ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Free Press recently asked the candidates running for a seat on the Marion County Board of Commissioners about six key county-commission issues.
Following are their responses.
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Question 1: What’s your position on hiring an economic development director for Marion County?
Dan Holub: “I don’t think we need one. I think it’s throwing money at a problem. You have to know the people you’re dealing with and if you bring someone new in, they don’t know the routine. I think there’s enough people around here that if someone took the time to get them together and come up with a plan-banks, entrepreneurs, financing-we’d find out what is acceptable to the majority. And by the majority, I don’t mean 51 percent…. You need 70 to 80 percent on board.”
Max Hayen: “I believe hiring an economic director is essential. It would probably require a minimum of $50,000 to get one-and it would be to our advantage to get one with experience. But I don’t know if that amount of money would get a good one. If you buy the cheapest one on the block, so to speak, you risk getting a poor one and then do you have the guts to fire him?”
Randy Dallke: “It’s been something that’s lacking. We’ve never had that position and whether or not we’re behind the ball game, we’ll have to see. Being on the Marion County Economical Advisory Board, I think some direction from the county would be good.”
Question 2: How would you evaluate the county’s transfer station and landfill operation?
Holub: “Spending $533,000 to haul trash for a county our size and our economic stature is ridiculous. I don’t consider the landfill a dead issue, but we need to find something acceptable and maybe we can’t. But I don’t think a real good effort has been made to find common ground. We just get into arguments and we don’t have discussions. We postpone this and postpone that-with ‘democracy by decibel,’ you never accomplish anything.”
Hayen: “I think we’re going to have to live with the transfer station whether we like it or not. I’m not real fond of it, but we had an opportunity for a landfill and I think that’s gone bye-bye.”
Dallke: “The transfer station is probably operating pretty well. I’ve discussed this with some of the past operators of the station and they’ve given me a lot of good reasons for the station.
Do we need a landfill? I think pollution is the main concern-pollution of our water is a big item. If you pollute our water with a landfill, we’d all pay for that. Before anything could be passed, I’d have to know for certain pollution wouldn’t be a concern.”
Question 3: Do you think county employees should be given pay raises even in tight-budget times?
Holub: ” I wouldn’t mind paying the county employees what they’re worth to keep up with the civilian sector. I think we have way too many (county-owned) vehicles in this county, and I think there are ways you can organize, coordinate and reduce expenses and ship that money to other places-maybe salaries. If you don’t pay people a decent wage, you’re going to lose them and then your problem just got worse.”
Hayen: “Being a former county employee, I’ve experienced some bad times. If you expect employees to be loyal to the county, the county commission must be loyal to the employees. Sometimes that means we’ll have to give a raise even when the economic picture says no. But you still have to be loyal because their economic picture is just as bad as everyone else’s.”
Dallke: “I always refer to job descriptions, wages, incomes, and I think the Kansas Association of Counties puts out a book that gives a reference. If you’re from a rich county, you should be able to match those wages. But if your county doesn’t have that much money or taxes, you have to adjust your budget and see if you’re able to pay those wages based on what you can do. It’s like your budget at home-it’s what you can adjust to.”
Question 4: Does Marion County need a county administrator?
Holub: “I think the county should have an administrator. I just don’t see how three people meeting once a week can sit there and efficiently run a county the size of ours and everything that entails. All the elected officials have their own jobs to do so they don’t have any extra time.”
Hayen: “In truth, I’d like to see a county administrator. It’s not of high importance at this moment with me, but I do think there are departments that look for someone for leadership and currently they have no choice but to wait and go to the county commissioners.
“I think an administrator would alleviate some of those pressures by studying the situation and passing it on to the commission.”
Dallke: “I don’t think I can honestly answer that even though I’ve watched the county agenda for the past two years. I do think an administrator can handle some of the small things and probably not have to have some of the lengthy discussions (by commissioners).
“The commissioners should be looking forward instead of handling some of the small fires and an administrator can do that.”
Question 5: Given recent budget constraints, is an increase in the county mill levy inevitable?
Holub: “If we don’t get some economic development, it’s inevitable taxes will be increased. The only other option would be to cut services and personnel, but I also think we have to get more efficient.
“I would love to reduce taxes. Maybe with more people coming into Marion County you could eventually do that. But people are not going to move into Marion County to pay our current tax rates.”
Hayen: “For a long time we’ve held the line on the mill levy because we’ve been able to grow the tax base, but I don’t know whether that will continue to grow. That’s why we need economic development so badly.
I think it’s essential we have a growing economy, and you have to have more than a bedroom economy to accomplish that. Our tax base probably won’t grow until Marion County gets more people.”
Dallke: “I think if taxes need to be increased, you better have a specific reason-whether it be the roads, rock, gravel, blacktop. If you have to raise the mill levy, the public needs to know why you’re doing it. The public needs to know and you better have a good reason.”