Commissioners call Wednesday meeting for personnel issues

Demands by a citizen Monday that county appraiser Cindy Magill be dismissed from her job, plus the return of planning and zoning and environmental health director Bobbi Strait to work this week following a two-week suspension without pay, led the Marion County Commission Monday to call a special meeting for personnel at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The decision to suspend Strait was made in executive session after she didn?t come to work repeated times, according to a county official.

Gary Diepenbrock, a cattle feeder from Lincolnville, said he wanted Magill ?fired.? He asked only that the commissioners tell him how many names on a petition it would take to enable them to do so.

He said dissatisfaction with Magill?s office being unhelpful, impolite and being ?unapproachable? is widespread.

Diepenbrock said he went to the appraiser?s office to ask for relative values on a distiller?s grain storage facility he proposed to build in order to purchase cattle feed from ethanol plants.

He said he needed to make a business decision based on whether putting up a hoop structure with a metal roof would be defined as a farm building, and therefore make the project prohibitive because of taxation.

The alternative, he said, would be to cover the structure with a tarp as a way to keep taxes down.

He said Magill told him she didn?t help predetermine taxes, and therefore refused to help him. Diepenbrock said she reprimanded an employee in front of him who tried to help him.

Diepenbrock said Magill has the wrong type of personality to be in her job, and that she might cause Marion County to lose money and business by making people such as himself decide to locate in ?friendlier? counties.

He said he probably is one of the larger taxpayers in Marion County, but that an appraiser should show the same level of respect to any taxpayer.

Commissioner Randy Dallke agreed with Diepenbrock, and said such allegations are among the reasons he voted not to contract Magill as county appraiser for four years. Commissioners Dan Holub and Bob Hein voted to hire her.

As Dallke continued to opine, he was warned by Holub that he might be ?crossing the line? in open session discussion of personnel.

?Be careful,? Holub said.

Diepenbrock said he hoped he hadn?t crossed bounds because he told Magill at the start: ?I come in peace,? not with complaints.

?No,? Holub said, ?you are the public. You have a right to speak.?

Dallke said, ?In favor to the county appraiser,? many people become angry with decisions made in regard to taxes. He said only the state of Kansas has the right to fire an appraiser because of valuation and tax decisions.

But Holub said the right of a county commission to determine whether an appraiser remains on the job does come into play concerning attitude, helpfulness and incidents such as correcting an employee in front of a patron.

Magill appeared with two department employees, but the commissioners did not call on her to speak.

Following Diepenbrock?s comments, the commissioners went into a four-minute session for personnel by themselves. Then they adjourned for lunch, came back and went into executive session for personnel by themselves again for 45 minutes.

Then they announced the decision to meet again Wednes?day.

2010 Budget approved

After a budget hearing with no public commentary before the regular meeting, the commissioners approved the 2010 budget with only a 0.728 mill increase.

Budget consultant Scot Lloyd congratulated them that they were able to hold the line during an era when other counties are having to slash budgets, and dramatically increase levies. He said in some counties valuations fell because of lower sale prices plus higher rates of delinquent taxes.

Loyd said the county picked up $107,463 primarily because of increased valuation.

The commissioners joined in saying they owed a debt of thanks to all department heads, plus special efforts from personnel in the clerk?s office, for keeping the budget in control.

Dallke said he would ?have loved? to see the mill levy reduced, but said it couldn?t be while holding the level of service in place under threat of continuing state and federal declines in support.

Road issues

The commissioners voted 2-1, Holub against, to sand the east and west Tampa roads in front of homes at county expense to cut down on dust during road reconstruction. Holub said it wasn?t right to sand for those homeowners when others across the county are asked to pay for the sand.

Terry Camp charged that his Menno Township road has been ignored too long since he complained about conditions there several years ago. The neglect, Camp said, has caused travel problems in wet weather. He said drainage is ?terrible,? although he was pleased with recent spot coverage with gravel.

The commissioners said they and Road and Bridge Director John Summerville will drive the road to check its condition.

Other business

Tony Epp of Goessel charged that jail building committee meetings are too closed and secretive with meeting places not disclosed until the last minute when instead they ought to be ?open and approachable? for the public.

The commissioners said the meetings are covered by all county newspapers, and that they will make every effort to make sure meeting places are publicly announced.

The commissioners approved a tax levy contribution of $2,203 to Flint Hills North Central Area Agency on Aging at the request of Gayla Ratzlaff, coordinator for the Marion County Depart?ment for Elderly.

Ratzlaff said she plans sessions at the Hillsboro Senior Center in September, October and November to inform retirees about Medicare, and help them make decisions about it.

Rollin Schmidt, director of the Noxious Weed Department, said he has received the cooperation of the Burlington Northern Railroad and the Missouri Pacific Railroad in spraying for such weed pests such as Johnson Grass and muskthistle.

The commissioners approved a bid of $3,567.50 from Markley Service of Marion over a competitive bid of $3,988.05 from Ag Service of Hillsboro for herbicides, including 20 gallons of Pathway, 10 gallons of Crossbow and 45 gallons of Outpost to be used for noxious weed and road and bridge programs.

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