County lake found to be clear of zebra mussels so far

Marion County Lake tested clean with no zebra mussels detected last week. But if you?re not careful to get a permit certifying your boating and fishing equipment is inspected zebra-mussel-free by lake personnel, you could pay a $150 fine in the future.

Park and Lake Superinten?dent Steve Hudson and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Officer Marvin Peterson told the Marion County Commission Monday that such a system may be the only way to ensure the lake stays without mussels.

Peterson said Kansas has a law against introducing exotic wildlife to its waters, which could be used for enforcement against introduction of the mussels.

Commissioner Dan Holub said he thought the commissioners should investigate, and probably install as quickly as possible, a boat wash with water heated to 140 degrees and chemical treatment at the lake that would kill mussels on boats and equipment before infestation can occur.

The commissioners discussed passing the cost of such a wash on to the public at possible charges of $10 to $15 per craft.

Hudson would have the power to check boats on the lake to see if they carry required daily inspection certification. He said boaters would be warned not to leave the lake for another water body such as Marion Reservoir, and then return without undergoing inspection.

?We need to do what we can,? Holub said. ?We don?t even want to take a chance of mussels coming to the lake. We don?t want an infestation because we didn?t try.?

The participants all warned that mussels would detract from all activities at the lake, greatly reduce fishing, and hurt swimming because their shells are ?sharp as glass, worse than coral.?

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he was concerned about the possible costs of a wash, and the ability to keep passing costs on to boaters and fishermen at the lake without reducing usage.

The commissioners indefinitely postponed granting permission for Landon Leiker to pursue a heritage grant until they have considered all costs associated with the zebra mussels. They said a heritage grant would require a contributing share from the county.

Recycling option

Steve Myer of South Central Recycling, who does much of his business in North Newton but lives in Goessel, discussed developing his business location in Marion County, and serving recycling needs in the county.

Myer also sees a potential winning situation financially for the county with trash from the transfer station trucked to the Salina landfill, and Salina recyclables returned on a back-haul to his station for processing.

Myer said he prefers a Goessel location for his recycling center, but he would be open to cooperating with the county on another location.

He would stockpile recyclables at his center with his profits depending on quantities, prices and transport costs. Myer said he sells to mills and brokers.

He said his motives aren?t just profit to himself, but that he would like to see part of the money go to such things as developing wind energy, hopefully in Marion County.

Eileen Sieger and Margaret Wilson, who run a volunteer based recycling operation in Marion, were at the meeting.

Sieger asked Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt if room couldn?t be made for Myer?s operation at the transfer station. Schmidt said there is room for cardboard baling inside the station, but most of the rest would have to be located outside in the fenced-in area of the station.

Myer said that from reading Free Press articles over the past year, he assumed that most of the county?s interest in recycling is financial, seeking to reduce the cost of the solid-waste stream being trucked to the Hamm Landfill at Perry.

But he is also pleased to find that it?s at least in part ethical, that the citizens of Marion County show at places like Peabody, Hillsboro and Marion that they want to do it ?because it?s the right thing to do.?

He said Marion County?s potential recyclables contribution is small because of lower population. To make up costs, a recycler might have to charge residents $2.50 a month in cities, and $4 to $5 in the country with pick-up once a month, he said.

Where the population is larger, with residents close together as in North Newton, he said at times he has been able to run service free, especially when combined with garbage pickup.

Using the transfer station or some other point for delivery by citizens was discussed, but Commission Chairman Bob Hein said he thought curbside service might have to be offered to make a program work.

Road funding

Acting Road and Bridge Director John Summerville said recent actions in other counties can be used to show Marion County citizens the financial quagmire the county is facing as it tries to maintain roads with skyrocketing oil prices.

He said Butler County recently has decided to return half of its asphalt roads to gravel.

Saline County, he said, has decided to discontinue regular maintenance on half of its gravel roads with roughly about the same number of miles of roads that Marion County has.

Holub said it could be added that Chase County has decided to discontinue regular road grader maintenance entirely. Chase County residents will only receive grader service when a road begins to ?pit out? or be lost entirely.

Summerville said the financial contrasts on Butler and Saline compared to Marion trying to maintain roads are extreme. He said Butler County?s valuation is $3.3 billion, Saline County?s is $2.9 billion, and Marion County?s is $.4 billion.

?Our problem isn?t our leadership, it?s our finances,? he said. ?Is it any wonder we have problems??

Other business

The commissioners decided to award the 2009 bridge inspection bid to the engineering company of Cooke, Flatt & Strobel at a fee of $41 a bridge on the county?s 301 bridges, a cost of $12,431, because of the company?s long reliable service.

The firm of Kirkham Michael was slightly higher at $43 but the company of Schwab Eaton came in lower at $38.75 plus extra charges on bridges requiring more.

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