Two commissioners challenge article on sales-tax impact

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission Monday asked County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman for a breakdown on kinds of sales tax received to refute what Commission Chairman Dan Holub called misinformation.

He specified his concern as the kind of “bogus information and unfair persuasion” the Free Press used in a front-page article quoting car dealers concerning a potential sales tax to support a community corrections center bond.

Holub said it also was a tactic used in defeating a mail-in county ballot in December asking voters whether Marion County should allow gambling casinos to be built in the county.

Holub said opponents of casinos used a misinformed figure of $15,000 for the cost of the election to stir voters against something besides the real issue.

Holub said the commissioners have not said yet how they will take care of upgrading jail facilities, or how their decision will be financed. He said the decision will be made not just as an attempt to create an economic opportunity for the county, but also because “it’s something we have to do” to correct the crowded, unsuitable conditions of the current jail.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said Holub’s comments were “well put.”

Dallke said that it would be a “fair assumption” on the part of the public “that this Commission will do what is the most fair.”

Bateman explained that sales tax receipts to the county are divided into two categories, compensating tax from outside the county and local retail tax. She said the compensating tax can come from Internet sales, catalog sales, licenses for vehicles purchased out-of-state, out-of-county sales-anything but local taxes.

Bateman said increases in sales tax returns have been coming from compensating tax rather than from local retail.

Holub and Dallke noted that Harvey County has been given permission for a 1 percent sales tax increase to relieve property taxes. The commissioners noted that sales tax used in this situation recognizes that it is a more equitable tax that everybody pays.

Holub said, “We have to stay focused now on what we have to do, and that’s the jail.” He added that trying to introduce other concerns only dilutes the focus from where it needs to be.

Commissioner Bob Hein said he had no comment on the situation.

Planning and Zoning Director David Brazil brought resolutions written by the Planning Commission to change zoning regulations better favor smaller rural residential acreages as requested by the County Commission.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve one of the resolutions that enables a farmstead to include a permanent second home for somebody such as a family member or a hired hand. Brazil said the resolution specifies that the home dweller would have a permanent relationship with the family, and that it is not a rental situation. He said the two homes could even share the same lagoon.

Another resolution would allow down to one-acre residential lots within a defined three-mile radius of urban influence, if the city involved favored it, Brazil said.

Brazil said another change in the regulations would allow the county to set a fee in issuing a building permit that would change according to how much road gravel or other work the county would have to do to make a home site accessible.

He reviewed a zoning article that allows five acres for a home site to be split from a minimum 40 acres as long as it meets LESA requirements (is on poorer soils or locations that will not take away from good soil that could be farmed).

The same article allows land included in an old home or farmstead site to be sold from a larger tract for new housing, Brazil said.

Holub said he wanted the minimum tract in all the regulations taken down to three acres, making that the standard size of rural residential tract.

Hein said, “I am going to go with five acres.”

Dallke said applying LESA only to home-building on small acreages isn’t fair, and that it ought to be applied as a rule for home-building on large acreages, too.

The other commissioners agreed with Hein’s suggestion that their goal of allowing up to a density of 16 homes per section be taken down to 12 homes.

Hein said Brazil needs to go back to the Planning Commission for further rewording of regulations.

Brazil reviewed different options the commissioners have in changing zoning and the comprehensive plan as outlined for him by Jim Kaup, Topeka attorney.

Dallke questioned why the Commission has to keep going to Kaup with such questions when he is expensive.

Brazil replied that Kaup is one of the top experts on zoning, and is a help to the county in keeping wording consistent both in planning and zoning to avoid legal problems.

The commissioners approved Brazil purchasing a semi trailer for white goods storage and hauling at the transfer station from encumbered funds for $25,000. Brazil said the trailer also will reduce wear on the existing three trailers there, and serve as a back-up if any are down.

Dallke urged the Commission to reconsider supporting Peabody residents in their bid to have a hearing before the Kansas Department of Health and Environment before the agency grants expansion of a cattle feedlot near town. He said the Commission doesn’t have to choose sides, but only support the chance for a hearing.

