ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission Monday discussed its plans to hire a county economic director and improve roads, but came to few decisions.
The commissioners reiterated that they want an economic director with business experience. They reviewed a job description for the position created by an advisory committee, and asked Maggard to begin a process of advertising the position.
Maggard said the commission received a letter of support from the City of Goessel favoring economic development efforts.
Commissioners reviewed plans for hard surfacing roads with Acting Road and Bridge Supervisor Jim Herzet. They agreed on the need for immediate action on some roads, including the Roxbury-Tampa Road.
The commissioners noted the county will receive an additional $40,000 in Federal Emergency Management Account funds as a result of the ice storm to add to road and bridge funding. They agreed that some of this money might be used to thoroughly upgrade 28 miles of gravel roads annually.
Meanwhile, Tony Epp of Goessel came to the meeting to ask commissioners to rescind decisions allotting money to Kansas Legal Services and for a feasibility study of building a new jail to make money by receiving out-of-county inmates.
Epp said he wished the commissioners had not been “drawn in like suckers” into giving KLS attorneys-“like the kind you see on TV who will sue Social Security”- $2,500 to provide legal services for persons who can’t afford them.
“They bragged to you about how they increased income for the county (in Social Security cases),” he said. “Let them go get the $2,500 themselves.”
Epp was equally critical of the $15,000 the commissioners committed to a jail feasibility study, saying building a prison here would place the county in a position contrary to God’s will. He read passages from the Bible on the type of justice system that should be, but was asked to stop reading by Commissioner Randy Dallke.
Dallke said he favored a few minutes for Epp to speak, but he didn’t want to hear quotes from the Bible because he considers the jail to be purely a business decision.
County Clerk Carol Maggard said she has received inquiries from two Kansas City companies regarding the jail idea-one from a company wishing to build the jail, and another wishing to handle a bond issue for it.
The commissioners approved spending $5,000 from sales-tax collections to support the county’s 2-year-old United Way program after Commission Chairman Bob Hein said, “I’ll make the motion for it. I’d like to see it get up and running good.”
Carl Long, president of Hillsboro State Bank, appearing on behalf of United Way, said the Marion County program was able to raise $16,000 in its first year, which was encouraging to its promoters.
But the second year, the program still was stuck at $16,000 in funds raised. The promoters have decided United Way needs to hire a person to work 10 hours a week raising funds, he said.
The commissioners voted 3-0 to release a business mortgage under the county micro-loan program to allow a bank to proceed with foreclosure procedures.
Maggard reported that adding the ambulance and rescue truck to county insurance from the Florence Ambulance joining Marion County Emergency Medical Services raised premium costs $876 annually.
Commissioner Dan Holub called for scheduling a public hearing with the Planning and Zoning Commission to come up with a plan that would push for more rural housing.
He recognized that the last commission spent $40,000 creating a new county plan to allow for more rural housing, and added that he wasn’t trying to nullify that effort. Holub said he only wants to modify it “to see what we might accomplish.”
Peggy Blackman handed commissioners a report from the Marion Reservoir Water Quality Grant she works under trying to improve watershed water quality as well trying to improve retention of valuable topsoil.
Blackman said $67,579 was spent under the grant last year, and $100,000 has been asked for this year. She works with producers, many of them who have experienced tough economic times in farming and ranching, to obtain cost-sharing funds for conservation improvements.
Blackman said producers need to concentrate on improving record-keeping to take advantage of the new federal Conservation Security Program.
Noreen Weems, director of the elderly department, noted a former county commissioner, Howard Collett, has succeeded Gene Andersen as Marion County’s representative in the Silver Haired Legislature. Area legislators meet to discuss issues April 7 in Abilene.
Weems said the North Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging will sponsor a seminar on health and medications from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., April 14, at the Marion Senior Center.
She reported the Goessel Senior Center has received a release of lien from the Kansas Department of Transportation on its van because the center no longer can afford the vehicle’s insurance coverage.
The commissioners approved a road and bridge fuel bid totalling $14,822 from Cardie Oil of Tampa over a bid of $15,264 from Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro. Maggard noted the total price was roughly a $1,000 increase from the last time the county bought fuel.
Lloyd Davies of Great Plains Computers & Networking told commissioners how he has been able to integrate and upgrade the infrastructure of the courthouse computer system in his role as consultant and service contractor.
The commissioners approved Davies running a new fiber-optic line from the courthouse to the county ambulance headquarters to speed up Internet service for EMS in its efforts to catch up on ambulance billings.
They awarded the bid for a new computer for the county attorney’s office at $954 to Great Plains even though the basic bid from Dell Computers was lower at $856. They noted that a freight charge would be added to the Dell bid. For a small difference, commissioners wanted to support local businesses.
Commissioners also rescinded an earlier approval for $1,431.30 for a computer and $279 for a monitor from Dell for the appraiser’s office after it was known that Great Plains could offer an alternative of $1,396 for the computer and $372 for the monitor without the freight charge from Dell.
Dallke threatened to rescind approval of the Hillsboro Free Press Extra as the county’s legal publication because he said the Free Press didn’t have a reporter covering a joint meeting of the Commission with the Planning and Zoning Commission.
He said he wanted to make a general statement that the newspaper should provide coverage of all county commission activities.