County to support Dickinson?s battle against pipeline giant

The Marion County Commission confirmed Monday that it will stand solidly with other counties in supporting Dickinson County?s efforts to collect fees or taxes from the Transcanada Keystone Pipeline before it is allowed to lay its giant oil-sand slurry pipeline across Kansas counties enroute to a refinery in Oklahoma.

Butler and Cowley counties also support Dickinson in the effort, Commission Chairman Dan Holub said. The line also crosses Butler and Clay counties, which should bring them in, too, he said.

John Summerville, acting road and bridge director, noted that companies normally get government permits squared away before buying leases to cross land from its owners. But in this case, Keystone already has been paying land owners for right-of-way.

At issue is a State of Kansas decision to exempt Keystone from local property taxes, costing counties hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus exposing county roads and bridges to high damage costs without paying for it.

The counties say that Keystone?s large trucks hauling 90-foot lengths of pipe along with heavy equipment such as bulldozers to be used could nearly destroy some roadbeds.

Holub likened the counties against Keystone to a David and Goliath situation, where the Keystone giant with a $7 billion project is hiring the best attorneys out of St. Louis to represent them, and the counties must rely on local attorneys inexperienced in such cases to represent them.

?It?s like Peabody High School being forced to go play in the Super Bowl,? Holub said.

Holub charged that the State of Kansas, which should be helping the counties, instead has deserted them.

The commissioners said they would ask Kansas Rep. Bob Brookens to attend their sessions soon to discuss if something can be done.

Commissioner Bob Hein said it is essential that the counties stick together to face Keystone as a block.

?As long as we do, we have a chance,? he said.

Other business

Tom Harmon, Durham city council member, asked commissioners to allow road and bridge to fill chuck holes in what has been traditionally a county road around the cooperative in town.

He also noted that three county road graders operate out of Durham, and asked that the operators at least drop their blades headed out of town during snowstorms to help the city clear streets.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said the county should have some sort of policy regarding help to cities before it finds itself being ?snowballed? with demands from cities to be treated alike.

The commissioners directed Summerville to fill in Durham?s chuck holes, and asked him to work with cities individually in case graders leaving towns during snow events could help simply by dropping blades on the way out.

The commissioners voted to save $11,100 over the next 10 years by contracting with Continental Analytical Services Inc. for groundwater monitoring at the old Marion County Land?fill using a hydrasleeve method instead of current methods.

A random state safety audit turned out issues relating to use of a stairway from the health department to storage used by Hannaford Abstract Co., Maggard said. Holub said he will check with Hannaford to remedy the situation.

Holub said it may be determined by a meeting of the county?s mayors in the commission room Tuesday, Oct. 20, whether bylaws for the Marion County Economic Development Council need to be changed.

Emergency Medical Services Director Steve Smith said that successful collections for ambulance calls are up, but income for the year is still down to $288,000 compared to $308,000 at this time last year.

Total runs, at 869 the end of September, seem poised through the last three months of the year to equal or surpass last year?s 1,151 runs, but, as noted earlier, these runs include a larger number of no transports.

Park and Lake Superinten?dent Steve Smith said the chili cookoff at the lake last week raised $1,163 with $880 profit for the park.

He is working with Kansas Wildlife and Parks for a 50 percent sharing grant, with the total depending on bids, to build a wheelchair accessible concrete fishing pier with metal railing.

Boat check and cleaning requirements at the lake apparently prevented any infestation by zebra mussels, Smith said.

Smith said there is a growing problem in the lake park with people allowing dogs to toilet there. The commissioners liked his suggestion of handing out doggie bags with camping permits to encourage people to pick up the mess.

The commissioners met for 40 minutes in executive session for personnel with Appraiser Cindy Magill.

Holub brought up the idea of encouraging more valuation by giving free commercial and demolition waste disposal by permit for persons who agree to tear down an old, valueless house, and replace it with a new house within a certain time period.

He said that people often express a desire to replace a house, but the cost of waste disposal holds them up.

Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman said she learned at a meeting in Topeka that there is desperate need for retooling for small industrial fabricators to compete in international markets.

Many of these fabricators have laid off a majority of their workforce because of the situation, including one who was down to four employees from a high of 41, she said.

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