Commissioners consider budget requests

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission Monday was greeted with all kinds of budget requests, including those from behavioral health agencies reporting increasing problems within the county.

The commission got its share of good news and bad.

The good news was a report from Emergency Medical Services Director Darryl Thiesen that the county ambulance department state inspection came in with a perfect score. No deficiencies were noted, he said.

Thiesen said the score is an “incredible achievement” considering the work is done by volunteers with no other reward than making a contribution to their communities.

Everything from ambulances and equipment to personnel records were included in the inspection.

The bad news came from County Appraiser Cindy Magill, who reported the county could eventually lose more than $100,000 income annually because of a bill passed by the Kansas Legislature to encourage industrial investment.

Magill said the bill exempts from property taxation commercial and industrial personal property that retailed from $401 to $1,500. It goes into effect Jan. 1, which is too late to affect the 2007 budget.

The first projected loss in revenue for Marion County, Magill said, is an appraised value of $735,257 with an assessed value of $183,814.

Bobbi Strait, the county’s new director for planning and zoning and environmental health, asked commissioners for their reasoning on rewriting the county’s comprehensive plan.

“I don’t understand what’s changing and why,” he said.

Commission Chair Dan Holub was credited with “putting it in a nutshell” by the other commissioners when he answered that it is to change rural housing plot sizes from being calculated according to 40-acre plots to being figured according to home density per section. It would allow building clusters of 12 homes within a section, he said.

The commissioners approved a contract of $9,500 for one year with Overland Park engineer Jack Chappelle for supervising initial construction and operation of gas and water monitoring wells at the recently covered and closed county landfill southwest of Marion.

They chose to follow a recommendation from Chappelle that contractors do water sampling the first year accompanied by Strait, so she could learn to do it according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment requirements. He suggested that a back-up person also learn how.

Chappelle estimated a KDHE approved gas meter will cost the family $3,000 to $4,000. The commissioners asked him to proceed with his suggestion of presenting the need to McPherson County at a meeting Monday night, so that the two counties might be able to purchase one together.

The behavioral health budget requests reflected a county and a region that is always changing.

Judge Michael Powers told commissioners he will need an increase for the district court to raise payments for attorneys appointed as public defenders.

He said budgeted attorney payments date back 25 years, and it is difficult to get attorneys on the “call list” for those wages.

At times, he said, only Marion attorney Dan Baldwin has remained on the list for public service, and this doesn’t work if persons being tried in the same case need defenders. The offenders may end up wanting to testify against each other, he said.

Powers expects the expansion of Fort Riley to greatly affect the judicial district in a relatively short time because Geary County is a member along with Marion, Dickinson and Morris counties.

Representatives of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center out of Hutchinson requested county funding for the first time since the agency began sending a representative for work in Marion County.

They said the agency had 12 cases in Marion County last year-usually women and children in need of shelter from an abusive husband-but it is already up that number of cases this year.

They received $1,300 from Marion County United Way last year.

Linda Ogden of Communities of Schools said her agency has been able to bring in $150,000 in grant funds to the county to help with things from substance abuse in children to helping families pay utility bills. Local contributions such as $6,000 annually from the county and a recent donation by Golden Heritage Foods help get grants by providing ongoing cash flow, she said.

Ogden said Holub was correct in recognizing that children being served need help in the first few years of life. By high school, she said it is much more difficult to help them.

Ogden said help with utilities for families is relatively new for her agency, but she was able to assist 18 households with 36 children within the past year.

The commissioners decided not to close the courthouse for a holiday July 3 as the state and federal governments are doing. They said individual departments may curtail services if they cannot function without the state.

Representatives of the Soil Conservation Service asked for a county budget contribution of $28,790, the same as last year.

Representative of Prairie View again asked for $60,000.

Cooperative Grain & Supply was awarded a bid of $19,728 over a bid of $19,748 from Cardie Oil Co. for road and bridge transport fuel. The CG&S bid was for 4,000 gallons of diesel in Tank 3, 2,000 gallons of diesel in Tank 1 and 2,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline.

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