ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission conducted its scheduled 2006 budget hearing Monday, but instead of approving the existing budget, the commissioners had to approve another two-mill budget increase to correct an error made on transfers from the general fund to the capital improvement fund for road and bridge.
The error was pointed out to the commissioners by Auditor D. Scot Loyd of Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd LLC.
County Clerk Carol Maggard said this means the budget will have to be republished in the official newspaper, Free Press Extra, probably Aug. 31. Then a new hearing will be held Sept. 12.
Commission Chairman Bob Hein said the additional two-mill increase makes the total increase 6.086 mills for 2006.
Even though the change makes the budgeting process run beyond the deadline allowed under state statute, Maggard said the state also allows county clerks discretionary powers in accepting late budgets.
Hein and Commissioner Dan Holub voted for the change in the meeting room while the third commissioner, Randy Dallke, joined the hearing by teleconference to express his approval also.
The commissioners pointed out that high fuel costs are hitting the county hard-just as they affect consumers.
They also commiserated over the deterioration of roads used as a result of construction and detour traffic during reconstruction of U.S. Highway 77 from Marion to Florence.
Asked if the new traffic on the roads was hard on them, Holub replied, “It’s killing them.”
He cited deteriorated road beds and crushed culverts on 170th, 190th and 140th, in addition to already frequently discussed damage on Yarrow and Sunflower.
“We’ve had a thousand concrete trucks over them, and we still got a thousand to go,” Holub said.
Dallke asked the other two commissioners if there was any new word from the state on helping the county with repairs and rebuilding. They replied that no new information had come in.
The commissioners have negotiated with the Kansas Department of Transportation for help in resurfacing Sunflower, but they said it is becoming necessary that KDOT consider help on the other roads also.
Hein announced the appointment of Cindy McGill from El Dorado as the new Marion County appraiser. He said she would move to this county within 30 days.
The commissioners approved a second four-year renewal with Southwestern Bell for telephone lines within the courthouse system. Maggard said in the last four years the number of lines increased from 53 to 65.
David Brazil, planning and zoning, environmental health and transfer station director, who is acting as county representative in the closure of the old landfill southwest of Marion, told commissioners of added expenses at the landfill.
“Is this going to become another money pit?” Holub asked him. “Are we always going to be paying on it, or does it come to an end?”
Brazil replied that once Jack Chappelle, consulting engineer from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, signs off that the landfill is securely closed, KDHE will also sign off.
Brazil likened what is happening at the landfill to building a house where there’s an ongoing need to adjust the original plan.
Brazil said some areas of formerly buried waste had needed more dirt topping, and that there are depressions in the top that need to be filled.
Brazil said he had considered using the county’s own road and bridge crew and equipment to fill the depressions. But road and bridge management had suggested that Unruh Construction, the contracted dirt mover on the project, could do the work more cheaply than county workers could.
Brazil estimated the depressions would require 600 cubic yards of dirt with a high-end over-run estimate of 900 cubic yards. The commissioners agreed that Unruh could do the job more cheaply, and approved a bid of $1.70 per cubic yard.
Brazil said the rebuilding of the east roof at the transfer station is done. With that completed, the commissioners authorized him to use up to $16,000 in encumbered funds to put a sealer on the building that will soak into concrete blocks.
Holub encouraged Brazil in his pursuit to use in-county sources for expertise as much as possible, noting that consultants cost more-“$37.50 just to pick up the phone” with an outside attorney.
Brazil reviewed budgets and accounts with commissioners.
Holub said that thanks to Marion City Administrator David Mayfield, the county was able to complete an application with Westar Electric in time to be considered as the location of a coal-fired electrical generation plant.
Holub said the company has requirements for access to highways, railroads, water and cross-country power lines, and that one community in Marion County fell roughly within those requirements. He said Westar gave no indication on its timeline for a decision.