Marion leaders opt for mandatory conservation

As of Monday, water conservation by Marion residents is no longer voluntary in response to ongoing algae problems at Marion Reservoir.

That’s because Marion city commissioners approved a resolution giving the city authority to institute its water drought/emergency ordinance. This act allows the restriction of water usage and possible water rationing.

“We’ll need to end (the mandatory restrictions) with another resolution,” said City Administrator David Mayfield. “If everything goes like I hope and pray it will, next Monday we can take it off.

“We’re hoping to get this (situation) rectified in the next week or two, but there’s no guarantee,” he added.

One person attending the meeting voiced his concerns about misuse of water, citing the swimming pool being in operation and apparent incidents of noncompliance such as watering lawns, washing cars and out-of-town trucks loading water.

In response, Mayfield said: “It’s kind of confusing. We asked for voluntary compliance. We didn’t have it the first day…and not everybody’s doing it.

“We couldn’t put teeth into (enforcement) until tonight, and now we can.”

Commissioner Larry McLain reminded those in attendance that some residents won’t be affected by the mandate because they use water from wells.

“They’ll be the only green yards in town,” McLain said.

Mayor Eloise Mueller asked whether it will be permissible to water outside plants.

Susan Cooper said some people are conserving by using water from their shower to water plants.

Laughter broke out after another man in the audience said, “I gave up showers so my wife could water the flowers.”

Following the vote on the conversation mandate, the commissioners-minus Jim Crofoot , who was absent-took other action related to the current water crisis. Mueller and McLain approved the $10,562 purchase and installation of two four-inch electric pumps from JCI Industries Inc. in Wichita.

“With these two pumps, it will allow us to basically have a turn-key operation should we have a water crisis again and obtain the flow needed to sustain our normal usage,” Mayfield said.

“We would only have to turn a valve at the plant and activate these pumps and this will give a permanent fixture.”

A gasoline pump currently pumps only 380 gallons per minute. The new equipment, to be purchased from an equipment reserve fund, will enable the plant to sustain the usage of water for the city. Under normal operations, water from the Marion Reservoir flows to the plant at the rate of 600 gallons per minute.

“We’re still pumping and sustaining our current water flow,” Mayfield said in his water plant update.

He reported the city stopped pumping water from the reservoir last week because of algae growth.

“We are currently drawing water from Mud Creek and subsidizing this with water trucked to the plant that is drawn from the Marion County Lake,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield expressed his thanks to city workers who put in extended hours to notify every resident about the action the city was taking “to make sure our customers receive uncontaminated water.”

Prior to the recent algae outbreak, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been overseeing an assessment of the water quality at the reservoir, said Peggy Blackman, coordinator of the 319 Water Quality Marion Reservoir Watershed project, who attended the meeting.

Blackman said the study has shown the water quality at the reservoir to be impaired by nutrients, pesticides, sediment and bacteria that have accumulated over time.

“That’s what we’re looking at,” she said.

“The atmospheric conditions are just right for (the algae bloom) to occur,” she added.

Blackman reminded those in attendance that grant funding is available-a 70 percent cost share-for best-water management practices.

After more information is made available by the KDHE, a county-wide meeting may be held, Blackman said.

“Emotions are high,” she said, and probably now is not best time for a public meeting.

“This (water-quality problem) has been a sleeper-the general public seems to ignore it,” she said. “Work will continue and we’re here to offer support.

“We do have good stewards in Marion County,” she added. “I do not want to put a black eye on on our producers.”

The commission also received its audit report for 2002 presented by Jan Nolde of Swindoll, Janzen & Loyd LLC. She reported the seven prior year-points were addressed adequately by the city.

Because of several new standards established for auditors, the firm proposed three points that the city address before its next audit:

n development of a policy and procedure manual that includes legal requirements for budgeting, accounting funds, purchases and areas of conflict of interest for city personnel.

Mayfield told Nolde the city would probably consult with her firm to determine what would be the most cost-effective production of the manual.

 attention given to restricted use of city vehicles, such as an employee’s use of a city vehicle to commute to work. Nolde said the city appears to have little opportunity for vehicles used for personal miles.

 maintenance of a list of city-owned assets.

The mayor said, “I thought we already had such a list.”

In response, Mayfield said there is one, but it is not as current or detailed it needs to be.

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