County may need 3.348 mill increase to keep pace with oil

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
To balance the 2007 budget, Marion County commissioners will need a 3.348 mill levy increase.

That was the conclusion of auditor Scot Loyd as he ended his budget review with the Marion County Commission Monday.

Although the commissioners have been going through the budget item by item looking for places to save money, Loyd confirmed that the budget increase really wasn’t due to anything commissioners have done or not done. He said the increase was necessary mostly because of the rising cost in oil fuels and products.

Loyd replied this is the case for every county he serves. Throughout the session he cited similarities on various items between Marion County and Osage County.

Loyd said one year ago, county governments were taking fuel bids for road and bridge departments at or a little over a dollar a gallon. This year, he said, the bids are bumping $3 a gallon, and everyone still wants good road maintenance.

Another example, he said, is the cost of road asphalt, a petroleum product. Loyd said counties paid around $45,000 for a mile of 2-inch overlay in 2000. In 2006, he said, the same counties were trying to economize by shaving off a half-inch to a 1.5-inch overlay, but still were paying about $80,000 per mile of asphalt.

The result is counties are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more for less benefit, he said.

The final county budget hearing will be before the regular meeting Aug. 21.

County lake expenditure

Dale Snelling, park superintendent at Marion County Lake, reported that two of the four air-conditioning units at the lake hall broke down over the weekend. The commissioners told him to go ahead with immediate replacement.

Commissioner Bob Hein, noting that two of the units were installed in 1976, said too many groups have immediate plans to use the lake hall to wait.

Zoning agenda

Bobbi Strait, director of planning and zoning and environmental health, told commissioners she has approved 14 new building permits since assuming her position in June. She said the permits included one farm shed and 13 new homes.

Commission Chair Dan Holub said he wished the county could develop a voluntary questionnaire for new homeowners on questions such as how many children the household includes so the county could cross-reference things such as benefits to schools with tax incentive programs.

Strait said that in the county’s efforts to rewrite ordinances to favor more rural housing on five-acre plots, there are places in the rules where it still reads that 40-acre plots are required. The commissioners directed her to write corrections.

Strait said she is working with planning commission members in making sure they don’t overstep their authority in the process of approving permits.

She cited examples where planning commissioners have questioned applicants about effects on neighbors when their legal authority only concerned the land the permit was for.

Strait said such overstepping could cost legal expenses some day.

The commissioners gave Strait permission to do extra public service work by performing inspections for such things as storm damage and construction compatibility with building codes for consumers and the companies involved with them.

Marion County doesn’t have building codes, but Strait is certified for inspection work.

“It would be strictly advisory at their request, and not regulatory,” she said.

Strait said she will be investigating reports of sanitation hazards. On two reports, she said, there are two different locations. One is on the North Cottonwood River and one on the South Cottonwood River, where households are disposing of septic waste directly into the river. She may require them to install sewage systems.

She also has a report of a rental home that for sanitary health should be ranked as uninhabitable, she said. She could require water or sewage upgrades at the home, or if something like electric lines are substandard, bring in a utility company for an inspection that could lead to utilities being shut down for liability reasons.

Health department issues

The commissioners authorized Diedre Serene, health department administrator, to sign a contract with the Marion County Special Education Cooperative, but expressed concern about the possibility that USD 408 could withdraw from the cooperative if it moves from Florence.

The commissioners approved Serene changing fees to child care facilities based on a Dickinson County model, which she also believed would help ensure commitment to children rather than a seeking of easy money.

Under the new schedule, Serene said the permit for a day care provider license would go from $15 to $50 plus a possible additional fee of $2 per child. Serene said she would assess an additional $25 compliance fee for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he is happy to see additional supervision for day cares, and he wished there was more oversight for foster care instead of allowing it to become only a money making opportunity.

Holub said it sometimes gets lost that the ultimate benefit should be for the children.

Other business

Rollin Schmidt, noxious weed, household hazardous waste and transfer station director, told commissioners that loads of solid waste from the transfer station going to the landfill near Topeka have been increased to a monthly average of 20.38 tons per load compared to the usual average near 19 tons.

He said the heavier loads mean fewer trips, resulting in significant savings to the county.

Schmidt said hauling cost to the end of July is at $57,834 with a cost of $300 per load. In addition, he said, the county paid $9,257 in fuel surcharges to its provider. Schmidt said the county may want to investigate whether it would be better to haul solid waste itself.

Dallke presented the other two commissioners with engineering design work for the back-up emergency electrical generator on the east side of the courthouse complete with landscape design.

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