Marion County Commissioner Dianne Novak at the Aug. 14 meeting asked fellow commissioners Kent Becker and chairman Randy Dallke to review spreadsheets she compiled using 2018 budget numbers compared with other counties.
“If I were a business wanting to expand into another county, I would think Marion would be one of the last ones I would consider,” Novak said.
She said she hoped the other commissioners would take one more meeting to “tighten the belt” on Marion County’s budget.
In a previous conversation, she said Jesse Hamm, director of Roads and Bridges, explained he could give up $50,000, which is half a mill.
Dallke said: “We have always been above the normal average in the 60 percentile.”
Some departments have carryovers even though they are prudent in their budgets, Novak said.
“But some of those carryovers are figured so that the county doesn’t charge so much,” Dallke said.
Novak said she wanted to see if the commissioners could keep the 2018 budget flat with no increase in the mill levy.
“I am OK with the way the budget is,” Dallke said.
Becker said they have been “massaging the budget and massaging it,” and he can’t see where any other changes for this year could be made.
Novak said she didn’t know what it would hurt to look over the spreadsheet.
“I worked very hard on this, and it puts things at a glance,” she said.
Dallke noticed how the emergency management budget went up 170.69 percent at $41,685 in 2010 to $112,839 in 2012.
County Councilor Susan Robson said she believes this happened when Shelley Becker left and Dan D’Albini took over in the emergency management position.
“I am content with where we are at right now,”Becker said. “We need to communicate better about holding the line on the budget next year.”
Dallke also had a statement regarding calls he had by ambulance people last week.
“They were pretty upset,” he said. “I really don’t know the whole context of what was said, but I do know that if we upset our personnel, who are good people, we are just creating our own problems.”
Dallke said he wanted to see this type of communication stopped.
“When we cut the EMS budget by $361,000, (Director Ed Debesis) still has a lot of overtime money he can use,” Novak said.
Dallke reiterated his concerns about cutting funds, and how some EMS employees are already looking at other jobs.
Novak said, “What happened is we just cut the budget and whether he takes it out of overtime or takes it out of whatever, we went from $714,000 up to $1.6 million total for EMS.”
The commissioners, Novak added, were able to shave $361,000, and what stood out was the overtime in the 2018 budget.
“What my problem is, (Debesis) told us they are going to hire someone for $14.50 an hour or depending on qualifications hire someone at $15.50 an hour.
“But then they promise an employee will make $53,000 by the end of the year.”
After some disagreement over whether commissioners were aware of the pay discrepancy, Dallke said he was not happy with what he heard from employees.
“It’s a tough issue, and we are headed down a rough road,” Dallke said. “I have never heard any people say they wanted us to cut ambulance people.”
One or two people misunderstood what Emergency Management director Randy Frank said at a recent meeting last week.
Novak said lots of people at the emergency management meeting, including firefighters and law enforcement officials, believed Frank was professional and that he didn’t say anything out of line.
Many said they would give Frank a “thumbs up,” she said. “It seemed like a few people made a mountain out of a molehill.”
Tom Britain, a Marion County resident, again spoke about Sunwind Energy and the July 31 discussion about the wind farm.
“All I ask is for a fair and accurate account of the county minutes, and I thank you for your time,” he said.
Novak said she read through the July 31 minutes and her only question was that her conclusion was the contract was “open-ended.”
Emma Tajchman, director of Planning and Zoning, said she recalled conversations about the wind farm contracts being open-ended.
There was no ending date for the contract, Becker said.
“I only confirm what Thomas said that whenever we are doing a project or issue, one of the big things we always get is the prior minutes which conclude something,” Novak said.
Dallke said it seems like there is a problem with Britain because he said he bought ground from Rex Savage’s mother.
“Is that what is bothering you?”
Britain said: “Yes, it is at $10 for 20 acres.”
Dallke said: “It was legal. If you want to file a complaint, go ahead. It’s now open to the public, so do whatever.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• approved some of the house renovations at Marion County Park and Lake for director Bryan Metz. Contractor Earl Winter is handling changes.
• approved the lowest transport bid presented by Epps at $14,942.45.
Other bids presented by Hamm included Cooperative Grain & Supply at $14,995.75, Agri Trails Coop at $15,130 and Cardie Oil at $15,195.
• heard from Tajchman regarding the Florence levy project and street vacation in Grandview Addition.
• approved getting bids on 330th Road-Kansas Highway 15 to the McPherson County line.
Darin Neufeld of EBH & Associates, discussed costs for slurry and dry construction.
Neufeld said the 12-inch slurry cement base and 3-inch asphalt would cost $1.463 million per eight miles. The cost for 12-inch dry cement base and 5-inch asphalt would be $1,125 million per eight miles.
The total cost of using slurry would be $5.765 million and dry cement would be $6.267 million.
• heard County Attorney Courtney Boehm say her office was using a closet at the Main Street building with 50 boxes in storage.
“We are going to be making a bigger purchase,” she said. “Technology-wise it is FullCourt Enterprises, and it is $3,600 for two licenses and because courts moved to electronic filing, I can’t get to my files without it. It is expensive, but there aren’t other options.”
• Bud Druse, transfer station director, said he is either going to need a tire cutter costing $35,000 or a bin for tires costing $3,800.
The commission agreed to pay for one bin to hold tires so they are off the ground.