County extends burn ban, hopes to curtail ?mudders? on roads

The Marion County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to extend the county fire burn ban for another week.

County Commissioner Randy Dallke said Emergency Management Director Michelle Abbott-Becker is continuing to develop language for a regulation that would require those who want to burn to call in on the day of burning to see if weather conditions are permissible.

The toll-free number in Marion County is 1-866-786-7625, she said at an earlier meeting. Abbott-Becker has indicated that Hutchinson/Reno County also is developing a similar regulation.

Commissioner Bob Hein said language in the regulation would make violators pay for any emergency vehicles brought out to a fire at rates established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ?because we?re getting too much of this? (violations resulting in additional fire-truck runs).

Mudder trouble

Meanwhile, Road and Bridge Director John Summerville said illegal ?mudders??persons who drive four-wheel-drive vehicles in wet conditions on minimum maintenance roads, therefore tearing up the road surface?have been smashing through county-owned gates put up to keep them off a declared minimum access road on 180th between Limestone and Kanza.

The same vandals also have been running over minimum-maintenance road signs, snapping them off at the ground, he said.

Summerville said one of the mudders was apprehended by the sheriff?s office, and confessed to the act, but there more out there.

He estimated latest damage costs to gates and signs at $2,000.

Commissioner Dan Holub said mudders who are caught should be made to reimburse the county in addition to charges being brought against them.

?I say we get everything we can,? he said.

Hein added, ?We have to make them pay. We can?t let this keep going on. It?s costing the taxpayers.?

Shared bridge

The commissioners decided that a bridge north of Ramona, maintained in cooperation with Dickinson County, should not be rebuilt to original weight limits it was built for at an engineer?s estimate of $258,140. Instead, it should be posted for a three-ton weight limit, as inspection has proven it safe for.

Along with this, they directed that a letter be sent to USD 397?Centre?advising the weight limit is too low to be safe for school buses.

The commissioners said how to figure the cost of maintenance and inspections will have to be determined in discussion with Dickinson County.

Funding for seniors

Gayla Ratzlaff, coordinator for the Department for Elderly, said state funding of the Senior Care Act operated through the North-Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging is likely to be cut this year for programs such as Meals on Wheels.

She said the agency is hoping to replace this fund with the newly approved federal economic stimulus bill.

The commissioners told Ratzlaff it is OK for senior centers to keep funds from sales of such things as appliances that were originally purchased by mill levy as long as the money is used for improvements at the centers. They said exceptions would be the sale of buildings or real estate.

The commissioners expressed concerns for potential cuts in programs for senior citizens, and for the increasing depletion of county food banks as more people experience unemployment or hardships.

Hein said more younger people are using the food banks, too.

Vehicle evaluation

Rollin Schmidt, department director for noxious weed, household hazardous waste and the transfer station, will look into whether a noxious weed four-wheel-drive, 10-year-old one-ton truck with 110,000 miles on it should be repaired or replaced.

Schmidt said frequent hard use in pastures has hastened the need for such things as a tune-up, tie-rod replacement and other problems?probably $1,000 plus.

Other business

In other county business at the Feb. 17 meeting that wasn?t updated at the Feb. 23 meeting, the commissioners approved a fee up to $8,000 to be paid to BG Consultants of Manhattan for planning on the courthouse generator system.

They also approved entering into contract with Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd for a single audit for 2008 at $7,500.

The commissioners approved a road and bridge transfer of $135,000 from the road and bridge fund to the special machinery and equipment fund for lease payments.

Cardie Oil of Tampa was awarded a competitive transport fuel bid of $12,115 for 5,000 gallons of diesel and 3,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline over the $12,164 bid by Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro.

Summerville reported that construction on the county bridge at 140th and U.S. Highway 77 was suspended temporarily to check for an archeological site, but none was found.

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