County completes long process to construct a new jail


The year 2012 brought the completion of the new Marion County Jail after a long process of debate, planning and execution. Commissioners were pleased with the way the project turned out, but looked warily to the future in the light of potential reductions in tax revenue because of state policy initiatives.

Meanwhile, communities across the county experienced a variety of challenges and achievements over the past 12 months.


State Rep. Bob Brookens defended county treasurer Jeanine Bateman against accusations in Topeka that county treasurers receive compensations from the state in addition to their county salary. Brookens called the accusation a political ploy by a few legislators looking to cut another state expense.

The 5 percent increase in sewer and water rates approved by the Goessel City Council in Decem?ber went into effect for 2012.

A Marion resident discovered that the city did not process a conditional-use permit before the start of construction of the new county jail. The city is taking steps to correct the oversight.

After eight years in the department, Marion Chief of Police Josh Whitwell resigned Jan. 5 to accept a position as a special agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dan?ger?ous Drugs based in Ardmore.

Bond maturity on the new $3.5 million county jail was shortened from 20 years to 12 years with possibility of an even shorter payoff because of favorable interest rates and high designated sales-tax revenue.

The Marion City Council appointed Tyler Mermis as the city?s new police chief. Mermis currently is on an overseas assignment with the Marines, but will return to Marion in the near future.

Florence resident Roberta Ann Winter, 50, died in a three-vehicle crash at U.S. Highway 50 and East Lake Road east of Newton. The other drivers of other two vehicles were not injured.

A handful of volunteers led by Jackie Volbrecht of Marion are working to form a Circles of Hope chapter as a way to fight poverty in Marion County.

After more than 35 years as a part of the Goessel community, the AGAPE Senior Center will close its doors in 60 days as the result of a vote at the organization?s annual meeting. The board cited a lack of volunteer board members as a key reason.

An open-house celebration marked the opening of a new youth center in Marion. The idea to create the center began solidifying in 2008.

Road and Bridge director Randy Crawford told commissioners the routine theft and destruction of road signs is ?getting ridiculous.? Commissioners encouraged the public to report incidents when they see them.

Steve Hudson, superintendent of Marion County Park and Lake, reported at the Marion Chamber of Commerce meeting that he is organizing an effort to set a world record for most people roasting marshmallows simultaneously at a single venue. The target date is March 24. Hudson said he got the idea after a windstorm created a significant amount of downed tree branches and debris.


Five people filed for the two open seats on the Marion City Council. The only incumbent who filed was Steven L. Smith; Bill Holdeman did not refile. Others tossing their hat into the mix were Lee Vogel, Todd Heit?schmidt, Jerry A. Dieter and Richard W. Varenhorst.

After months of dry weather, recent 2- and 3-inch rains have turned some of the best gravel roads in Marion County into muddy quagmires. ?I feel for the people on some roads,? Road and Bridge Director Randy Crawford told county commissioners. ?Every?thing is going to pot in a hurry.?

Eight military service members were honored at a welcome-home reception in Marion with representatives from the Ameri?can Legion, American Legion Riders and VFW hosting the event. Those recognized were James Schle?huber, Tracy Winter, Chad Winter, Tyler Mermis and Josh Fruechting. Matt Williams, Gerred Helm and Bronson Shipman were unable to attend the event.

Peabody was one of 24 communities in the state to be recommended last week for a 2012 Heritage Trust Fund grant through the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review. The grant for $75,910, designated for the Peabody Downtown Historic District, will be used to rehabilitate the fronts of the buildings to their original facade.


The Marion Police Depart?ment renovated its office at 112 N. Fifth. Along with adding a fresh coat of paint on the walls, Police Chief Tyler Mermis hoped to lay new carpet, put laminate down on the countertops and add some new blinds.

Increasing demand for oil-lease information from multiple companies led to requests to the county commission for additional equipment funding for both the county?s Register of Deeds Office and Appraiser?s Office. Register of Deeds Jo Ottensmeier said many oil company representatives are coming without revealing which companies they represent to ask for leasing information on deeds going all the way back to the county?s founding in the 1800s.

Jim Philpott will be moving from being a deputy sheriff to an appointment as the county jailer, effective the end of March. Although prisoners aren?t expected in the new county Jail until late summer, Sheriff Robert Craft said Philpott?s early appointment will give him time to be in on the physical finishing of the facility.

Marion County successfully took the first step toward setting a world record for roasting the most marshmallows simultaneously in a single venue with almost 1,300 people participating March 24. Steve Hudson, lake superintendent, said the next step is getting the documentation together to send to officials with the Guinness Book of World Records.

