Emergency responders thanked for ice-storm work

Commission Chairman Randy Dallke officially commended emergency personnel and volunteers at the Marion County Commission meeting Monday for their actions in last week?s ice storm that he said left 800 electric poles down, affecting the northern part of the county.

The commissioners also discussed the community building in Lincolnville still in use as a place for people to get warm, eat and use restrooms, with much of that area still without electricity.

Dallke had Sheriff Lee Becker and Communications and Emergency Management Director Michelle Abbott-Becker come in for the public commendation that he said often included going door-to-door to make sure people were OK.

Dallke said, ?I?d just like to thank these two for the kind of decisions they made in looking out for the welfare of people in the northern half of the county. They?ve done a good job I think. We need to say thank you to them, all the paid people and volunteers.

?Butler County also sent help, and we?d like to thank them.?

The commissioners discussed using senior centers and community buildings as shelters in future such events, and the steps in having such locations classified as Red Cross shelters.

Commissioner Bob Hein said he had received several inquiries about using the fair building in Hillsboro as a shelter. He said that since the building has a kitchen and bathrooms, it would make a good shelter. He added that although the building is county owned, it is overseen by the fair board.

Becker suggested a generator be kept at the building.

Abbott-Becker suggested that if she has any year-end funds left available that the county purchase two more generators for emergencies.

Dallke wondered if one might be enough.

Hein said, ?I think that two wouldn?t hurt, and two more might be needed in some circumstances. Why don?t you get us the information??

Commissioner Dan Holub said, ?Well, if we have the cash, let?s get them.?

Dallke suggested the county provide $1,500 worth of generator fuel for use in emergency shelters for the towns of the county.

Becker said the average generator uses 50 gallons of fuel in two days of constant use.

Abbott-Becker said such a county expenditure would be reimbursable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Peggy Blackman, administrator for the WRAPS program attempting to prevent excess sedimentation into Marion Reservoir to extend the lake?s life, said the program has been stalled.

She explained that policy changes and politics have put more control into the state?s hands, and with other reductions have resulted in fund cuts, down to about half of what they were at $110,000.

Blackman said this is happening at a bad time, just when practices were being implemented that would lower pollution into the reservoir.

The commissioners encumbering the $18,800 left from their contribution of $75,000 for reservoir studies into 2008. They also expressed various frustrations that the reservoir isn?t being better supported in the steps to revitalize it because they consider it to be the No. 1 income-generating tourist attraction in the county, and it also is the No. 1 city water source.

Dallke said the funding change would force the county and other community governmental units to step up in contributions.

?But,? he said, ?the county can?t do it all.?

Blackman said she needs the cities of the county to ?step up? with contributions if they want to insure a clean water supply from the reservoir. She noted that Marion had been ready to provide funding, but hesitated when Hillsboro ?was not up for it.?

Holub said, ?We need to be committed to saving the reservoir.?

Hein, whose commission district includes Hillsboro, said, ?I don?t know why Hillsboro doesn?t do it. The reservoir is one of the main revenue producers.?

Blackman said there are three best management practice implementations to be funded for 2007-2008 just on French Creek.

Scot Loyd of Galva, from the county?s budgeting firm of Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd LLC, met with the commissioners to discuss having the audit done with another company to give him more advice flexibility, and to discuss his company?s price increases to a current annual charge of $52,100.

Loyd?s average charges to Marion County over the past seven years have been $25,729 for annual audit including budget, $9,352 for single audit, $3,657.86 for consulting and $3,055.50 for extra budget meetings.

This year?s charges with the outside audit change for the first three items would be $29,100, $7,500, and$3,000. The budget preparation charge would be $11,500 with extra budget meetings included in that.

Dallke questioned whether county employees should be paid for hours missed when the courthouse was closed last week in the ice-storm outage.

?We wouldn?t run our personal business this way,? he said, and he suggested they should be required to take compensating time, leave time or vacation time if they didn?t want to come to work.

Holub said he thought it was in the county?s interest to insure personal safety for employees by not opening. He said they should be paid because it was not their fault that that they couldn?t be provided with the tools to work.

The commissioners discussed whether it was fair for emergency personnel and road and bridge workers to work when other county employees got paid time off.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said all county employees working extra hours during inclement weather are entitled to over-time pay and holiday pay.

Later in the meeting, acting Road and Bridge Director John Summerville commended his crew for working two 12-hour shifts over the weekend without complaint about losing weekend time.

Summerville said the contractor on resurfacing Sunflower Road has agreed to redo patching next spring with the county withholding one percent of the total payment until the patching is done.

After talking with County Appraiser Cindy Magill and Treasurer Jeannine Bateman, the commissioners said they realized their neighborhood revitalization program which provides tax abatement for new construction and remodeling jobs is more complex than they originally thought.

In looking at what could happen with the example of a $100,000 house, Bateman showed them how an owner of such a new construction could realize $9,440.66 rebate in taxes over a 10-year time.

Holub, in noting that the incentives for the new home owner to build are certainly there for that amount, said, ?That?s really quite a hunk of change.?

He said it shows how the program could stimulate purchases of things such as appliances and other economic benefits.

There are problems though, Bateman said, because the program can be complicated by the home owner wanting to do more tax abated construction during the same period by adding things such as more rooms or garages.

Then the county has more than 60 taxation unit areas, she said, where the benefits from the revitalization program can change depending on how many governmental units in each area consented to interlocal agreements to abate the tax. A school district or even a cemetery board, by agreeing or not agreeing to abatement, can make tax benefits different from area to area, she said.

Plus, changes in the mill levy can affect figuring the entire program, she said.

Dallke said the commissioners may have to put limits or define parameters on the program to simplify understanding.

The commissioners directed Becker to proceed with bids on new jail cameras.

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