Commissioners vote to end residential trash fires at lake

The Marion County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to forbid trash burning at Marion County Lake based on the same codes that govern the City of Marion.

Bobbi Strait, the county?s planning, zoning and environmental health director, said she came up with codes after a series of complaints from lake residents over the past two years about fires set by neighbors.

She said the new codes would allow outdoor activities such as grilling at homes and developed camp sites, but would outlaw trash, grass and brush fires without written permission of Fire District Chief Mike Regnier.

She said Regnier had approved the plans.

Commissioners said they hoped Regnier won?t be overburdened by the volume of requests he may receive as a result.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said even though he voted for the regulation he has problems with it because it restricts everyone while only a few nuisance neighbors actually caused problems.

Dallke said he also is highly ?disturbed and disappointed? by a growing division between the City of Florence and the county firefighter?s association over their scheduling of high-priced, well-known musicians to compete with each other on the same night of Labor Day weekend.

The Florence Fire Depart?ment has withdrawn from the county organization as a result, Dallke said, and he expects the Peabody department to do the same.

Dallke said Florence has taken a ?real chance? that could cause it ?real loss? if its crowd attendance is reduced to hear national country music celebrity Michael Martin Murphy.

Commission Chairman Bob Hein said Florence should take precedent for the date because of the long history of its Labor Day celebration.

Commissioner Dan Holub said he believes the celebration has gone on for 75 years. He said the fire departments scheduled their events because of one person who volunteered to put up the money for another singer.

Dallke said if the two cities each had 100,000 people, it wouldn?t matter. But the population of Marion County is too small not to cooperate.

A request from the Marion County Fireman?s Association for the county to provide insurance for their event at Marion County Lake was delayed by the commissioners.

Holub said, ?We need to delay until the numbers are in on what insurance will cost, or until the situation with Florence is rectified.?

The commissioners said a letter drafted by County Attorney Susan Robson to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in Washington, D.C., concerning what is called the Sunflower Trail on rail-banked land from Marion to McPherson is ?excellent? in expressing their viewpoint.

Holub said he may present the viewpoint to commissioners from three other counties with similar problems at the next Kansas Association of Counties meeting.

The letter asks the STB to reconsider its appointment of Central Kansas Conservancy of McPherson as interim trail manager of the rail-banking corridor because of non-compliance with Kansas laws.

The letter states:

  • the only law enforcing he CKC has observed during its years of tenure was to put up some no-trespassing signs.

  • the trail presents a real danger, with several horses falling in a sink hole several years ago, and several children falling in another sink hole last spring. These problems can?t be corrected without considerable expense, the letter states.

  • maintenance of bridges for public safety has been nonexistent, and the bridges are dangerous.

  • CKC has never posted bond with the county as required for fencing, and has never provided proof of insurance.

  • ?CKC was required to complete the trail within two years, but has failed to do it within several years.

  • ?CKC has failed to provide control of noxious weeds that are overgrowing the trail.

The commissioners said they remain ?highly disturbed? that landowners are required to pay taxes and take some liability for trail land.

In other matters, the commissioners approved a bid of $2,436 to replace the transmission of a Chevrolet Blazer used by Strait?s departments.

Strait said she will be working with government units such as the cities of Hillsboro and Marion, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to obtain grants for wetlands developments at Marion Reservoir.

She said Peggy Blackman of the WRAPS program notified her of the grants availability in efforts to use wetlands to help purify water.

The commissioners signed a letter of support for the City of Peabody in its efforts to become an Amtrak stop for north-south and east-west routes. The city is in a unique situation as the location where the Santa Fe Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad cross.

Holub said with record-high fuel prices, future developments with Amtrak for mass transit probably are becoming more likely.

Rollin Schmidt, transfer station director, said he and Robson have examined contracts connected to county disposal of solid waste in anticipation of possible changes to save money.

He said they found the county is obligated to give the waste hauler 60 days notice of any change.

The county is obligated to give Hamm Landfill at Perry within 90 days of the end of December for an annual opportunity to change if it wants to, Schmidt said.

Schmidt said in looking at the Salina landfill as a possibility to move to, he is bothered by the landfill?s policy of giving blanket notice to its users of any price change instead of having a hard and fast contract.

Holub said that would be ?tantamount to giving somebody a blank check? to take care of trash.

Hein said the county might not be able to expect much better because with rapidly changing fuel prices and other costs, anybody is likely not to want to be locked into a price.

County Appraiser Cindy Magill said she had 484 property tax hearings this year compared to normally just over 200 in previous years. She said people have been influenced by news reports about property values going down.

That hasn?t happened in Kansas yet, she said, and her department can only keep determining values by comparative sales prices.

She said personal property valuations went out last Thurs?day, and people will have 15 days to call for hearing on them if they wish to.

In discussion with Magill, the commissioners found there is little she can do to make subjective judgements on home values.

As Holub said, ?The state just tells Cindy to fill in the blanks, and they provide the program on how she will do it.?

The commissioners discussed rural counties being locked into rules for valuation that work for urban counties where sales for businesses are higher and housing values are higher.

Holub said, ?We are being stomped on, and I don?t know how to fix it.?

The commissioners approved sign posting as minimum maintenance 180th Road between Old Mill and Kanza.

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