New EMS Superviser inherits budget woes

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Larry Larsen told the Marion County Commission Monday that although he’s only been on the job as superviser of emergency medical services a week, he’s “already disappointed in what I’ve found.”

Darryl Thiessen, former EMS director, was dismissed by commissioners at the Dec. 18 meeting, and told to remove his personal items under escort by a sheriff’s officer.

Larsen said he is disturbed because the ambulance department was at 93 percent in November, leaving him now over budget with no recourse but to come to the Commission to finish with expenses for the year from the county general fund.

The three commissioners, Bob Hein, Dan Holub and Randy Dallke, joined in saying the budget problem is something they should have noticed.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said the problem will be “fixed” by new budgeting in the new year. She said the same thing has happened before during changes of department heads. It might have been expected in this case, she said, because of higher than expected costs for the new ambulance.

Sensitivities have appeared to stay high over the last three years concerning EMS budgeting because of efforts to update years of back-log in ambulance billing.

Peggy Blackman, WRAPS coordinator associated with soil conservation efforts to upgrade Marion Reservoir, told commissioners the long anticipated Kansas Department of Health grant for sedimentation studies at the Reservoir has come in at $190,000 instead of the $251,000, the amount applied for.

She said this means that higher percentages will be spent on administration and studies with less spent on implementation practices. She noted that effort has made Marion County with its funding contribution a “player” in the effort.

Blackman said initial looks at dredging to save the reservoir are showing that more must be done to stop more sediment from coming into the lake before dredging should be done.

She explained that 258 acre-feet of sediment are coming into the reservoir annually, while just to dredge one acre-foot would cost in the neighborhood of $5,600. She added that with 6,300 surface acres, dredging the reservoir would be an overwhelming project in scope, dwarfing any major efforts by state and local governments.

Holub said, “We need to be calling congressmen. We need help here. Any problems with this reservoir carry down (the river systems) to become problems in Oklahoma and beyond.”

Blackman said she is working with Road and Bridge Director Jim Herzet on grants to correct river erosion at two locations on bridges and roads. The county can pay its share on these projects through road and bridge labor and machine use, she said.

The first of these locations, Blackman said, is west of Durham on the Cottonwood River where rock weirs will be built to slow flow of water that has been cutting the bank away from a bridge.

Similar structures and a “head cut” will be used to stop erosion that is beginning to undercut old U.S. Highway 56 at a bridge on the South Cottonwood by the Rex Siebert farm, she said.

Maggard announced the payday figure of expenditures at $676,363.56.

She said that sales tax revenues collected in October and received in December totaled $44,757.27, which left Marion County with $16,594.88 more in sales tax than it collected last year.

Maggard said that is a relief compared to years like 2002 and 2003 when collections were down.

Changes in state law that require sales tax to go to counties where customers come from rather than where they buy have accounted for much of the increases.

Holub said he has appointed Jeff Bina to succeed Eileen Sieger on the Marion County Planning and Zoning Commission, effective Jan. 1.

Sieger resigned as chairman of planning and zoning, and Holub asked that she be sent a written thank you to reinforce the county’s gratitude for her voluntary service.

The commissioners voted to rescind payment on a long list of county checks to various individuals, totaling $1,228.33, that Maggard said had remained outstanding for more than two years.

She said Jack Chappelle, consulting engineer on the closing of the old landfill southwest of Marion had sent a letter notifying commissioners that KDHE will want one or two more monitoring wells at the location.

The commissioners approved raising fees by $100 annually for all persons with mobile homes at Marion County Lake.

Cardie Oil Inc. of Tampa was approved for an area fuel bid of $13,908.90 for 6,550 gallons of diesel over a competitive bid of $14,361.70 from Cooperative Grain.

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