Commissioners frustrated with sheriff, give employees raise

Over the course of an four-and-a-half-hour-long meeting Monday, the Marion County Commission discussed road and bridge projects, employee pay raises and public health. They also were disappointed with a lack of communication form the sheriff’s office on an ongoing investigation into an inmate suicide.

The commissioners expressed disappointment Sheriff Rob Craft was not present at the meeting for his scheduled quarterly update. Commissioners were concerned they had not received any follow-up information regarding an inmate suicide last month.

Commissioners agreed, “we should know how our jail operates. He’s in charge, and yet this incident happened.”

KBI is currently investigating the death.

Commissioners said the sheriff will be rescheduled to make an appearance before the commission. There was discussion of moving the conversation with the sheriff into executive session to discuss personnel in how the suicide, investigation and lack of communication was handled.

Commissioners agreed, “We are in charge and we’ll be named as county commissioners if a lawsuit happens.”

The commission said any department head that is scheduled for quarterly updates should plan on appearing, regardless if they believe they have business to address with the commissioners.

In discussing extensive road work, it was indicated by Brice Goebel, county engineer, one of the greatest potential expenses was trucking fees for materials. The use of a double chip overseal would ensure the base of any major road improvement project would extend the life of the road.

There was concern expressed about the overall state of Marion County roads, noting there are asphalt roads in disrepair and stretches of road south of Hillsboro that are showing signs of the road base degrading.

It’s a commission decision, what you want to do. It’s the commission’s decision, where do you want to put the money,” Goebel said.

Goebel also discussed some minor vandalism, which did not warrant action or expense beyond clean-up. And, he said maintenance is needed on a dozer the county has owned since 1973 but is still in good working order.

He is looking into beginning the Eagle Bridge replacement process.

A brief update was given by Randy Frank, director of Emergency Management. All of the SPARK supplies have been dispersed, reconciled and have a zero balance.

The emergency management trailer is ready for response.

A fire burned 960 acres in the county last month. Air support was called but unavailable.

He will be arranging vaccination meetings with the public health department and hospitals.

There are plans to revisit waste management and possibly rates within the county.

Bids were opened from six contractors for the Nighthawk Road project. Low bid was for $2,653,500 from a company based in St. George, Utah. Second-lowest bid was from Wichita contractor Bob Burgkamp Construction for $2,926,155. No action was taken on approving a bid.

The commission approved a 30-cent per hour wage increase for all non-commission county employees. The vote passed 4-1, with one commissioner lobbying for a 34-cent per hour increase. The increase is effective for full- and part-time employees, but not Fire or EMS.

The commission indicated the pay increase is part of a larger re-examination of county pay and will not be the only pay increase for 2020.

Travis Parmley with EMS recommended the write-off of $10,000 in non-collectable bills from 2018-2020. He reported calls were down by 108 calls compared to last year. He reported the department now has nine paramedics on staff, in addition to AEMTs and EMTs.

Parmley said the county had been in discussion with the City of Hillsboro to house an EMS facility. However, he noted Hillsboro had been “discussing a new building with no funding for the last 20 years.” He said also he did not approve of building a new county building on leased ground.

I wish only the best for Hillsboro to build a new station,” he said. “At this time, I ask the commission to be supportive of the EMS proposal and discontinue conversations of a joint facility with the City of Hillsboro.”

In other news:

The commission went into executive session, a meeting closed to the public, to discuss the possible purchase of a building for the Marion County Emergency Response. No action was taken following the executive session.

Isaac Hett was given guidance by County Attorney Brad Jantz to declare property left at Marion Reservoir as abandoned. After proper notice has been attempted and published, the property can be sold.

The commission entered an executive session, a meeting closed to the public, to discuss contract negotiations. No action was taken.

The commission requested the continuation of updates on COVID-19 cases and vaccine distribution in Marion County. The updates had been discontinued last week but were returned based on public and commissioner request.

As of Monday morning, there were 520 confirmed cases, 258 probable, 73 active and six deaths. The county remains in the red, with a 14.5 percent positivity rate in testing. The county health department has exhausted all 70 of its vaccines as of Jan. 4, and there is no word if further vaccines will be shipped. There has been little to no coordination between the county, hospitals and pharmacies on vaccine numbers and distribution.

The commission discussed adding 10 acres of land to the county land bank, as well. County legal consult Brad Jantz said the land banks are important tools for distressed properties that allow communities flexibility dealing with real estate. Jantz said land banks are self-sustaining financially if run correctly.

No action was taken to include additional property in a land bank.

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