary water lines from other sources by the Corps of Engineers to eliminate hauling by truck.

Brazil said the algae bloom, which now is dying in natural cycle, was brought on by a timing of conditions just right-including nitrogen and phosphorus levels, sunlight, temperature and pH, the acid-base ratio.

Toxins that could injure people are produced in the right concentrations 50 to 75 percent of the time, he said.

Brazil and Michelle Abbott-Becker, emergency management director, said the county is acting as an enabling and helping agency with the cities and Kansas Department of Health and Environment to handle the situation.

JoAnn Knak resigned effective Dec. 31 as head of county emergency medical services, and the commissioners said they accepted her resignation “with deep, deep regret.”

Knak has served as director of EMS for 22 years with a total 30 years in EMS.

Other department heads, Faye Makovec, register of deeds, Carol Maggard, county clerk, Jeannine Bateman, county treasurer, and Dianna Carter, appraiser, met earlier in the meeting to propose a $30,200 purchase of Real Vision Imaging, new computer technology software that they said would save the county time, materials and money.

Maggard told commissioners the county already has the money for the system-$2,000 encumbered from last year for computer technology from each of the four departments that totals $8,000, $10,000 encumbered likewise from the courthouse budget, $4,000 that
Bateman said she could contribute from the motor vehicle fund, and $8,200 from this year’s budget.

The RVI would partially replace a system in which Makovec records on paper a new property deed that must be carried and duplicated in all the other offices for each process required by the county and state.

In the new system Makovec would file records electronically, and they would be available immediately for use in the other departments.

Carter said the system could save filing 12,000 pieces a year for just one process in her department.

Bateman said, “We are drowning in paper is what we are doing.”

Commissioner Leroy Wetta said he could see that “paperwork and time are the savings on this,” and wondered if anything else could be eliminated.

Makovec said no personnel would be eliminated.

Commissioner Howard Collett wondered about continuing “to walk the new technology treadmill from now until doomsday” with the county continuing to be required to spend to keep up.

Wetta said, “I see department heads working together to increase efficiency, which I do like.”

Commissioner Bob Hein said the proposal sounded like a good one to save the county money long-term.

“If we already have the money, it’s a good time to do it,” he added, and Hein moved to do so.

The measure passed 3-0.

Brazil told commissioners the county needs to have a new solid waste fee resolution in place for the transfer station by July 1 to determine next year’s county-wide solid waste assessment.

He recommended that Jim Kaup, Topeka attorney for solid waste concerns, write a resolution that would allow new definitions for lower assessments to parties that only dispose of waste six months or less a year.

These might include such things as municipal swimming pools or lake vacation cabins, Brazil said.

The commissioners decided that construction of a new restroom with showers at the transfer station, budgeted at $6,000, would be done “in-house” by employees at the transfer station to save money with apologies to parties asked to bid for the work.

Brazil said footings are in place for new truck scales at the transfer station, and, if weather cooperates, they should be in operation next week in time to relieve use at the grain elevator before wheat harvest.

Dale Snelling, park director at the County Lake, in making his monthly report to the commissioners, noted that department heads are trying to cut expenses 10 percent to meet the state funding decline, but he needed to clarify what this means to the lake budget, considering only $40,000 from the $145,000 budget comes from taxes with the remainder income from lake fees.

The commissioners said they would study how the cut applies to the lake.

Snelling suggested that one area for saving money, plus gaining income, might be to install quarter machines in lake showers with tokens issued to campers who already have showers included in their fees.

Snelling explained that hot water is being wasted by children coming to the public beach playing in the showers.

Users of the public beach also use the showers, but don’t pay a fee like the campers and fishermen, he said.

Snelling said normal memorial weekend income was down from the usual $10,000 to $8,000, with more over-all visitors but fewer electrical hook-up campers and boaters because of the cool weather.

The commissioners gave approval to an order to proceed for contractors to begin courthouse restoration of stonework this summer already authorized.

Maggard informed commissioners that, according to correspondence from consulting engineers, 100 percent money through the Kansas Department of Transportation will be available to the county for traffic flow engineering studies wherever the commissioners want them.

Bateman reported that as of May 30, the county had $1,518,802.88 in the general fund, $872,255.11 in road and bridge funds, and a cash on hand balance of $6,461,775.49 with 61 percent of taxes collected.

The special auto fund balance, which pays for miscellaney from subscriptions to certifications, was $1,596.66.

Representatives of the local U.S. Soil Conservation Service office met with commissioners to present budget plans for consideration for next fiscal year’s county contribution.

Commissioners voted to allow application for federal 2004 carry-over grant funds by Communities in Schools of Marin County, presented by Director Linda Ogden, to help at-risk children with services and in-school suspensions as an alternative to out-of-school suspensions.

Ogden said the grant funds allow creation of a 12-week program called “Journeys” that helps children in grades 7-12 stay in school, avoid crime, and avoid substance abuse.

Ogden outlined grant programs through CIS from 1999 through 2003 that has helped pumped $445,939 in outside funds, $121,509 per year, through the county economy while aiding children from getting a head-start in education at an early age through teenage counseling.

Ogden said problems in Marion County need dealing with, and cited one study that showed 18 percent of Marion County fourth through sixth graders using inhalants “to get high,” with one school registering 25 percent.

Knak told commissioners in looking at budget problems, she has found that in adding all EMS expenses together, including insurance, salaries, “everything,” ambulance transfers are costing over $400 while emergency transports average $527. Marion County EMS is charging $225 for transfers and $300 for emergencies, she said.

The commissioners agreed that the prices will have to be raised.

Knak reported 65 ambulance calls for May, 19 from Hillsboro, 36 from Marion, 7 from Peabody and 3 from Tampa. There were 6 transfers, 4 cardiac, 19 medical emergency, 1 standby, 7 vehicle accidents, 7 falls, 16 transports and 2 rescue truck.

First responder calls included 1 from Goessel, 5 from Lincolnville and 6 from Burns.

Knak said seven of the eight persons in EMT classers have passed practicals with the one to redo the test.

The commissioners accepted a bid from Kraus Welding of Hillsboro for $37,525 to work with road and bridge crew building a new bridge three miles east of Hillsboro on 190th Road, and then one and an eighth mile south on Mustang Road.

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