Marion County road graders will be limited to a two-day work week this summer to conserve fuel, which continually grows more expensive.


The April 3 local election in Marion County had only one contested race with five candidates vying for two city council seats in Marion. The top two council spots went to Todd Heitschmidt with 177 votes and Jerry Dieter with 143 votes, edging incumbent Steven Smith, who received 119 votes. Richard Varenhorst and Lee Vogel received 106 and 44 votes, respectively.

County commissioners approved the final $2,581 installment payment for the decade-old bond issue for purchase of the county?s waste transfer station.

Most Marion County residents breathed a sigh of relief after a tornado scare April 14. But Merle Ecklund, 70, and wife Deborah, 65, of Lost Springs, were glad to walk away with their lives after their home was destroyed.

Road and bridge department managers were told county commissioners to push ahead with plans to have crews work four 10-hour days this summer instead of five eight-hour days. Commis?sioners said the plan is necessary for better fuel and time efficiency.

The Goessel City Council spent considerable time discussing storms and storm sirens during its April 16 meeting. Karen Dalke, public works director, reported that 42 people had attended Councilor Jim Wiens?s recent storm information meeting.

Tabor College officials asked the county commissioners by letter to consider how the county might assist the college in 911 storm warning situations for students in light of the tornado warnings Hillsboro experienced April 14.

The Marion City Planning Commission voted to recommend to city council approval of a $5.4 million final plat for the construction of 14 senior housing units and the renovation of September II Apart?ments.

Attendance was down at the annual Spring Fling in Florence, but organizers said they were happy with the generosity of those who came. The Spring Fling is the first major fund?raiser of the year, with all proceeds going toward the town?s Labor Day Celebra?tion expenses in September.



Marion County?s 2012 resurfacing of 30 miles of road is scheduled to begin this month. The projects include eight miles on 330th at Tampa, five miles east of Peabody on 60th Road, 5.3 miles on 40th at U.S. Highway 77, seven miles on 120th, and shorter stretches.

County commis?sioners decided to seek suggestions from County Attorney Susan Robson in regard to Marion County Lake homeowners? building improvements that are interfering with public road right-of-way around the lake.

The Marion City Council approved the recommendation made by its planning commission to allow $5.4 million in improvements and new construction for elderly housing.

The self-imposed moratorium to end what could have been the closure or consolidation of 134 U.S. Postal Service offices in Kansas ended when a plan to keep them open was put into motion. Post offices being studied for closure included Peabody, Burns, Florence, Lost Springs, Lehigh, Ramona and Cedar Point.

After watching news of pipeline leaks elsewhere in the country, county commission chair Dan Holub asked county personnel to look into safety precautions in case of leaks in the TransCanada Keystone oil pipeline crossing the county.


The Marion community will celebrate the 100th year of the Santa Fe Depot and the 10th year of that building serving as the home for the Marion City Library. The depot?s anniversary date is June 12, 1912, and the library officially opened in the renovated building July 14, 2002. A celebration reception for the public was planned for Aug?ust.

More than 1,800 people attended the Saturday night Chingawassa Days concert by the headliner group Starship. Mike Powers, one of the original committee members, said the concert attendance was one of the largest in its history.

Marion attorney Bob Brookens announced he would not seek a third term as representative for the 70th District in the Kansas House of Represent?atives. Brookens said he need to focus his time and energy on his law firm after Keith Collett, longtime partner in the Brookens & Collett law office, was appointed as magistrate district judge for Dickinson County.

The court-drawn legislative maps that threw Kansas Repub?li??cans and Democrats into a tizzy when they were released will mean a complete makeover for the political identity of Marion County. The map drawn for the House of Representatives will now divide the formerly unified county between two districts, while the map drawn for the Senate will unify the county that was previously divided.

Road maintenance may have moved further into a new era of improvement with Road and Bridge Director Randy Craw?ford?s introduction of proposed road improvements through 2015.

As part of the annual Father Kapaun Day Celebration in Pilsen, a surprise gift was presented at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church during Mass. Mark Chavez, a retired Albu?querque firefighter, used a chainsaw to carve a full-length figure of Father Kapaun smoking a pipe in his military uniform. John Moore of Gallup, N.M., delivered the gift.

Justin Barr of Marion overcame a former of cancer called neuroblastoma to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

County commissioners were told that some of the neighbors don?t want a nearly 100-foot emergency transmission tower at the site of the new Marion County Jail. Emergency Manage?ment Director Dan D?Albini said he still thinks the tower, with a wind resistance rating to withstand 200 mph winds, is the best way to go.

