Commissioners OK letter for algae assistance from feds

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission took time out from its budget discussion Monday for only a few needed chores, such as approving a letter to congressmen, requested by the City of Hillsboro, asking action for blue-algae control at Marion Reservoir.

The letter, written by David Brazil, county sanitarian, will go to both Kansas senators as well as U.S. Representative Jerry Moran.

The letter states that the algae puts out several toxins that represent a threat to human health.

It notes that according to a 1996 study, Marion Reservoir recorded 73 million visits with more than $5 million of sales in Marion County.

The letter asks assistance for an immediate treatment of the reservoir with an algicide-copper sulfate pentahydrate for the short-term. The letter notes it shouldn’t be considered for the long-term because of possible negative biological accumulation of copper sulfate.

The letter asks increased fiscal backing for the Marion Reservoir Water Quality Protection Project funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to support better erosion and chemical conservation on the 200 square miles of reservoir watershed, including 40,000 acres of cropland.

The commissioners request Kansas or federal authorities to monitor algae cell count guidelines, perhaps organized along those recommended by the World Health Organization, to determine hazards to humans.

They recognize the Kansas Biological Survey for sharing satellite imagery of the algae with Hillsboro, and ask that use of such technology continue at all Kansas reservoirs on a biweekly basis.

Budget news

Department heads have been noting the tightened budget noose over the last few years. As County Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said, with the operations portion of his budget reduced from $27,500 in 2002 to $19,500 for 2005, “I’ve bled it as dry as I can get it.”

Roberts and fellow agent Nancy Pihl are state employees with a local budget of more than $140,000 for operations. The county provides more than $95,000 of that.

Commission Chairman Leroy Wetta asked about the concept of “districting” to save costs where some counties are joining extension services.

Roberts said Saline and Ottawa counties have already joined, and after commissioners brought it up, he acknowledged that according to rumors, Dickinson may join them in the extension grouping.

The challenge, Roberts said, would be for Marion County to find another county that would want to group with it.

He said smaller rural counties like Marion have trouble finding more populous counties that want to join them because the bigger county’s taxpayers end up paying disproportionately more for service.

He said Saline County leaders had shown “great foresight” in forming a district with Ottawa County because their taxpayers will pay proportionately more for the short run.

Marion County’s neighbors are usually more populous, which would make it costly for them to district with them-except for Chase County to the east, where Marion would have the disadvantage.

Commissioners didn’t make budget decisions because they will need to consider all departments before doing so.

Dale Snelling, park director at Marion County Lake, was budgeting more than $126,000 in fees paid at the lake and only $62,900 from public taxation.

Snelling hoped for up to a $40,000 cost-sharing grant from the state, with the county needing to provide 25 percent of the amount, part of which would go to building a new dock.

Commissioner Howard Collett asked about the impact new Kansas Wildlife and Parks rules might have on lake income.

Legal services

Ty Wheeler of Kansas Legal Services told commissioners his agency’s help to Marion County residents who can’t afford legal services is having an economic impact far beyond what the county budgets for KLS.

For instance, he said, KLS was successful in getting Social Security disability claims for 10 county residents last year, thereby bringing added income to the county, while relieving the problems of the residents.

He said KLS also provides an immediate help for people in such cases as domestic abuse, often seeing them through divorce cases.

Wheeler asked the commissioners to increase the county contribution for 2005 from $2,000 to $2,500.

Other business

The commissioners awarded a bid of $11,619.90 for transport road and bridge fuel to Cardie Oil of Tampa over a bid of $11,777.90 from Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro.

The Cardie bid included 3,500 gallons of diesel at $1.3557 a gallon for $4,744.95, 1,500 gallons diesel at $1.0987 for $1,648.05 and 3,500 gallons unleaded gasoline at $1.4934 for $5,226.90.

The CG&S bid for the three-gallon amounts given respectively was $1.3686 for $4,790.10, $1.1121 for $1,658.15, and $1.5199 for $5319.65.

The commissioners voted 2-0 to accept a bid for 350 steel posts for road signs-varying 9 to 12 feet long-from National Signs at Ottawa for $3,625.50 over a bid from Oral W. Taylor at El Dorado for $4,555.50.

Commissioner Bob Hein was absent.

The commissioners awarded a $36,725 bid to Kraus Welding at Hillsboro for construction of a 40-foot bridge on Old Mill between 260th and 270th.

The county will do the dirt work for the bridge.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director for the county, informed the commissioners that George Holub, retired county shop foreman, died Sunday.

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