Marion council discusses cats and water-study funding1

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
There was room for a little nobility Monday at the Marion City Council meeting as council members spoke out on everything from killing a cat-licensing plan to paying more than the perceived fair share of the money to pay for a water-quality study at Marion Reservoir.

There were even more than a few smiles around the room as the council voted to give Economic Development Director Jami Williams permission to designate Marion as the “Rhino Capital of Kansas” as well as “the city between two lakes” on new signs.

Councilor Jerry Cline spoke against passing an ordinance for registering cats, saying that with all the pressing issues confronting the city, taking time for a cat consideration isn’t needed.

Cline said passing such an ordinance would require defining who is responsible, and how it would be enforced. Besides that, Cline said, there are elderly citizens who have a cat as their only constant companion.

“What will we have gained?” he asked.

Former City Commissioner Jim Crofoot spoke up from among a crowd of a dozen listeners to thank Cline for his observations. Crofoot noted he has been chased by dogs at least three times in Marion, but never by a cat. He said skunks, opossums and other wild animals are more a problem than cats.

The kitty question may be considered one more week.

Councilor Bill Holderman suggested, after a city presentation that would have Marion paying $15,166 of local grant funding for a water-quality study at the reservoir compared to $22,422 for Hillsboro based on number of water customers, that Marion instead split the funding 50-50 with Hillsboro at $18,800.

Holderman said there is enough friction between the two towns, and that water quality is too important for the future to quibble over it. He said there already is a reluctance in Hillsboro to sharing the funding, and Marion shouldn’t encourage that to the detriment of both towns.

In outlining the funding for a WRAPS grant, City Administrator David Mayfield said the total local share for Marion County would be $75,200. The Marion County Board of Commissioners has budgeted half the funding, he said, and asked Marion and Hillsboro to provide the other half.

Mayfield suggested a fee of $12.82 for each Marion customer to pay the funding. He said Hillsboro has more customers by itself, plus provides water for Peabody, which should result in a larger share.

Holderman said Marion customers should not pay any additional fee, but the city should draw the money required from within its current financing. “We can find the money,” he said.

Peggy Blackman, who is coordinating the WRAPS grant, said it would provide $251,500 to a Marion Reservoir study on how best to slow problems like sedimentation and blue-green algae growth.

She said there are questions in Hillsboro about waiting on a Corps of Engineers study to begin in four years on the same subject, and on how much of a share the county should be paying when Hillsboro residents already pay county taxes.

She said agricultural producers also have questioned why they should have to pay more taxes for the study when they already pay the biggest share for sediment control.

Former Mayor Max Hayen commented from among the onlookers that Marion County receives property taxes from the entire county. He said the Marion County Commission is “delinquent” in paying the City of Marion to resurface South Third as agreed upon from state funds the county received as a result of U.S. Highway 77 construction.

Hayen said those two facts would suggest the county ought to pay the local water study share on its own for everybody.

The council was questioned at several points during a budget hearing preceding the regular meeting.

Merle Bruner criticized funding of the police department that seemed to him to be going up faster than funding for the county sheriff’s office.

Mayfield said wages continue to go up in all departments.

Earl Mueller asked for a breakdown in the transfer of utility funds to other funds in city budgeting.

Mayfield acknowledged that utility funds are used to support other city efforts, and pointed out that the city keeps a cushion of three months in funds to meet emergencies such as storm outages.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the budget with Councilor Stacey Collett voting against.

The council approved a grant of $2,500 going to growth of a new business in town, Up In Snuff at 162 W. Main, with the possibility of another $2,500 being awarded later.

Economic Development Director Jami Williams said Up In Snuff has been doing better than its advance business plan called for.

Williams suggested the city consider purchasing a home to be sold at auction next week by the Baptist church as a possible site for an apartment building. The council decided it would leave such a project to private enterprise.

The council agreed to lower the value of Lot 13 at the retail industrial park from $6,000 to $4,000 because 80 feet of width was taken from it to add to an adjoining property.

They also agreed to allow Williams to take a position as county micro-loan coordinator to succeed Megan Kilgore of Hillsboro.

Williams received permission to spend $700 on more colorful signs for entry to and departure from the city on South Third, West Main, and North Cedar. The signs would include the rhino declaration, since the city now has more than 100 of the concrete rhinos, and the between-the-lakes motto.

Street Superintendent Marty Fredrickson said some water customers along Washington Street from Santa Fe to Vine may have to deal with water being off when a new 6-inch water line is built to replace the old 4-inch one.

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