Collett announces decision not to run for reelection

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Commissioner Howard Collett announced Monday at the Marion County Board of Commissioners meeting that he will not run for reelection in November.

Collett, who is widely appreciated among courthouse personnel as a youthful 75, said he couldn’t see staying on the board for another term, which would take him to nearly 80 years old.

He said, “I just have other things I want to do and accomplish in my life.”

Collett represents the district centered in the eastern part of the county around Marion.

Board Chairman Leroy Wetta was asked if he would run again, but only replied, “I haven’t filed yet.” Wetta’s district centers on the Peabody area.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said the county has received a letter from the Kansas Department of Commerce, which has been monitoring actions in conduct, procurement and civil rights, and the county now is in compliance on its microloan program.

Maggard will tentatively schedule county department heads’ evaluations with times to be set when Commissioner Bob Hein, who was absent Monday, returns.

Steve Cross, ING deferred compensation representative, discussed employee retirement funds with commissioners with special emphasis on the tax credit for retirement plan contributions authorized under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001.

Cross agreed with Collett that the act, in effect, is a first step in a growing federal effort to replace the Social Security program that is endangered by a larger proportion of the population entering retirement age.

Cross said the tax credit actually enables employees to use what would have been government money to save for retirement. But with economic fears caused by such factors as high gasoline prices, he has problems getting a majority of employees to enter the program.

Government employees in Kansas have one of the best mutual fund investment plans in the nation, Cross said, because companies were forced to accept scrutiny, and make competitive bids by the state overview committee.

The committee’s policies were developed in the wake of widely publicized frauds and mishandling of retirement funds, he said.

Cross’s company, formerly known as Etna, was forced to make big concessions, such as dropping a half-percent up-front charge on employee mutual fund investments, in order to keep the state contract, he said.

Cross said the planning also has left him as the primary Kansas Public Employees Retirement System consultant in the Kansas counties he serves. He sees other retirement investment as supplemental to KPERS, but probably necessary for the majority of employees.

Wetta said the commissioners are concerned for the retirement welfare of employees, and “we would do anything we can do to get participation.”

David Brazil, planning and zoning, environmental health and transfer station director, reported that 642 tons of municipal solid waste were disposed of through the Marion County Transfer Station in April, including trash collected in both Marion and Hillsboro during cleanup days.

That brought total municipal solid waste to 2,074 tons for the year.

The April total and annual tonnage for other categories of waste were for commercial and demolition, 24.85 and 95.64; white goods, 9.08 and 34.21; and tires, 1.16 and 3.89.

Brazil said 37 loads went to the landfill east of Topeka in April with 120 hauls for the year, all averaging a little more than 18 tons per load.

The commissioners reviewed budgets to the end of April with Brazil, with health being at 32 percent for the year, planning and zoning at 26 percent, and transfer station at 33 percent of budget used.

Michele Abbott-Becker, director of communication and emergency management, reported that when the City of Florence water plant was struck by lightning last week, the city went to the state for help, and was referred back through Abbott-Becker’s office.

Abbott-Becker said her office helped coordinate aid to Florence with the water plant out of action through mutual help supplies from Hillsboro and Peabody. She explained that the state’s policy is to require emergency help first from sources within a county.

The commissioners approved contracting an additional $1,140 at $60 an hour for TBS Electronics, Topeka, to complete the county’s emergency services’ radio plan.

Abbott-Becker recommended selling old VHS radio repeaters at Tampa and Marion when the new UHF system is in place, perhaps through local advertising with no-sale values placed on them, or perhaps on the Internet. She estimated the worth of one repeater at $3,000 and the other at $1,500.

Abbott-Becker said cities throughout the county are being notified that they will be required to have representatives attend a May 27 meeting with consultants to complete the state-required filing of a county emergency mitigation plan.

Failure of a city to be represented will result in county officials needing to estimate neighborhood valuations there to be included in the plan, she said.

Judge Michael Powers reported Marion County will be responsible for a 15 percent share, down from 16 percent last year, of the district court $98,000 new budget.

County shares in the four-member district are based on the percentage of district cases filed the year before, he said. Dickinson County will pay 29 percent, Geary County 52 percent, and Morris County 4 percent.

In addition, Powers said, the county will find its local court budget increased from $98,966 last year to $115,160 this year with the biggest item jump in the legal defense fund from $29,500 to $43,000.

The change in legal defense budget actually reflects what has been happening with real costs $20,000 above budgeting, Powers said.

He explained that providing defense for those who can’t provide their own is a constitutional requirement with the Board as the local executive branch being responsible for providing it.

Powers said in other years the court has made up for the legal defense deficit by taking money from other parts of the budget, but is increasingly unable to do so.

He warned that the $50 an hour paid for defense attorneys, raised from $25 an hour in the 1980s, most likely will be raised in the future to something like an $80 figure that was rejected in the Kansas Legislature this year.

Powers said the budget also provides $7,200 for a CD-rom digital recording system to replace an old taping system that too often has failed, leaving the the court without vocal transcripts.

Court Clerk Jan Helmer will check on possible lease of a new copying machine instead of paying $6,500 to replace a machine that she said has been breaking down every other month.

Powers said the court also is faced with increases in salaries and health insurance benefits.

Collett noted that costs have continued to mount while the budget remains tight for the county, and he predicted a mill levy increase may become necessary next year without a significant rise in valuation.

Mike Wederski, in presenting the juvenile justice report, said the budget there is “extremely tight” with the state requiring cuts. He said $30,000 kept in reserve funds would represent only a 1 percent pay raise for Juvenile Justice Authority personnel.

The commissioners approved a low bid presented by Appraiser Dianna Carter-Frantz from Gerald Wiens of $920 to have her office painted, compared to a range of bids up to $1,300. The bid includes the paint and furniture moving.

The commissioners tabled a request from Carter-Frantz for $475 in registration, hotel and meals fees to attend the International Appraisers Association convention in August in Boston. She said she would pay her own airplane fare because she found the training provided as very worthwhile.

Road and Bridge Director Gerald Kelsey and Road Superintendent Jim Herzet discussed summer plans to chip and seal overlay using “buildex and polimer” over existing overlay on Nighthawk Road this summer at a cost of $6,720 a mile.

They discussed other possible roads needing chip and seal including Lost Springs Road, Elk Road, the west four miles of Durham Road, Pilsen Road and Goessel Road without final selection of which ones to go with.

Herzet will check possible lease-share use with another county or the state of a hard surface crack sealing machine for six to eight weeks out of a year to help check any road deterioration.

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