Archery, finger knitting and making stepping stones were only a few of the projects Girl Scouts participated in during a three-day camp at Marion County Lake. Camp leader Lena Hall said the group went with the theme of ?The Year of the Girl? to celebrate the organization?s 100th birthday.

County commis?sioners voted to ask the city of Marion for a variance on tower height regulations to allow construction of a 92-foot communications tower at the new jail.


Rather than impose a ban on Fourth of July fireworks during the current hot and dry weather, county commissioners asked that local fire departments and the public use ?common sense? in considering the moisture levels for fire safety.

Marion City Council members were split on the best way to use taxpayer money to fix streets and alleys. The council directed City Administrator Doug Kjellin to get bids for two options on the alley project behind Central National Bank.

Marion City Library?s Flower in the Flint Hills Garden Tour July 7 expanded this year to include five locations in Marion, Marion County Park and Lake and the countryside of Florence.

One of Marion County Lake?s oldest guests generated a new wave of public attention. Several bryozoa, which are floating, blob-like animals, were observed near the swimming area of the lake. By the end of the week a crew from KWCH-TV in Wichita had broadcast a brief story about them.

Marion City Council members suggested a 60 percent county, 40 percent city split for rebuilding streets by the new county jail and courthouse. But County Commissioner Randy Dallke, supported by commis?sioners Roger Fleming and Dan Holub, said he wanted to see actual divisions and splits rather than a percentage spit.

Teresa Huffman, county economic development director, said the Lost Springs city council has approved plans to use the now-closed Centre elementary school building there as a small-business incubator and for healthy cooking classes.

County commissioners pushed ahead with plans to locate 90-foot emergency dispatch tower at the new county jail. The commissioners told Emergency Management Director Dan D?Albini to order the $41,000 tower after Marion City Administrator Doug Kjellin, by letter, informed the commissioners that by administrative powers he was approving its exemption from zoning requirements.

The Cottonwood Crossing Chapter achieved a milestone when the last of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail family of signs was installed in Marion County. The final three signs were the Historic Trail Infor?mation sign on U.S. Highway 56 at the Marion/McPherson county line, the Cottonwood Crossing site entrance sign, and the Lost Spring site entrance sign.

With the theme ?At the Hop,? the 82nd annual Marion County Fair officially began with the downtown parade followed by a pedal-tractor pull for kids, watermelon feed, rodeo and a free 1950s ?sock hop? dance at the fairgrounds pavilion.

Emergency Management Director Dan D?Albini told the county commissioners it would cost about one-tenth as much to locate the emergency transmission tower at the new jail than at the road and bridge facility south of Marion. The latter location would require a 400-foot tower at the cost of about $400,000. Because if the higher elevation by the jail, only a 92-foot tower is required and the cost would be $41,000.

Prompted by extreme drought conditions statewide, Marion Reservoir became one of 44 federal or state water areas available July 25 as an emergency water source for domestic, municipal and livestock uses. The order was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback.



Brian Stucky, Goessel High School art and photography teacher, spoke at the national convention for the Oregon-California Trails Associ?ation in Lawrence Aug. 10. His topic was, ?The Cherokee Trail in South-Central Kansas.?

Despite losing to Doug Lin?dahl in Marion County, John Barker pulled enough votes elsewhere in the 70th District to win the Republican nomination for the open seat in the Kansas House in the Aug. 7 primary election. Incumbent Jay Emler of Lindsborg handily defeated challenger Jesse Bryant of Galva for the 35th District Senate nomination.

Marion County Park and Lake was the scene of paddle boat racing with organizers considering the debut event an overwhelming success.

Steve Hudson, superintendent of Marion County Park and Lake, said his office received confirmation from Guinness World Records that the attempt in March to set a world record for people simultaneous roasting marshmallows at the same location was successful. The official number was 1,282 people.

Almost $30,000 was raised at the 18th annual Marion County Relay for Life with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. The event was inside the Marion Sports Aquatic Center with walkers circling the foyer area.

Tampa residents celebrated the town?s 125th birthday Aug. 25. The theme, ?125 Years on the Trail,? drew hundreds of people to take part in the festivities.

Two students from Goessel Elementary School were ranked among the top 20 participants in the statewide Read Kansas Read summer reading program. Emily Flaming, a third-grader, and Brooke Nafziger, a fifth-grader, were among the 20 readers and their families invited to join Gov. Sam Brownback and First Lady Mary Brownback for a picnic and celebration at Cedar Crest mansion.

