ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission Monday pushed through to get Yarrow Road closed to all but local traffic, with Commissioner Dan Holub saying “somebody is going to get hurt if we don’t.”
Holub has been driving Yarrow often meeting dust-raising semi-trucks using the road as a detour from U.S. Highway 50 to U.S. Highway 150 while construction on U.S. Highway 77 is ongoing.
The dust clouds are so heavy, Holub said a passenger car often has to stop at the side of the road while one semi after another goes by raising dirt. And, that’s without knowing whether another big truck is approaching from behind.
“You just hope they can see you,” he said. “It’s scary.”
In answer to Holub’s queries at the beginning of the meeting, Sheriff Lee Becker said he couldn’t keep semi-trucks off of Yarrow because it is a public road that everybody has the right to travel.
His deputies also are busy watching traffic on other popular nonofficial detour routes like Sunflower, where state aid is going to help the county with a new hard surface later, and Nighthawk, which is protected by weight posting.
Becker said that without the commissioners taking some kind of action, the only way he could slow truck traffic on Yarrow would be through drawn-out truck inspections until the truckers decided it wasn’t a fast way to travel.
Holub said with the current conditions, it would only be a matter of time before a farm tractor, a passenger car or a company vehicle like a truck inspecting gas lines is hit on the road in the dusty confusion.
The commissioners also discussed measures like imposing 30 mile-an-hour speed limits on Yarrow, but everybody agreed local people wouldn’t like that.
They voted 3-0 to close the road by resolution to through truck traffic, allowing only local destination traffic on the road. It was noted that local gravel trucks also raising dust on the road will slow their use of it soon as highway construction moves ahead.
The commissioners’ problem at this time was getting County Attorney Susan Robson to write the Yarrow resolution before the meeting was out to give it legal standing if anything came to court. Becker volunteered to find her, even if she was in court, and she did have a resolution draft by the end of the meeting.
David Brazil, planning and zoning, environmental health and transfer station director, brought commissioners a draft of zoning and subdivision regulations he had Attorney Jim Kaup put together last week in Topeka to reflect changes the commissioners want to see to encourage more rural residential housing on smaller acreages in the county.
Brazil said the changes, made to reflect the commissioners’ concepts, could be approved in the next two weeks in time for public hearing that could see them
implemented as local law in two months.
The commissioners further clarified that they want old farm steads, regardless of whether inhabited or not, able to be sold in the smallest plots possible to maintain water and sewer sanitation. They want even farmsteads that have old stands of trees but no buildings left, to qualify, but Brazil said that will be difficult to legally define as a former habitation.
Commissioner Randy Dallke said he wants to make sure that cities have a say on plot development and utilities on land close to their borders.
Jolene Gait, Shirley Carolson and Charles Heery, representing housing authorities that care for senior citizens in Florence and Marion, came to ask commissioners to reconsider solid waste rates for their facilities to make them more like what would be charged a single business.
Right now, each unit of a care home is charged at a rate as though it was an individual home.
Gait said this makes it so she is paying the county more than $2,000 annually for a single dumpster that is emptied once a week.
The three representatives, who said they were speaking for Hillsboro’s Nina Carr too in her absence, said this is unfair in a situation where the average rent to mostly single residents is $165 with some residents receiving only $500 a month social security income subsidized by the federal government to live there at all.
Heery suggested the commissioners might compare it to rates paid by college dormitories and motels.
Commission Chairman Bob Hein said the commissioners would need to take a look at it.
Richard Archer and Jessie Kaye of Prairie View asked commissioners for a county contribution increase from $53,000 this year to $60,000 next year in budget considerations.
Archer explained that more funding is needed for Prairie View to provide mental health services for an increasing number of children. The agency’s more than 50 employees in Marion County now find that children are 39 percent of the case load, he said.
Only a few years ago, Archer said, the number of children with such needs in Marion County ran consistently at 20 to 30 children a year. Now, every year the number grows with 85 kids served in Marion County this year, he said.
Asked by the commissioners why this is happening, Archer replied that it is primarily due to two causes, a culture of change, and a better ability on the part of special education services in the public schools to detect brain damage and other problems.
Regarding the culture of change, Archer said there is an increase both in physical violence and violence of language. Both of these are in public as well as in the home, he added.
Children see more violence portrayed as normal behavior both on television and in the world around them, Archer said.
Along with this, he said, Prairie View sees increased levels of alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence.
Depression, fear and feelings of abandonment are increasing rapidly among children with no boundaries being drawn on their own behavior, he said.
“Kids are being traumatized at an early age” with resulting physical, cognitive and psychological damage, he said.
On a related note, Noreen Weems, director of the elderly department, told commissioners the substance abuse committee she works with donated funds this year for school prom parties to help have a safe place for students to celebrate.
Weems also warned that there is a new scam designed to take advantage of senior citizens that her department is trying to help members with.
She said the victim receives a notice with a fake check that is worth nothing saying it is reimbursement from settlements on the drug Viox. The notice also gives the victim directions on sending their own check to a New York bank account to activate the fake check.
Weems said Senior Citizens of Marion County had one request for mill levy funds this month, from Goessel seniors, for $150 of the cost of a vacuum cleaner reduced to $300 from $599 normal retail for the seniors.
Weems said Robert Carlton, administrator of Central Home Care & Hospice, has been contacting senior citizens with end of life issues to make them aware of the importance of a living will and durable power of attorney for health care.
Loyd Davies of Great Plains Computers in Marion appeared with department heads including Brazil, County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman, Emergency and Communications Director Michelle Abbot-Becker, Appraiser Dianna Carter, and Clerk Carol Maggard to go over advantages of a scheduled program of personal computer replacement for the county.
Davies said the county has operated by attrition with its computers, replacing them only when they don’t work or are out-moded. He recommended looking at a replacement program of approximately every three years for each PC.
The department heads suggested that such a program might save the county money on maintenance. They said the same idea probably should be extended to all computer equipment.
They acknowledged there are differences in level of computer usage and equipment capability that might be taken into consideration. For instance, Brazil said the computer at the transfer station isn’t being used as much as many others.
Dallke estimated there are 40 to 45 pcs in county offices.
The discussion centered on whether such a program might be funded from independent department budgets, or whether the commissioners might add a line item for it within the general fund during budgeting.
Carter told commissioners her ratio factors on reports to the state which reflect property valuation accuracy on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being perfect have come in at 99.3 for residential property and 103.2 for commercial property.
She said letters will be sent to owners of agricultural land after wheat harvest asking about changes in their land over the last year. She explained that agricultural land is required to be revalued every year by the state, and asking by letter is one of several alternating methods that is acceptable.
Carter-Franz leaves her Marion County position this week for a similar one in McPherson County, but commissioners are contracting with her for 30 hours of work to complete land valuation in July.