Commissioners appoint first task-force members

The Marion County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to create a volunteer task force to look for economic opportunities for the county.

Its first report is due back within 45 days.

Following an extended discussion at their Dec. 31 payday meeting (see the related story on Page 1), Commissioner Bob Hein suggested on Monday a structure for the task force. The structure was designed to stay small for effectiveness, which Commission Chairman Howard Collett included in his motion.

The task force will include two appointees from each commissioner’s district for a total of six people, plus the appointment of one professional coordinator.

The commissioners also asked County Clerk Carol Maggard to look through the already-tight county budget for 2004 to see if money can be found to fund economic efforts.

As his first appointee to the force, Hein named Steven Garrett, who is the city administrator at Hillsboro and is chair of the Marion County Economic Development Council.

Collett named Peggy Blackman of Marion, who is president of the state association of the Resource Conservation and Development organization, is closely associated with the Kansas Rural Development Council, and is a board member for Kansas Rural Initiative.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta named Carolyn Koehn, director of economic development for Burns and vice chair of the MCEDC.

Bruce Wells of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Resource Conservation and Development program was to be asked to be coordinator.

Wetta said the commissioners should be asking themselves if they are committed to finding from a half-mill to one mill in the county budget for economic development without a tax increase.

While questioning a half-dozen visitors interested in economic development at the meeting, Wetta said he was interested in finding out what communities in the county are spending on economic development, not in taking money from them.

Wetta said the county can’t afford the downward spiral it has experienced economically for the past 20 years for another 20 years.

In other business, the commissioners authorized David Brazil, sanitarian, health department and transfer station director, to get bids for a third semi trailer for the transfer station.

Brazil said the trailer, which he acknowledged could cost from $6,000 to $7,000, could save the transfer station by being able to be loaded with solid waste for extra storage beyond the two trailer loads shipped to Perry weekly, and by being available during breakdowns or maintenance.

He said trash hauling is highly corrosive on trailers.

The commissioners met in executive session for 30 minutes with Steve Pigg and James Kaup, Topeka attorneys representing the county in solid waste matters, with no decisions or announcements when they returned to public session.

The commissioners acknowledged negotiations are going on with both sides in the court settlement with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment concerning closure of the old solid waste landfill southwest of Marion, but said no decisions have been made.

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