County plans road discussions in Tampa, Marion

The difficulties of maintaining roads on a limited budget again received emphasis at the Marion County Commission meeting Monday with citizen groups from both Marion County Lake and Tampa requesting meetings with commissioners to discuss roads.

The Tampa meeting was scheduled at 7 p.m. Monday, July 20, at the Senior Center.

The lake meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, July 27, at the Lake Hall.

Tom Brown with Savant Services, McPherson, was there to discuss the county?s strategic plan. Brown said Marion County?s road and bridge department has already been showing one of the higher rates of indebtedness for such departments in the region.

Road and Bridge Director John Summerville said the county has approximately 1,600 miles of roads to maintain with 150 miles hard surface as one of larger counties in the state.

Brown said given the county?s small population and resulting small tax base, it can?t pave roads to satisfy everybody without a higher mill levy. To have a lower mill levy, the county may need to turn hard-surface roads back to gravel, he said.

?It?s a reason to have a plan to give a blueprint to run on,? he said.

Brown said the average age of the county?s population is expected to continue to be older through 2010, but, with more younger people choosing to stay here, ?could be hitting bottom to reverse the trend.?

A younger population usually means a bigger tax base, he said. A really encouraging trend, he noted, is the growth in number of children under 5 years old.

?That?s the age you build on,? he said.

Summerville said that under current conditions, he believes the four miles of county road coming out of Tampa should stay in gravel. It will enable workers to continue to build the road?s base and make it better to maintain than it would be with oil, he said.

The commissioners directed Summerville to do an approximately $8,000 project to add rock and dig out ditches on the south route into Marion County Lake, even though a convergence of streams there is eventually ex?pected to wash out the improvement.

Brown advised commissioners to continue to ?chip away??one step at a time?for better roads and economic gains.

He said rural counties just don?t get big companies coming in from the outside to solve problems, but instead need to ?garden? natural, unique resources to encourage entrepreneurship from within.

Marion County?s biggest problem today, Brown said, is a failure of its communities to realize that when something good happens to one of them, it?s good for everybody in the county.

He said, ?We?re still not all for one and one for all. Instead we?re all for me and nothing for you. A win for one community really is a win-win for everybody.?

Sheriff Rob Craft said the heat misery index went up for prisoners in the county jail over the weekend when the compressor on a third floor air conditioner went out.

The commissioners said they would at least have to do the maintenance to replace the air conditioner, but wondered if in the long run it might be better to buy a package of all five air conditioning units necessary to cool the building.

Commissioner Randy Dallke also noted the aging heat boiler at the jail burns gas inefficiently, raising the question of whether it would be better to install central heat and air conditioning.

Meanwhile, the county-wide jail committee still studies the question of whether a new communications and jail facility is needed.

Emergency Medical Services Director Steve Smith said payment collections for ambulance runs are down 5 percent, even though people still try to maintain paying at the same frequencies. He said he believes the reason is the economic recession with people struggling on less money available.

Smith expects the number of ambulance runs related to heat exhaustion to continue to go up as the summer progresses.

He said that for June there were 97 ambulance runs, nine from Peabody, five from Florence, 36 from Marion, 35 from Hillsboro, and 12 from Tampa.

They included 13 transfer, three cardiac, 26 medical emergencies, six standbys, four motor vehicle accidents, 16 falls, 21 no transports, seven 10-22s and one other.

There were 10 first-response runs, one from Burns, six from Goessel and three from Lincolnville.

All eight EMT students passed practical tests at St. Fran?cis in Wichita in May, Smith said. Two from Hillsboro and one from Lincolnville passed the written exam, two will have to re-test, and the rest are expected to take exams in August, Smith said.

He continues to ask for more volunteers to become EMTs.

Jack Chappelle, consultant with Engineering Solutions & Design in Overland Park, told the commissioners that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has decided that well monitoring tests at the closed Marion County Landfill southwest of Marion may be halted for natural geochemical levels, but must be continued for man-made chemicals, particularly petroleum based toxins.

Chappelle said that small levels of chloryl benzene, probably used as an engine cleaner during operation of the dump, continue to turn up in Well No. 2.

In response to a question from Commission Chairman Dan Holub, he said it would work well to add a ?mono-fill? for used rubber tires at the site to offset costs because there is wide-spread demand for such a facility.

The commissioners voted 2 to 0, with Commissioner Bob Hein abstaining because he works for Midway, to have Midway Motors of Hillsboro repair the health department?s 2000 Blazer?s air conditioning for $554.02, plus any other eventualities.

Becky Crowder of the Austin Peters Group Inc. of Overland Park reviewed developing a pay structure for county employees without always having to investigate what outside entities do.

She said such a program should be based on years of service plus performance and not just an entitlement for longevity.

Crowder said Marion County?s pay scales are a little behind the average, ?but not bad if you catch up a little every year.?

She said the pay for county dispatchers actually is higher than average, but won?t necessarily remain so because pay scales in that area are rising rapidly.

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