County commission mulls over millings and new jail

The Marion County Commission Monday attempted to get $400,000 in aid plus road millings from the state because of the U.S. Highway 77 reconstruction closing. The commission also looked to pay up to $15,000 for a feasibility study regarding a money-making new jail.

The commissioners seemed disturbed by the latest communications from the Kansas Department of Transportation that might have dropped aid to the county for traffic detours on county roads during reconstruction to around $200,000.

Commissioner Randy Dallke questioned a switch in KDOT planning that would allow the top 4 inches of asphalt millings from the old road surface to be used by a contractor while the county received the bottom 4 inches.

Joe Palic, engineer with KDOT, and Jim Herzet, acting road and bridge director, assured Dallke that the bottom 4 inches might suit county needs better because of its higher sand content and greater weight.

They said since U.S. 77 has had several overlays, the original surface underneath may give the county more than 4 inches of higher quality material.

Dallke said he would rather have filed a court injunction to prevent the closing of U.S. 77 than to have the county without a solid agreement with KDOT for aid.

Palic said KDOT believes it is fair to help the county with the burden of detours, but he wants to find a way to justify costs as a longer-term benefit to the county.

He said the state wants to get away from diverting money for temporary roads in favor of helping the county end up with road benefits of a more permanent type.

Mike Olsen, consulting engineer acting as county engineer, said he, Palic and Herzet have been discussing U.S. 77 reconstruction and resulting heavier traffic on county roads since late October. He said the county had asked KDOT for $520,000 in aid in early November.

Palic said KDOT had wanted to wait to finalize plans when newly elected Commissioners Dallke and Dan Holub were in office.

Olsen said affected county roads from U.S. Highway 50 to U.S. Highway 56 are in good shape due to the efforts of the county. He cited Sunflower, Indigo and Nighthawk as roads that could be heavily affected by traffic.

Olsen said he is most concerned for Nighthawk because it wasn’t designed for the 40-ton truck loads that could come over it.

Commission Chairman Bob Hein said commissioners are afraid of the damage heavy trucks could do, and noted that conversation among truck drivers at truck stops already has been concerned with alternate routes to take through the county.

Sheriff Lee Becker said enforcement will result in overtime pay for officers with accidents “we don’t normally have.”

He said gravel trucks traveling from the quarry at Marion that normally take U.S. 77 also will add to the traffic on county roads.

Dallke said the county will have additional gravel and patching expense.

Olsen said KDOT is trying to be fair and “up front” instead of adversarial.

Palic said the state knows that a road like Sunflower would have to be resurfaced sometime anyway, and it needs to justify helping with that kind of expense. He suggested the commissioners try to document all additional costs.

Dallke suggested that KDOT and the county settle for $420,000 in aid to the county plus the millings.

“We know what we will be expected to do, and you know,” he said.

Hein asked, “Joe, do you think you could come up with some more money?”

Palic said KDOT could add snow and ice removal on Sunflower to the aid since its trucks leave Marion to clear U.S. 50 to Chase and Lyon counties anyway.

Hein suggested coming back to the subject next Monday.

The commissioners continued road discussions looking at the projected capital improvement fund.

Olsen said the commissioners could get federal aid for road construction, but it would require rebuilding roads to federal standards with improvements such as widened shoulders and slopes.

He said decisions on road rebuilding usually come as a balance between political considerations to satisfy demands for immediate fixing versus sound engineering considerations.

Under sound engineering for better improvements, Olsen said roads would be graveled for a couple of years to establish a base, then chip and sealed with time to patch soft spots, to be followed by a hot overlay.

Holub suggested commissioners make it a county policy to have solid engineering over time for more permanently improved roads.

The commissioners awarded a bid to Marion Lumber of $1,824 for 150 4×4 12-foot sign posts despite a lower bid of $1,732.50 from Kropf Lumber of Hesston in order to keep business in the county. The Lumberyard of Hillsboro made an alternative bid of $1,946.88.

Dan Hall of BG Consultants at Manhattan said his company will do the jail feasibility study working with a jail specialty Colorado company to determine things such as how many inmates to plan for from both Marion County and from other counties that would pay Marion County to house inmates.

Dallke said he wanted to see letters go out to counties like Sedgwick and Johnson to see how many inmates Marion County could count on from them.

Jailer and deputy Gary Klose confirmed the status of a similar jail in Rice County with beds for 72 inmates, 12 of which are retained for that county while 60 are rented out to other counties.

Klose said Rice County made the mistake of trying to cut costs at the last minute, and is now paying more by having to add an elevator and fixing roof leaks.

Using inmate labor actually ended up costing that county more, he said.

Hall said jail costs would be determined under a construction plan using a pod system of 16 inmates per pod built around a common day room with monitoring and lock-down from the center.

He said minimums and medium security prisoners in such a facility usually are kept in a dormitory-style setting with glass windows instead of bars. Maximum security prisoners only have a steel door with a peek hole instead of windows, he said.

Hall said the county could have the option of “not accepting the real bad boys,” and perhaps choosing a higher percentage of female inmates.

Klose said Sedgwick County personnel already have commented, “You build it, we’ll fill it.”

Sedgwick already is sending prisoners to counties much further north in Kansas, he said.

Former Marion County Sheriff Ed Davies told commissioners he thought the project sounded good although he warned that building a jail “can be one of the most expensive projects to do.”

Davies agreed to serving on an advisory board for the jail although he didn’t want to lead it.

Klose said the Marion County Jail was up to 16 inmates last weekend, was back down to 12 Monday morning, but was expected to be back to 14 later in the day.

He said four inmates beyond jail capacity might be sent to Chase County at a cost to Marion County of $40 a day each, or nearly $2,000 total over a month.

Hein said looking at the fact that this kind of money could come back to Marion County instead of going out makes it so “we have to look at doing something.”

The commissioners determined to push ahead with jail planning before April 1.

The commissioners signed an agreement accepting Florence ambulance into the county emergency medical services department bringing Florence EMTs into the county pay system.

They accepted, as part of the plan, Florence’s new ambulance and emergency truck, which are fully equipped while assuming upkeep and insurance for the vehicles. The ambulance still will be marked as the Florence ambulance with existing colors.

Holub noted that in pursuing a goal for more rural housing in the county, he takes exception to language in Planning and Zoning Commission rules that seems to give that group authority for the comprehensive plan over that of the county commission. The commissioners determined that final authority will rest with them as elected officials.

The commissioners authorized Noxious Weed Director Bill Smithhart adding a full-time employee.

They awarded noxious weed bids to Ag Service of Hillsboro for 200 gallons of Tordon at $77.50 a gallon for $15,500 and for 180 gallons of Banvel at $42.50 a gallon for $7,650 over bids from Markley’s Service at Marion, Agri-producers at Tampa, and Cooperative Grain at Hillsboro.

Bids on other chemicals were delayed until next week to check on identical bids from the two cooperatives given by a common supplier.

The commissioners authorized up to eight hours overtime for each of two employees over three weeks time in the EMS department to enable ambulance bills to be brought to date by May.

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