A 17-year-old Florence youth was one of 600 people attending an ?American Idol? audition Aug. 25 at Wright Park in Dodge City. Angel Funk, a senior at Marion High School, performed ?Jesus Take the Wheel? in front of two of the show?s senior producers, Katie Fennelly and Norm Betts.


The 75th annual Labor Day Celebration in Florence featured an 1860s vintage baseball game pitting the local talent of the Harvey Boys against the Chase County Preservationists.

More than 40 people listened as Max Ewert, a published cowboy poet and a 1960 Marion Hugh alum, read some of his favorite selections at the Marion Historical Society.

More than 500 Marion County residents toured the new Marion County Jail. Sheriff Robert Craft said participation was higher than he had anticipated.

The Marion City Board of Zoning Appeals met Sept. 6 to decide whether the proper procedure was followed regarding the conditional-use permit to build a communications tower at the new county jail. The hearing was prompted by a notice of from Darvin Markley, who signed the appeal as a resident, but is chairman of the city?s zoning appeal board.

A memorial stone was dedicated Sept. 23 at Caitlin Ceme?tery to remember up to 17 Swiss Volhynian Mennonite children who died of illness in 1874.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 people attended the 34rd annual Art in the Park craft show Saturday in downtown Marion. About 120 vendors from six states came to sell their wares.

Some 40 people gathered about a mile west of Durham for the dedication of what is believed to be the nation?s first ?family of signs? project marking the Santa Fe National Historical Trail across an entire county.

Residents celebrated acceptance of the Peabody City Park on the National Register of Historic Places with a ?Day in the Park? afternoon and evening Sept. 30.

Organizers called Marion?s 101st Old Setters Day ?one of the best ever? with 65 parade entries and many high school classes represented.


County commissioners finally approved an emergency communications tower for the new jail. The tower will be 40 feet tall with an antenna extending 5 additional feet.

Despite cold and rainy weather, the sixth annual Chili Cookoff at Marion County Lake Saturday was the most successful one yet with 18 cooks vying for the three top spots and 220 tasters voting for their favorite. Steve Hudson, lake superintendent, said, ?We raised $1,498 (fixing or buying items) for the lake.?

Rendezvous 2012 at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, north of Canton, had a favorable outcome with more than 30 exhibitors attending the three-day event. Owen and Della Meier, tour directors, said this year?s event attracted probably the most traders or demonstrations since its inception 19 years ago.

Sheriff Robert Craft informed the county commission that his staff moved their offices and all prisoners into the new Marion County Jail the second week of October.


The percentage of Marion County voters casting ballots in this year?s presidential election didn?t quite beat the percentage four years ago, but officials said the turnout was good. Carol Maggard, county clerk and election officer, said of the 7,713 registered voters, 5,458 ballots were counted for a 73 percent turnout.

In the race for Commission District 2, incumbent Dan Holub retained his seat for a third four-year term with 1,048 votes against independent candidate Gary Lewis with 781.

For almost a year, a group of women at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Marion have been making unique sleeping mats for people in Haiti. Irma Meisinger said they reuse between 500 and 700 plastic grocery bags to make one sleeping mat.

Oil drillers beginning new wells in Marion County are tearing up county roads with heavy truck traffic?just as the county has successfully reduced fuel expenses by limiting the use of road graders that would be needed to repair such roads, according to Randy Crawford, road and bridge director.

County commissioners accepted a bid of $54,430 from Arrow Roofing of Canton to roof and repair the courthouse tower.

Marion County property taxes may have to be increased by 5.42 percent, according to the Kansas Association of Counties, if Kansas Senate Bill 317 exempting industrial properties such as grain elevators and oil equipment becomes law.

The Marion City Council approved having the local PRIDE committee move ahead with its enhancement grant application for the downtown area with the city agreeing to commit an estimated $239,000.


Citing a reduction in workload and continued loss of revenue, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it plans to meet in January with residents of Lehigh to consider four options regarding the future of its post office.

The communication tower at the Marion County Jail is up and functional after getting final approval in mid-November from the city?s planning commission. Sheriff Robert Craft said the 43-foot tower was installed Nov. 26 and 27.

County commissioners indicated they may rework zoning rules set in the 1970s to reflect the county?s need to get more young people living here now.

The Marion City Council agreed not to accept bids for the city-owned Arlie?s Paint Body &?Glass building and land for under $200,000. The original asking price was $237,000.

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