Tampa citizens ask county to make road improvements

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
A group of eight concerned Tampa citizens asked the Marion County Commission Monday to remedy the deteriorating conditions of the two main hard-surface roads that enter their town, one from the south off the Durham-Lincolnville Road, and the other from the west off Kansas Highway 15.

They showed the commissioners pictures of potholes, sinking spots, and shoulder deterioration along the sections in question, each of which is four miles long.

Allegations were made, particularly regarding the south access, of negligence on the part of a road contractor for running asphalt during below freezing temperatures.

Chris Costello, Tampa banker and attorney, acknowledged the county resurfaced both roads only a few years ago,and has been filling holes with road rock for patching.

But, he added, it isn’t safe to drive either stretch at posted speed limits, and hitting a hole at 50 mph could be calamitous. In some cases, he said, deteriorated areas go across the width of the road making it nearly impossible for a vehicle to avoid them.

Carole Spohn, chair of the Tampa Community Association, said it was definitely below freezing when the asphalt on the south road was laid.

“You could see your breath,” she said.

Commissioner Bob Hein said, “It was pretty cold.”

Commissioner Howard Collett said an engineer hired as consultant to the county was responsible for inspection of the road and approval of its construction.

Costello asked what the expected life of the road should have been.

“About five years,” Hein said.

Commission Chairman Leroy Wetta said something has to be done to enable the road to handle the heavy truck traffic that comes out of the grain elevator at Tampa.

“It’s too narrow,” he said. “The edges break down, and you get cracking.”

Wetta said it can be difficult for commissioners to think of spending $50,000 a mile for hard surface roads when they know they stand to be broken down by heavy vehicles.

Costello said, “Yes, but if you know the elevator is there, you have to build a road to handle the traffic from it.”

Gary Spohn said that many farmers in the area now run semi-trucks as heavy as those coming from the elevator.

Wetta said other elevators around the county have shorter access to state and federal highways than they do at Tampa, and therefore place less wear on county roads.

Tampa Mayor Jim Clemmer suggested the county use fly ash in hard surface road bases, noting that the substance has helped Tampa streets hold up better.

Jim Herzet, acting road and bridge director, was asked by commissioners for his insight on how the county should proceed.

Herzet said the roads, especially the south one, need to have a more solid base under them before restoration with new blacktop. The best solution might be to tear up the current asphalt, and leave the road gravel for several years while packing in new gravel, he said.

Herzet said the south road had been built by grinding up the old asphalt and putting it down with rock for a base. No millings were used in the base as has been done in later road construction, he said.

According to the county’s new practice of mixing millings and magnesium chloride into the base for new hard surface road construction, Wetta said, the first indications are that it gives a stronger, more durable base.

Herzet said the only thing the county can do during winter weather is to continue patching the roads with rock.

The commissioners asked him to meet with consulting engineers for recommendations on what to do on the Tampa situation.

The commissioners approved a request from Mike Wederski of the 8th Judicial District Juvenile Justice Authority for $728 county share in beginning payment for liability insurance. Wederski warned that overall insurance costs will go up for the four-county unit, particularly as some of the cost formerly paid by Geary County is shared more equitably.

Wederski said Marion County’s juvenile-adult caseload has increased by a third over the last two years, and therefore Mike Clark, case worker, will be moving to the county full-time. In addition, another worker will be spending two days here, and three in Abilene, which Wederski said will give Marion County one and a half staff here.

The commissioners approved Transfer Station Manager David Brazil offering a renewal of contract to Robinson Trucking of Florence for hauling solid waste from the transfer station to the landfill. Brazil said the contract allows $210 base rate for the 150-mile haul to a Topeka landfill with increases to $212 to $214 recently for contractural allowances for rises in the cost of diesel fuel.

The commissioners approved Brazil seeking bids for an air jack at the transfer station for repair of trailer tires.

Commissioner-elect Randy Dallke, who attended the meeting with fellow Commissioner-elect Dan Holub, told commissioners he had heard concerns from the public about equipment from road and bridge not being shared between departments for such things as transfer station tire changing.

The commissioners replied that they have kept accounting for the transfer station with its countywide assessment separate from tax funded departments to prevent its becoming “a cash cow” for other departments. They said it also would be difficult for road and bridge to try to schedule work for the transfer station.

County Attorney Susan Robson and Jim Hefley of Marion National Bank met with the commissioners in executive session for 10 minutes to discuss action of foreclosure on a South Central Kansas Economic Development loan to an individual.

Robson said she also has been in contact with the Kansas Department of Transportation on developing a resolution for signage and fines to not allow through truck traffic on Nighthawk Road to U.S. Highway 56. Fines would be set at $250 not to exceed $1,000 for subsequent violations, she said.

Hein announced reappointment of Willis Ensz to a three-year term on planning and zoning.

