Bridges safe for school buses after all, new report states

The Marion County Commis?sion received some relief Monday with a bridge inspection report that nearly all county bridges are safe for school buses, despite a report last week that 47 weren?t.

Kenny Blair of Cook, Flatt & Strobel apologized for the first report, which he said was a misinterpretation of data by a retiring colleague.

Blair said his company makes sure it coordinates with the sign department of Marion County Road and Bridge to insure that all bridges are marked with correct weight limit signs, and these signs can be trusted.

On rural secondary routes, he said the company follows requirements of the state in informing the county that when a bridge falls below 50 percent capacity, it must be replaced with 80/20 percent state cost sharing.

On the off-rural secondary route system in the county, he said there are perhaps as many as 20 bridges marked ?from 10 tons to lower ranges? that could be of concern for buses, but buses seldom travel them. He repeated that they are properly marked.

Blair said a 65-passenger school bus weighs approximately 8 tons empty, 11 tons half full and 13 tons full. A 35-passenger bus weighs approximately 6 tons empty, 8 tons half full, and 9 tons full, he said.

Commission Chairman Bob Hein asked if most Marion County buses wouldn?t be 35-passenger buses, and Blair responded, ?Probably so.?

Blair confirmed that his company is in the process of annual inspection in Marion County.

Hein noted that the latest state literature says there are 4,000 bridges to be inspected in Kansas.

Blair confirmed an observation by Commissioner Randy Dallke that rural secondary bridges inspected are 20 feet or longer, a length arbitrarily set by legal decisions.

Blair said shorter bridges are the responsibility of the county to check itself and maintain.

Blair said that County Commissioner Dan Holub was right in assuming that commissioners can decide to fix a bridge on a more traveled road before fixing one on a seldom traveled road.

?You can even close them if you want to,? Blair said. ?Some other counties are doing that.?

The commissioners approved a budgeted road and bridge transfer of $100,000 from the special maintenance fund to the equipment fund.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said according to the county treasurer at the end of August, the county funds on hand total was at $10 million. This included $2.56 million in the general fund and $1.36 million in road and bridge.

The treasurer reported 395 delinquent real estate parcels transferred to the tax sale record on Sept. 2.

Maggard said there are problems with water leakage through the roof on the courthouse bell tower, and on into the building. Shingles also have been lifting on the northwest side of the building, she added.

Maggard said the original problems with the roof date back to tornado damage in the 1970s when an older tile roof was replaced with composition shingles.

She said further problems developed when the roof was recovered in 1995 to 1996 by a Wichita company that was the low bidder, but not well-known.

She said the company didn?t use a crane in areas where it might have, and failed to install flashing that might have helped forestall wind and ice damage.

Planning, Zoning and Environmental Health Director Bobbi Strait discussed new fee inspection schedules with the commissioners that might be changed to cover actual costs instead of allowing money-losing flat rates. The planning commission will discuss the rates, she said.

Strait said according to her investigation, Marion County is much lower for permits than neighboring counties. For instance a sewer and well-water fee in Marion County is $35, while $50 in Dickinson County, $150 in Harvey County, $75 in McPherson County and $50 in Butler County.

Strait said GPS or MapQuest may be used to set mileages for permit inspections.

The commissioners discussed some temperance in rate changes, considering that many services offered by the county are presumed covered by taxes without further charges.

In discussion with County Appraiser Cindy Magill, Holub said the expense and confusion of a new ?Orion? appraisal system mandated but not paid for by the state ?is a train wreck waiting to happen.?

Holub said that even the wealthier counties like Sedgwick and Johnson are finding they can?t cover getting the program done.

Communications and Emer?gency Management Director Michele Abbott-Becker told the commissioners that the 19-county area of which they are a part is receiving $375,000 in state and federal money for communications 30-foot tower trailers with electrical generators for emergency use.

Marion County is the administrating county for the area that could cause complications under clauses that allow counties to turn back trailers needing repairs or aren?t being used, she said.

She said the trailers could be valuable in filling in for radio repeaters that may go down in an emergency. Abbott-Becker said she will ask that one be stored at the Marion County Fairgrounds.

Rollin Schmidt, household hazardous waste, noxious weed and transfer station director, said household hazardous waste pickups will be from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 27 at Hillsboro, Oct. 4 at Peabody, and Oct. 11 in Goessel.

Pickup will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 17 in Florence.

Schmidt said the Salina Landfill has set fees for contributors of 5,000 to 9,999 tons of solid waste annually, which could include Marion County, at contracts of $30 a ton for one year, $29.50 a ton for two to four years, and $29 a ton for five years.

He said the commissioners must decide soon whether to continue to haul waste to Perry or whether to switch to Salina. The real savings at Salina, he said, would come if the county itself hauled instead of using a private hauler.

Hein said the decision really needs to be made by next Monday.

The county transfer station sent out 859.56 tons of waste in August with tonnage for the year at 6,100 tons, Schmidt said. The cost per ton for hauling and landfill fees in the last cycle was $42, he said.

The commissioners said they need to coordinate with the county?s cities in developing recycling programs to reduce the county?s waste stream.

More from Hillsboro Free Press
Sweet Adelines group looking for an upbeat time
Hear the name ?Sweet Ade?lines? and you might envision the international women?s...
Read More