Short-handed commission delays action on key issues

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission Monday-with only two members present-delayed action on resolutions, including responsibility for spillers to pay clean-up costs of hazardous materials at accident scenes and commitment by Marion County to aid neighboring counties in disasters.

Commissioner Howard Collett was gone, and Commissioners Leroy Wetta and Bob Hein wanted his input.

Michele Abbott-Becker, director of communications and emergency management, said the two measures already are in effect, but the state has communicated its need to have them in formal resolution form.

Abbott-Becker noted that when a semi-truck jack-knifed on U.S. Highway 77 last week, spilling 100 to 150 gallons of diesel fuel, the company that owned the truck already was required by the state to pay the several thousand dollars spent for a state-appointed hazardous materials team to clean it up.

Abbott-Becker said, concerning the mutual aid agreement with surrounding counties, it has already been in effect since 1968, but neither she nor the state can find a county resolution authorizing it, and the state needs one on file.

County Clerk Carol Maggard suggested the aid commitment may have come into being through several actions instead of by resolution.

Abbott-Becker said such a resolution would allow the county to send equipment and personnel up to 75 miles from its borders to help other counties if it first determined it had the ability to do so.

Abbott-Becker said Marion County should pre-qualify by April 5 for up to $86,000 in state-administered grant funds, either in its entirety or through 25 percent local matching funds, to complete the first phase, and perhaps the second phase of its wireless communications program.

The ultimate aim, she said, would be for emergency communications personnel to be able to pinpoint the location of a 911 cellular phone call.

Abbott-Becker said more than 67 percent of the 380 calls to 911 this month were made from cell phones. Emergency calls for 2003 ended with 80 percent for the year made from cell phones, she said.

Abbott-Becker said she has also received state notice of the availability of $697,000 in grant funds, available in amounts up to $20,000 per county for homeland security and emergency uses, that must be used for projects that can be completed by June.

The commissioners approved purchase of an Etryre oil distributor mounted on a new International truck for high-heat application, using one million-Btu burners of road hard surfaces for the road and bridge department to replace an older leaking machine.

They selected a model from the G.W. Van Keppel Co. of Wichita called the “shooter,” even though at $79,853 it cost more than the low bid of $74,153 from the Victor L. Phillips Co. of Wichita, presented by Craig Schroeder. The commissioners opted for such features as double welding and braided stainless steel piping that both save on maintenance and increase safety.

Wetta confirmed with Tom Holub, maintenance supervisor, that the machine could save in terms of maintenance more than the $500 extra a year it will cost.

Van Keppel’s salesman, Dave Griffin, also offered a centennial model at $85,069 that he called the “cadillac of oil distributors.”

Sheriff Lee Becker said his department is replacing the rear end of a 1999 Crown Victoria squad car that has 170,000 miles with one from a salvage yard for $900.

Becker said the jail inmate population has been at 13 to 15 persons the last week. Recently, the number was as a high as 25 persons, although previous to that, the number was 5 to 8. He said it appears the average inmate population will hold at around 10 persons with some of them hold-overs for the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Sheriff’s officers did 10 transports last week, he said.

Becker is in the process of getting bids for repair of water leaks in the jail.

Bill Smithhart, noxious weed and household hazardous waste director, asked that persons in the county involved in the growing of grapes or cotton notify his office of the location of fields to avoid herbicide applications that could injure the crops.

The commissioners accepted the low herbicide bids from Ag Service at Hillsboro for $13,200 worth of 2/4-D amine at $8.80 a gallon, $2,240 worth of Escort XP at $17.50 an ounce, $7,920 worth of Banvel at $44 a gallon, $14,950 worth of Tordon at $74.75 a gallon, and $10,320 worth of amine shuttles at $8.60 a gallon.

The comparable bids from Markley Service at Marion were $13,485, $2,284.80, $11,250, $16,810 and $10,260 respectively.

Maggard said that Jeannine Bateman, county treasurer, reported cash on hand for the county at the end of February at about $6.8 million with close to $1.9 million in the general fund and about $1.13 million in road and bridge.

There were just over $39,000 in personal property warrants delivered to the sheriff, she said.

Maggard provided a list of checks outstanding without the recipients cashing them for more than two years. These checks were issued as refunds for vehicle tags that the treasurer is writing off, for a total of $373.

The commissioners passed a resolution proclaiming fair housing month in accord with the state.

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