Commissioners wonder if economic issues fuel increase in delinquent property taxes

The poor state of the national economy may be reflected in a large increase in the number of 2007 delinquent property tax notices compared to 2006, Marion County commissioners speculated Monday after County Clerk Carol Maggard informed them of the development.

The total delinquencies for 2007 stands at $36,707 compared to delinquencies she reported at this time last year.

Commission Chairman Bob Hein said, ?We?ll probably get some of this,? as taxpayers strive to catch up.

The commissioners voted 2-0, in the absence of Commissioner Dan Holub, to write off $1,255 in ambulance run bills that probably are uncollectible.

Emergency Medical Services Director Steve Smith noted that such a low write-off rate probably is good since the service actually is making more runs than it had been, and collecting for a higher percentage of them.

EMS already is at 848 ambulance runs for the year, and Smith said the number will easily exceed the 915 runs made last year. The record number of runs was 1,007 in 2005. That doesn?t include 17 runs at Florence, which wasn?t a part of the county system at that time.

Smith reported ambulance runs for September at 103, including 20 for Peabody, 15 for Florence, four for backup, 27 for Marion, 30 for Hillsboro and seven for Tampa.

The runs included 17 transfers, 10 for cardiac, 22 medical emergency, eight for standby, six for motor vehicle accidents, eight for falls, 29 no transports, one ?disregard,? and two for undesignated reasons.

Also reported were five first-response runs for Goessel and one for Lincolnville, and one rescue run from Florence and three rescue runs from Marion.

Smith said the latest EMT class that began in September has 11 students?one from Burns, two from Peabody, one from Lincolnville and seven from Marion.

He said updating hours for EMT crews should result in recertification for 51 members.

The commissioners have repeatedly commended EMTs for their reliability as volunteers.

Smith said he is concerned with the rising number of accidents that occur along U.S. Highway 56 by Marion?s industrial parks, especially at the Cedar Street entrance.

Road and bridge officials said they also are concerned about the potential for traffic accidents, particularly in the northern part of the county, where the sheriff?s office is investigating a rising number vandalism cases against of stop signs. Signs are being pulled from the ground or broken off using four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Peggy Blackman, Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) coordinator working with road and bridge director John Summerville, told the commissioners conservation funds have been earmarked for 90 percent cost sharing on a bridge and bank stabilization west of Durham adjacent to land owned by Steve Youk.

She said the county first contracted for the work as the result of changing the pathway of a road that might have left Youk without access to his land.

Blackman said the bidding process could be completed to have bridge construction begin in January, weather permitting.

Blackman reported there are growing concerns as growth in southeast Kansas and areas south of it continue to move closer to the capacity of the Neosho Basin to meet needs.

The upper reaches of the Cottonwood River, with Marion Reservoir as a first repository of pooled water on it, actually contribute more water to the basin than the upper reaches of the Neosho River, she said.

The commissioners approved a request from Summerville to purchase four tool bars that fit on road graders for $14,754 from Foley Tractor of Salina.

Those four, combined with three the county already owns, will give a ratio of one tool bar for every two road graders, he said. Summerville said the move pays off by saving grader-blade wear, and enabling turnover of potholes and rough spots on hard roads for smoother surfaces.

At the behest of Commissioner Randy Dallke, the commissioners directed Summerville to look into prices for a tractor either with a set-down mower or a boom mower in consideration of the repair status of current equipment.

The commissioners approved a a bid of $1,880.50 for 12-foot and 14-foot 4-inch square sign posts from The Lumberyard of Hillsboro over competitive bids of $5,815 from North Pacific of Dirks, Ark., and $2,083 from Kropf Lumber of Hesston.

Maggard reported that an inspection of the courthouse roof by an insurance adjustor looking for possible hail damage has revealed that during the last roofing upgrade flashing around dormers wasn?t installed, and shingles weren?t nailed down properly resulting in sliding and missing shingles.

She said the commission probably will be looking at November to get bids for fixing the roof beginning next spring.

Dallke said he inspected the Florence rock quarry over the weekend, and was pleased with the way he found the ownership there complying with requirements to slope and restore the land after rock removal.

Park and Lake Superinten?dent Steve Hudson said he will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Marion County Lake Hall to take questions on fishing and zebra mussels.

Maggard said the commission has received notice from the City of Hillsboro for a hearing along with the city?s regular meeting at 4 p.m. Nov. 18, to consider a redevelopment district for economic growth that could include bond issuance.

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