Rails-to-Trails ruling, liquor resolution spice county agenda

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Top issues before the Marion County Commission Monday included a State Board of Tax Appeals decision that would exempt a rails to trail group while charging adjacent land owners property tax, and a likely commission resolution that would put liquor by the drink on the November ballot.

County Attorney Susan Robson advised commissioners in writing of the SBTA decision last week that Central Kansas Conservancy had won its appeal exempting it from paying property taxes on abandoned railroad right-of-way through Marion and McPherson counties.

Robson advised that any further appeal wouldn’t benefit the county or landowners. She said around $300 annually in taxes is involved.

Robson said she had conferred with County Appraiser Dianna Carter-Frantz to determine that the right-of-way land should be assessed as waste land to keep any impact on landowners very small.

The commissioners noted that this is a state decision that they have no power to overturn.

The outline of the SBTA decision provided by Robson said that the Union Pacific Railroad Co. had only transferred a right-of-way easement to CKC by quit claim deed in 1997 and not title of ownership to the land.

The outline said the transfer was done under a national rails to trail act designed to protect right-of-way corridors for future reactivation of rail service with any interim time period not to be treated as an abandonment of right-of-way.

CKC was listed as operator of both the Meadowlark Trail and the Sunflower Santa Fe Trail.

Mary Glen, mayor of Burns, Bill and Laurie Mann, owners of Buffalo Gulch private club at Burns, and Randy Dallke, mayor of Peabody, met with commissioners to ask them for a resolution that would put liquor by the drink in restaurants on the November ballot.

Commission Chairman Leroy Wetta noted that the “consensus” of the commissioners was to favor such a vote, but he wanted Glen to put a resolution in writing under consultation with the Burns city attorney and the county attorney before the commissioners would vote.

Commissioner Bob Hein said, “Let the people vote on it. If they want it, they’ll pass it. If they don’t, they won’t.”

Although under Kansas law a petition signed by 10 percent of county citizens who voted for secretary of state can put the measure on the ballot, Commissioner Howard Collett said, “It’s easier this way. A petition can be contested.”

Those gathered noted that a petition or a Commission resolution are the only ways to put it on the ballot. Bill Mann said he could easily get the 470 signatures necessary to put the measure on the ballot in Marion County.

The Manns and the mayors said they were concerned about the economic losses caused by people who want an alcoholic drink with a meal passing up restaurants in Marion County to eat elsewhere.

Bill Mann said 61 percent of the people who eat and drink at his private club come from outside Marion County, and that others who might like to join them while passing through can’t because of a 10-day waiting period for membership.

Mann noted that Kansas allows counties either to have drinking in restaurants with a restriction that 30 percent of sales be for food or with no restriction at all.

Collett noted that all counties adjoining Marion County allow the drinking with Saline the nearest one that offers liquor with no food sales restriction.

Mann provided statistics that show 53 Kansas counties allow liquor sales for restaurants with the 30 percent food restriction while 13 counties allow liquor sales with no food requirement. There are 39 counties, including Marion, that don’t allow liquor by the drink sales in restaurants without a private club license.

Dallke said there have been no problems associated with the private club operating in Peabody. He and the others noted that neighboring counties had to allow liquor by the drink to get restaurant chains such as Applebee’s to locate there.

They said Marion County cities also have had local interest in opening new restaurants if liquor restrictions are lifted.

David Brazil, planning and zoning, environmental health and transfer station director, said he expects the first rough drafts of new zoning regulations that may allow more rural small acreage development to be out next week.

Wetta said bids to provide the transfer station a new semi-trailer presented by Brazil will be “held in abeyance pending clarification of warranty” on a $34,900 used trailer from Wilkin’s of Stockton.

Bids for brand new trailers were $45,900 from Wilkin’s and $43,760 for J&J Truck Trailers, located in Pennsylvania.

Commissioners met in executive session 15 minutes with Jesse Brunner regarding emergency medical services personnel with Deanne Olsen, representing EMS Director Darryl Thiessen, excluded. They said they would meet with Thiessen later.

Commissioners met in executive session with Carter-Frantz after which they announced they were granting her medical leave and family sick leave.

Carter-Frantz said evaluation notices will be sent out next week with the county granted an extension for the notices from the state from March 1 to March 15.

She said new valuation directives from the state will increase the valuation dryland crops, decrease the value of tame grasslands, increase residential property about 1 percent, and leave commercial property about the same.

The commissioners approved a road and bridge transport fuel bid of $9,237 from Cardie Oil Co. of Tampa that included 3,000 gallons of diesel at $1.174 a gallon for $3,582, 2,500 gallons of diesel at 93.8 cents a gallon for $2,345, and 2,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline at $1.324 a gallon for $3,110.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director, said a bridge has been demolished at Durham to make way for construction of a new bridge.

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