Collett, Wetta want county eco-devo position filled

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Commissioner Howard Collett opened the discussion to create a county economic director position at the Marion County Commission meeting Monday, only to have the talk halted by wishes not to create a position commissioners elected in November might not want.

Commissioner Bob Hein also wanted to have money and office space for the position clearly defined before it was created.

Collett, noting that the task force directed to write a job description for the director’s position was appointed in February, said, “We dawdled along since then.

“We’ve been buffeted with some comments here and there since then. It’s time to fish or cut bait.”

Collett said he wanted to see a person in the position with a “passion and energy” to make things happen irregardless of educational or other qualifications perhaps- depending on funds available-as early as Aug. 1.

He suggested that economic trends in the county point to a need for action now. He said the person appointed couldn’t be “just another bureaucrat to sit in front of a computer screen,” but would have to be action-oriented.

Commission Chairman Leroy Wetta said, “I agree with Howard,” adding that he takes note of the efforts of cities with development directors while the county fails to bring the same effort to the countryside and unincorporated communities.

Steve Garrett, city administrator of Hillsboro, advised the commissioners that they needed to approach the position possibility with insight and clear definition of purpose or they would “only be giving lip service” to economic development.

In answer to questions, Garrett said Hillsboro devotes about three mills of its 40 mills property taxes to development, or about $30,000 annually.

Wetta contrasted this with an estimate that the county now devotes about .15 mill, or $10,000 of its property taxes, to economic development “that doesn’t get the job done.”

Wetta said a county office should unite the energy of businessmen in unincorporated areas who now sometimes “feel isolated” to build interconnections and work together.

Hein agreed “that we have got to have results from this” if anything is done, adding his insistence that the budget for it be defined.

Wetta said because he and Collett are “lame ducks”-commissioners who are not seeking reelection-Hein would need to strongly favor the position going into the 2005 commission for it not possibly be a costly “lame-duck creation” for new commissioners.

Collett said he has heard that at least one commission candidate favors creating a county administrator position that might be combined with the economic director’s position. He suggested that an economic director might be added with $25,000 budget for 1,000 hours work-time.

Hein said, “I think it would have to be full-time. To get a qualified candidate, we would have to be prepared to pay some money.”

Wetta said if Hein would give the word as the returning candidate, the money could be found, perhaps from the building sales tax collection increases or from the contingency fund if it proves sufficient to also close the old landfill.

The commissioners agreed they would return to the subject when current 2005 budgeting is complete to see where money might be. They suggested office space might be found in vacated road and bridge space.

County Clerk Carol Maggard notified commissioners that a pinhole gas leak has been found in an above-ground gas line entering at the southwest corner of the courthouse. Replacing pipe and elbows to raise it from where dirt could rot the pipe out again can be done by Suffield’s for about $600, Maggard said.

Maggard said wind storms blew off a courthouse chimney cap installed in 1999 along with surrounding mortar sometime over the weekend. The repairs, without inspecting other chimney caps, will be done for less than $1,000, she said, with a company supplying two men for the project at
$100 an hour labor.

Commissioners viewing the damage from the courthouse lawn also saw water around guttering that they said would seem to indicate more needed repair.

Maggard said parking lot sealing and striping by APAC should begin Saturday when traffic is lighter as completion of a project provided free to the county as the result of damage from a heavy crane during courthouse restoration last year.

The commissioners approved a letter of agreement with auditors Swindoll, Jantz and Lloyd in preparation for meeting with Scott Lloyd for budgeting July 19.

Wetta presented a letter from John Johnson, Hillsboro attorney, notifying the commissioners that the Marion County Defense Bar has returned $22,430.73 to Marion County for 2002 and 2003 collected from defendants for reimbursement of public legal defense service.

The commissioners received notice from the state of $80,000 in funding that can be increased to $250,000 by client request for purchase and operation of 160 acres by a beginning farmer, Eric M. Carlson, two miles east of Lincolnville on 290th, from a revenue bond project by the Kansas Development Financial Authority of the Agriculture Division. The state allows the commission authority to stop the financing by disapproval, which the commissioners chose not to exercise.

The commissioners adapted 2005 solid waste fees of $81 a year for residences and $132 a year for businesses per Dumpster emptied weekly.

Sanitarian David Brazil said he “really appreciated” support from commissioners on a letter to congressmen calling for action for blue-green algae control at Marion Reservoir. He commended the City of Hillsboro for “being the spark plug” on the action that might “result in a more positive outcome” to get control.

Brazil presented his department budgets, and in his role as transfer station manager, it was noted the transfer station continues under stable budget despite unusual peaks in capital outlay for trailer and skid loader, and in recent fuel prices.

Michelle Abbott-Becker, director of communications and emergency management, said that when the state stopped funding for Kansas Bureau of Investigation payment of terminal line national crime databases to local agencies, the KBI attempted to have local governments pay costs. Some local governments-like Marion County-did, and others didn’t, she said.

When state officials became more aware of the situation, the funding was restored, she said, with non-paying local governments forgiven non-payment as of July 1.

The commissions directed that no county check for the line be sent to the state for June, and Wetta said he doubted “a check would be in the mail” from the state for what the county already has paid.

Abbott-Becker said she has a June 24 deadline to complete for completion of objectives, criteria and county mitigation plan for the receipt of $489,000 in homeland security grant money.

Dianna Carter-Frantz, county appraiser, presented a $231,550 budget for 2005, increased 2 percent from last year.

She is saving the county some money by buying block time from Great Plains Computers of Marion for computer servicing at $55.25 an hour instead of paying a standard $65 an hour when service is needed. Carter-Frantz said the block service doesn’t include equipment.

Darryl Thiesen, emergency medical services director, joined the commissioners by telephone speaker to discuss an EMT class in Peabody with its instructor, former EMS Director Joann Knak, and Larry Larson, Peabody EMS crew member.

Larson said the City of Peabody has agreed to pay costs of the class for 13 Peabody residents, some of them law enforcement personnel who can take it when on duty.

He said the Peabody school system will provide rooms for the class.

Knak said she can handle another dozen or more students from other parts of the county providing they bring funding with them.

Thiesen said in addition he has potentially 42 EMS recruits for a class he will teach as the result of a recruitment campaign he put together.

Commissioners decided Thiesen and Knak will teach separate classes rather than alternating instruction, and they will meet liability insurance costs for having Knak beyond her current EMT status.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director, received approval from commissioners to grant permission for high water flooding of 90th between Indigo and Holly requested by Doyle Creek Watershed District if funding for a lake dam there can be obtained. The Watershed District would pay for county flood warning signs.

Bill Smithhart, noxious weed supervisor, brought in a 2005 budget $4,000 under his previous budget.

Smithhart noted that proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations may reduce wind speed allowed of 15 mph for herbicide application for his office to 3 to 5 mph.

Commissioners approved a bid presented by Smithart of $6,273 to Ag Service of Hillsboro for 50 gallons of Banvel herbicide and 48 gallons of Tordon herbicide over a bid of $6,353.40 from Markley Service.

The commissioners met with department heads to discuss county pay-scale upgrade classifications and merit plan pay raises.

Wetta said he favored a merit increase system where any funds available are distributed to departments for the heads to distribute within department rather than a system where department heads compete for merit funds with potential exaggerated claims to protect their employees.

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