ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission barely began discussing plans Monday for greatly reducing the scope of a proposed community corrections center when Commissioner Dan Holub began criticizing probable opponents of the center from Hillsboro.
Holub had requested that Stan Thiessen of Hillsboro be asked to the meeting to discuss a letter he had written in the Free Press that was critical of the project, the commission’s economic pursuits and the Marion County Economic Development Council.
Commission Chair Randy Dallke had noted that a new plan received from architect Dan Hall of BG Consultants of Manhattan reduced the projected price for a corrections facility to $9.44 million from an initial $15 million.
The figure-very close to the amount named by Commissioner Bob Hein last week-was arrived at by cutting a proposed judicial center from the plan, and by cutting the number of “bed spaces” for prisoners from 72 to 40.
Holub, referring to the reduced space for inmates that might have been rented by other counties to house their prisoners, said, “We are giving up $430,000 a year here, which would have paid the property tax portion (of the total tax package needed to support a bond issue), and the operating costs.
“I am willing to cut most anything here except the beds we need to make this fly,” Holub added. “The bottom line is, we are going to have to get something here that pays for itself, and gets off the tax rolls.
“Instead, we get a set of people who want to sit back, and throw stones at us. Bob (Hein), that’s your area. It would be nice to have suggestions, and not just criticisms.”
Hein represents the First District, which includes Hillsboro.
Holub then referred to Hillsboro merchants, led by car dealers, who say additional sales tax could put them in a non-competitive position and lead to the closure of their businesses.
“These are the very people who approved a swimming pool for themselves,” Holub said. “These damn people hold themselves to one standard and us to another one.
“They give themselves a half-percent sales tax for a swimming pool, and won’t give us a quarter-percent for something we have to have.
“Their city attorney said we could haul a lot of convicts for $15 million (Marion County prisoners that would be paid for to stay in other counties). What kind of a statement is that? Maybe they could haul their kids to McPherson for a swimming pool.
“These wild accusations are what happened with the landfill. Quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing them.
“There’s a difference between constructive criticism, and these people bitching. Bitching is when you have no better ideas.”
Dallke acknowledged a comment from Holub that the differences and need for further study will make an election on the corrections center impossible in April.
Hein remained silent during the exchange.
When Thiessen appeared, Holub told him he had been wrong in implying that the City of Marion offered land in its industrial park for the corrections center only for the city’s gain. He said Marion offered the land because it was needed for the project.
Thiessen said he wrote his letter not just because of the corrections center, but because he is concerned about the way “this commission goes around proposing huge projects” with insufficient discussions over sufficient time to find how county residents wish their county to be defined for coopertive efforts.
Thiessen said the Marion County Economic Development Council lacks sufficient guidance to know what it’s about, and so does the commission.
Holub and Dallke said the county has a 1930s jail that will need to be brought to the standards set by the State of Kansas-that the corrections center is not for economic development.
Thiessen said the jobs suggested to come from the corrections center are economic development, but there are many economic issues “in crisis” in the county while the commission pursues ideas like the corrections center and the casino.
Thiessen said an example of one economic asset county commissions ignored is Marion Reservoir, with the years of siltation there before the commissioners did anything.
Holub cited commission financial support for the WRAPS program at the reservoir.
“You might talk more about what the county is, not the divisions of Hillsboro and Marion, instead of throwing pens around the table, Mr. Holub,” Thiessen said.
Dallke said the commission does its best to represent all of the communities of the county.
In other business, Teresa Huffman, county development secretary, reported on meetings she has been attending that could result in grant money for the county.
Huffman said she particu-
larly liked a meeting in Manhattan where representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development spoke to her about joining Marion County in a group of counties that would work on energy development in many fields, including wind, bio fuels and solar.
The group of counties would become the template for similar groups of counties, she said.
The commissioners appointed Larry Larsen, acting emergency medical services director, to become permanent director of Marion County Emergency Medical Services.
Following an executive session, Dallke said Larsen’s appointment will be to a 40-hour work week with salary yet to be determined.
The commissioners discussed appointment of a lake board and whether one person or two should be appointed when Dale Snelling, park and lake superintendent, retires in April.
The commissioners authorized Cindy Magill, county appraiser, to purchase four computers to replace early 1990s models from Great Plains Computers for $6,401 over competitive bids of $6,432 from Lenovo and $6,565 from CDWG.
They awarded $37,477.50 in annual noxious weed herbicide bids to Ag Service of Hillsboro, and $11,209 in bids to Agri-Producers Inc. at Tampa in competitive bidding that included Markley Service of Marion and Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro.
Pilsen State Bank received the bid at 4.14 percent over all other county banks to finance road and bridge lease of a $124,227 loader.