Commissioners differing on unifying extension districts

Members of the Marion County Commission Monday raised multiple roadblocks to the formation of a new extension district with Dickinson County that would share agricultural and family agents.

The extension representatives of the Kansas State University designed program say it would enhance services to the public, and it?s part of a quickly growing trend for shared extension districts among counties across the state.

Opposing the district, Commission Chairman Randy Dallke said he is getting calls from ?large farmers,? people with 1,000 acres plus, who say times are changing, and they are more likely to use computers or seek guidance from seed companies rather than use K-State Extension for information.

The main thing the big farmers don?t want, Dallke said, is the formation of yet another taxing district, established by state statute, that might levy more property tax against their land.

Extension agents from both Marion and Dickinson counties plus members of their local extension councils at the meeting?a dozen people?countered that programs such as 4-H plus guidance and public information provided for adults are invaluable.

The big farmers cited by Dallke, Bill Fish of the Marion Council said, are shorting themselves if they don?t make use of agricultural agents and available materials.

Commissioner Bob Hein asked why the district has to be formed with Dickinson County. He said constituents from Goessel have been calling him and saying they would rather Marion was included in a district with Harvey and McPherson counties.

Marion County Extension Agricultural Agent Rickey Roberts said joint extension districts work better when the counties involved are closer in valuations.

Harvey and McPherson, he said, are much larger than Marion. Essentially, it?s not in the interest of those counties to be with Marion, he said. But Dickinson is a more similar-sized county that does want to be with Marion, he added.

Commissioner Dan Holub noted that the formation of the district is supposed to provide more support in programs available when counties are able to share extension agents. He asked why, with all of the resources K-State has in Manhattan and across the state, it would benefit Marion County to have help from Dickinson?s agents.

A Dickinson extension council patron answered that one county agent is responsible for about 60 programs, but with the help of other agents might be able to pare down to specialize in 30 programs, thereby offering higher quality service to the public.

Roberts said it enables an agent, say for example who specializes more in animal agriculture, to offer more specialized input while an agent better in horticulture offers more expertise in that subject.

Marion County, the participants said, has two agents and one office professional, while Dickinson County has two agents, but is allowed three under extension budgeting and has two office professionals.

Holub said he didn?t like the idea of the proposed district levying taxes.

Dallke said he wasn?t willing to vote for it unless the agreement creating the district carried a ?caveat? that the county commissions had final authority to approve or disapprove any tax proposals.

A quick call to the K-State district office returned the information that such caveats may be included in county agreements for districts.

The commissioners said they would be prepared to vote for district formation next week if Roberts could get a sample state agreement approved by County Attorney Susan Roberts that included such a county commission caveat.

Roberts and others said Marion County needs to form a district very soon with another county because districting throughout the state is proceeding at such a pace that some counties are becoming isolated through lack of decision, notably Smith County in the northwest.

Hein said he had talked to a Saline county commissioner who said that county?s district formed with Ottawa County is working well.

Keystone Pipeline representative Tommy Darnell said his company has accepted all agreements and letters with Marion County and should be receiving the first 15,000-pound joints of pipe next week, either off the railroad at Florence or at Elmdale.

Plans had been made for off-loading at Florence with transport to a pipe-yard near Pilsen, but Darnell said Elmdale had come up as a potential easier delivery point.

Robson said agreements are not complete yet, despite Darnell?s announcement of acceptance, because she hasn?t received final copies back for review.

Darnell said engineers contracted for setting routes for the project have confirmed that a bridge on 290th en route to pipeline yard at Quail Creek Road from Lincolnville should be able to bear the weight of loads, although adding a steel plate may be required.

A side boom for unloading the pipe with the semi-truck that carries it will weigh about 150,000 pounds, he said.

This will have a magnet and be mounted on a track-hoe for moving pipe, he said. In addition, the workers will be using a bulldozer and cables on the trucks for moving.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to appoint Kaw Valley Engineering of Junction City to do inspections on roads and bridges as Keystone contractors proceed.

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline is responsible for any damages done to the road and bridge system, according to the agreements.

Holub said he had received an e-mail stating that the six counties that have joined to oppose a state exemption for 10 years on property taxes on the Keystone Pipeline are to be offered a settlement for 50 percent of the taxes, $650,000 to $750,000.

The commissions voiced their disapproval of that arrangement and agreed to pay the first $307 Marion County share among the six counties for attorney services opposing the Keystone exemption.

They also approved Keystone beginning use of 290th.

Cooperative Grain of Hillsboro was awarded a road and bridge transport fuel bid of $17,008.75 over a competitive bid of $17,146.50 from Cardie Oil of Tampa for 4,000 gallons of 50-50 diesel, 1,500 gallons of dyed diesel and 2,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline.

The commissioners told Acting Road and Bridge Director John Summerville to proceed with trying to buy heavy duty timers to try to reduce about $700 monthly electrical bill for block heaters on diesel engines for about 12 trucks and machines.

Emergency Medical Services Director Steve Smith reported 99 ambulance runs for January, eight from Peabody, nine from Florence, 29 from Marion, 47 from Hillsboro, and six from Tampa

They included 25 transfers, eight cardiac, 26 medical emergency, 11 standby, 16 falls and 13 no transports.

There were six first responder runs, four from Goessel, one from Durham and one from Lincolnville.

The commissioners awarded a $3,705 bid to Hett Carpentry of Marion for trimming drywall at the Marion County Lake Building over competitive bids of $3,900 from Winter Construction of Marion, $4,800 from Gillette Construction of the County Lake, and $3,974.53 from Jeff Jirak Construction of Marion.

Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt said the price received for white goods is trending upward, and he expects the prices for all recyclables to follow that trend with the latest federal supports.

He reported 486.21 tons of waste received in January with average disposal cost for municipal solid waste per ton at $38.94 for fuel, driver and landfill tipping fee.

The commissioners were to examine conditions at the downtown county health department building where mold is a concern after possible water leaks around upstairs windows and down a fireplace.

Employee sharing between departments continues to be a financial strategy with health and planning and zoning sharing personnel, and Schmidt continuing to work out sharing with the Department on Aging while being allowed to hire another part-time person at his own discretion.

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