Virgil Penner, board member from Newton for Northview Developmental Services, told commissioners that leadership and divisive issues had declined morale so much within the agency last year that by December Kansas Social & Rehabilitation Service was saying NDS licensing for 2006 was in doubt.

Partly at SRS insistence, Penner said the old leadership was fired, and David Powell of Herington was brought in as a consultant and then as a director until the end of April. The agency also was required to bring in consultant teams to assist in improving operations.

He said NDS has 128 clients in Marion and Harvey counties, most of them handicapped to the point they couldn’t live in independent settings without help.

Penner said procedural problems deteriorated to the point that there were difficulties in dispensing prescriptions, and some group homes periodically ran out of food to eat on weekends. He said such incidents were reported to SRS.

Penner said as a result of the new efforts, the NVS board believes the agency will go from one facing correction to becoming a model operation in the state.

He said the effort has received such attention that NVS has been able to go ahead with putting together grants and contributions for a $1.9 million building expansion.

Dan Crumrine, Ed Daves, Diane Leiker, Margie Schwartz, Dick Schwartz, Lee Leiker and Robert Meissinger, all residents at Marion County Lake, came to discuss with commissioners what kind of organization they might have to have to get adequate road upkeep and services provided at the lake by the county.

Holub explained that an organization is needed that can make agreements with the county for services so that the county can do so without incurring a record for permanent responsibility.

Daves said the county last did a major repair on the 2.8 miles of main lake roadway three years ago.

The residents said road widths can vary from 15 feet to 24 feet to a 50-foot right-of-way at the lake with some confusion as to where boundaries are.

Crumrine said the last survey was done when water and sewer lines went in in the 1980s and 1990s. He said lake residents pay more than $144,000 in property taxes to the county alone annually.

He pointed out that road signs are badly needed at the lake.

“We are an accident waiting to happen,” he said.

Margie Schwartz said two vehicles have gone out of control on curves in bad weather and into the water, with lack of signage possibly a factor.

Lee Leiker said there are still trees down, but not cleaned up on public land as a result of the ice storm in January 2005.

Diane Leiker said floating materials from docks that have deteriorated remain a problem in the lake.

Meissinger showed commissioners a previous agreement with the county for the road project that commissioners agreed might do for getting started.

The commissioners urged the lake residents to consult with the county attorney. In the meantime, they were to have the road and bridge sign manager, Dennis Maggard, make a cost estimate of signs needed.

Diedre Serene, health department administrator, in bringing grant applications for the commissioners to sign, also told them the state is directing her to do planning for a pandemic flu. She explained that the state believes it is not a matter of if a pandemic will happen, but when.

At the Tuesday, Feb. 28, payday meeting, County Clerk Carol Maggard, reported a payday figure of $584,047.37.

She reported sales tax received for December sales at $49,527.

Maggard reported maintenance people recommended replacement of two aged York furnaces in the courthouse annex with new furnaces on sale for line discontinuance at $4,878.90. At the Monday meeting, the commissioners approved the purchase.

The commissioners named Leroy Kraus to succeed Raymond Kraus on the Centre Township Board.

They approved a new policy presented by Woody Crawshaw of emergency medical services that would charge extra to participants in EMT classes to pay instructors other than EMS Director Darryl Thiessen.

Tim Ogelsby of Blue Cross Blue Shield told commissioners, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it,” as he presented a third year in a row health insurance rate decrease for county employees.

He cautioned the commissioners not to count on decreases in the future because with health insurance increasing elsewhere, the odds will catch up with them.

Emergency and Communications Director Michelle Abbot-Becker continued discussions with commissioners at both meetings on location of an emergency generator at the courthouse with specifics probably to be released next Monday, March 13.

The commissioners approved a $500 annual contribution for Marion County Rural Conservation District.

The commissioners awarded a road and bridge area fuels bid to Cardie Oil of Tampa for $12,340.15 over a competitive bid of $12,804.95 from Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro.

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