The commissioners approved a bid of $889 from Great Plains Computers of Marion to replace a 4-year-old computer in the county appraiser’s office over beds of $959 from Hewlett Packard and $995 from Dell.

The commissioners directed Herzet to seek bids for three commercial-grade ceiling fans at the county garage to bring down heat from the ceiling to save on gas bills. The garage also has a waste-oil burning heat unit, he said.

At the Tuesday, Nov. 30 meeting, news of a record monthly sales tax return may have helped build the optimism commissioners needed to appoint a task force committee to research a county-wide revitalization proposal.

If approved, such a revitalization program could offer property tax refunds for a period of years on new construction to help revitalize the county’s economy.

The committee is chaired by Holub with Hein also as a member. The two couldn’t serve on any permanent program committee to avoid future conflicts of interest.

Other committee members are Nick Nickelson, Robson, County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman and County Appraiser Dianna Carter-Frantz.

Collett promoted and proposed the study of a revitalization program for the county citing the success in other counties whose officials he visited with. He said Clay County officials showed $11 million in construction during the last year in their revitalizaton program, and have another $6 million on line for next year.

Collett said he had similar reports from Jackson and Brown Counties.

“Every county I talked to that has revitalization is showing progress under it,” Collett said.

The revitalization program in Kansas was created to revitalize economically deprived areas, and frequently is thought of as being for “blighted” residential and business areas in cities.

Collett said much of Marion County can be viewed in the same way with abandoned and deteriorating buildings both on farms and in the towns. The county would be a unique case, he said, in such ways as having “12 cities when most counties only have three to five.”

Counties can go with different percentages of return of tax money over some variances of time, Collett said. He said some of the counties rebated 50 percent of the taxes, and some did so over a five-year period. Clay County used a 10-year program.

Collett began a preliminary plan for Marion County with the Clay County plan attached as its basis.

Among facts he cited included an average wage per job in Marion County in 1999 of $16,754, which was 61 percent of the statewide average of $27,412, a decline of county population from 23,000 in 1920 to 12,888 in 2000, assessed valuation per capita in the county at 60 percent of the Kansas county average while residents are burdened with”buying” services equal to the average, and a median age in 2000 in the county of 41.0 while the median for all Kansans was 35.2.

Collett said the county mill levy of 51 mills is a deterrent to business expansion in a state where many county mill levys are in the 30’s.

In the 2000 census count, Collett said, 21 percent of Marion County residents were retirement age, 25 percent under 18, and 54 percent were of the working age at 7,230 persons.

Hillsboro City Manager Steve Garrett said although the revitalization program the city has seems to be successful, he would have reservations about the legality of a county-wide program that seems to supercede the intent of the state program designed for cities.

Garrett said it might be that Hillsboro would need to be cautious in signing on to the interlocal agreements that would be necessary for a county plan.

Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke said the main county objective should be to get more businesses here, and she thought it would be “a terrible image to promote the whole county as blighted.”

Wetta asked if the recent opening of the county under new planning and zoning regulations to include five-acre rural residential lots might be enough incentive for building, and if revitalization might not cost tax dollars that would have come here anyway.

Holub said since “we don’t have to throw a big check at it, what do we have to lose? It just costs us time and paperwork.”

Marion realtor Charles Kannady agreed that revitalization could be used as a tool to compete with other counties for new housing, but added that most new home builders want the location without regard to a tax break.

Collett left movement on the final motion to Wetta and Hein.

“It’s up to you two guys,” Collett said. “You already know where I stand.”

County Clerk Carol Maggard reported a September sales tax collection which was received in November of $49,071. It was a record monthly collection for the years 1999 through 2004. It compared to $36,174.11 a year ago and the previous high figure in 1999 of $47,960 for the same month.

It put sales tax collections for 11 months of 2004 at a total $476,406.98 compared to a total 454,810.40 for 12 months last year.

Maggard gave the payday pay-out figure at a high $1,038,298.55 which also included a high one time bill from capital outlay for road improvement of $473,116.

Judge Michael Powers gave commissioners a “heads up” that the court would come in over budget this year perhaps by $14,000 to $15,000, mostly for required defense counsel. Budget busting only “one or two juvenile cases,” he said.

Powers also said the court is in need of additional office space.

“I have to add one part-time probate officer, and there’s no place to put him,” he said.

Collett said the county may have to go out of the building for added office space in several cases perhaps with the addition of an elevator to use the second floor of the downtown health building as the best option.

After meeting with county department heads, the commissioners authorized spending approximately $10,500 from sales tax receipts for a voice mail system for all offices that would ensure messages aren’t missed when phones are busy.

Herzet said to concerns of Vernon and Vida Bartel about lack of gravel on 240th near their home on Eagle and water crossing the road with assurances the county would rock there soon, and assess the problem.

Jack Chappelle, consulting engineer for the county on closing the old landfill southwest of Marion, said he should be ready to open bids for the work Dec. 20, and sign a contract Dec. 28.

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