County drops merger idea

Commission Chairman Randy Dallke said there was no further need even to discuss a county-wide hospital Monday at the Marion County Commission meeting after commissioners read a letter from the board of the Hillsboro Community Medical Center.

Physician Randal Claassen of Hillsboro had suggested last month that county government as the over-all governing authority take the lead in building a new hospital that would join together existing ones in Marion and Hillsboro in a central location.

Claassen expected hospital taxes in the eastern part of the county to decline as a result, while the western half would pay taxes previously not collected in a move that would raise total health care quality.

In agreeing that further Commission discussion was unneeded, Commissioner Dan Holub said, ?Dr. Claassen?s proposal had merit, but it needs to start with these two communities (Marion and Hillsboro).

?I?m not willing to interfere when they have two functioning hospitals now. There are some concerns, but a new hospital would be a giant step.?

The Hillsboro letter was signed by Wendell Dirks, board chairman, and members Eileen Unruh, Kyle Cederberg, Jim Brennan, Jared Jost, Lawrence Ressler and Martin Rhodes.

The letter stated: ?We feel very strongly that to contemplate a scenario that includes a hospital not even located in Hillsboro would cause serious problems in meeting our mission of providing services that are responsive to the needs of our community.

?We believe we are currently meeting that mission (of providing quality health care) without a tax levy on the citizens in this area. We believe such a tax would have a harmful effect on business creation, promotion and community expansion….?

Commissioner Bob Hein suggested a letter be sent to Claassen along with a copy of the hospital letter.

Road and bridge department heads told commissioners of efforts to reduce road grader fuel consumption 25 percent, and of an erosion problem on the Cottonwood River South Branch that could close 190th??old Highway 56??between Marion and Hillsboro.

Road Superintendent John Summerville said the river has cut out the bank under a bridge by the Rex Siebert farm east of Old Mill Road on 190th. He said that a previous Commission only a few years ago could have fixed the problem when it wasn?t as bad with an 80 percent grant. He said they didn?t do so because of the cost, but now the problem is likely to cost perhaps multiples more.

Summerville explained that the bank back then was at a 45 degrees cut, but now has washed out to 75 to 80 degrees, endangering the bridge. Trying to work with state and federal agencies to tamper with the river basin or for funding bridge replacement will be very difficult for the county, he said.

Road and Bridge Director Martin Rhodes said he is hopeful after meeting with employees that the fuel reduction can be accomplished through a system of work orders and better scheduling. Rhodes said he also hopes to increase efficiency through better prioritizing of routine jobs, such as replacing culverts.

He said he is looking at situations like chip and seal work where the county has one tank truck, and as many as 10 employees are required to wait when the truck goes for refilling. Rhodes said he wants to look at paying for that downtime as opposed to paying for a private contractor.

Holub suggested that he also might check on equipment borrowing with neighboring counties such as Chase and Morris.

Dallke said holes on South Nighthawk need to be dug out and refilled with gravel.

Summerville said that prioritizing needs to be done there because 100 miles of county roads there need such hole filling before winter sets in, but he only has limited numbers of men and equipment.

After meeting in executive session with Teresa Huffman, economic development director, the commissioners announced that effective the first of the month, her annual salary will be increased from $29,500 to $40,000.

Dallke said originally $50,000 was budgeted for Huffman?s department with $40,000 intended for salary and $10,000 for getting the office started.

Holub said the $40,000 amount is based on the county standard pay formula of 88 percent of whatever comparably sized counties are paying. He said it was found that larger counties commonly paid economic directors $50,000 to $60,000 annually while counties about the size of Marion paid about $45,000.

The commissioners finished contracting with Dustin Hett for fire-marshall-required upgrading of the county jail, with Davey Hett of Hett Construction joining Dustin Hett to sign to help provide such needed certification as workman?s compensation insurance.

The commissioners approved a quit claim deed of a lot near Tampa to Leo and Margaret Jirak that had been contracted for in 1958 as a materials site for road work.

Gilbert Suderman of Elcon Services Inc., in Hillsboro, advised commissioners that it will be difficult to locate flood lighting on the west and north sides of the courthouse to duplicate in any way the lighting at the Chase County Courthouse.

He said distances, angles and light blocks, such as trees, differ between the two buildings. Suderman said care will need to be used to light both sidewalks and the building in such a way that pedestrians won?t be blinded by the glare.

Dallke reiterated that the commissioners want a quality job with lights that fit with the historic character of the courthouse.

Commissioner Bob Hein suggested twice-a-year reports for Appraiser Cindy Magill to show commissioners updates on property values added as a result of the tax abatement program.

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