Friction between staff leads commissioners into executive session

The Marion County Commission met Monday with extensive executive sessions for personnel between other topics that took them into a lengthy 6.5-hour meeting compared to its average 3-hour meeting.

The commissioners also took the added unusual step of calling for an additional meeting in executive session at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Apparently at issue was a conflict between Jayne Gottschalk, director of the elderly department, and Lanelle Hett, the department?s transportation director.

Several of Gottschalk?s supporters were in the meeting and in the courthouse hallway during executive sessions telling how Gottschalk had been doing a good job.

Gottschalk said the commissioners seemed to be settling on requiring her to work together with Hett, or for both of them to leave their jobs. She said she preferred trying to work together.

Hett was called, but was not present for any of the sessions.

The series of executive sessions began early with Gottshalk and the senior citizen executive board?Robert Sellers, Betty Ireland, Marlene Anduss, Reign Andus, Wanda West, Irvin Goertzen, Esbell McCoy and Kathryn Heinrichs?meeting with commissioners and Gottschalk.

There were no announced decisions, and commissioners were not talking about the situation.

Sellers participated again in the Commission meeting as the sole protester in granting a conditional use permit to Harshman Construction of Cedar Point in beginning rock quarrying on new ground adjacent to the old quarry on land owned by Hayes Auto Salvage at Florence.

Sellers said he really wasn?t there to stop the quarry, but to make sure it was done according to environmental regulations with proper land cover instead of leaving an ?eyesore.?

Commissioner Randy Dallke thanked Sellers for bringing his concerns, because Dallke said he also is concerned with the number of uncovered quarries in the county that predate environmental rules.

Ed and Neva Robinson, owners of the next land to be quarried east of Hayes, said they wished the quarrying would be carried out, and said Florence rock has been used throughout the area with no environmental harm.

Warren and Sam Harshman of Harshman Construction said they wished to secure the future of both their company and Marion County with a supply of road rock.

Commissioner Dan Holub said he agreed that Marion County needs to insure a supply of gravel far into the future to avoid hauling it from elsewhere.

The Harshmans also asked for another permit on land owned by them adjacent to the Robinsons.

Planning and Zoning Director Bobbi Strait said the conditional use permits were already approved by the Marion County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Warren Harshman said quarrying is already highly regulated by the Kansas State Conservation Commissioner?s Office. He said he will be required by the state to cover quarried land with earth materials at a 3-to-1 slope rate for restoration.

He promised the commissioners that his company will begin covering land according to state regulations on the west side of the Hayes property within the next two years. Harshman said the company will continue to cover from west to east, moving into each property as it is quarried.

Sellers said he is uncomfortable with the company?s ability to adequately fulfill the commitment because he doesn?t think fill material will be adequate to grade over as much as 40-foot drop-offs on the Hayes property.

Harshman assured Sellers and the commissioners that the materials are adequate.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to provide the conditional use permits if the Harshmans carry through with the cover as promised. The Harshmans must also maintain an approximate half-mile of county road to their property for quarrying.

Harshman said all requirements were acceptable to his company. He said the rate of quarrying will depend in part on projects like when Highway 50 will be rebuilt.

After meeting with Jack Chapelle of Engineering Solutions & Design of Overland Park, consultants on closing the old Marion County Landfill southwest of Marion, the commissioners approved a $5,200 contract plus $1,300 for sampling analysis for semi-annual testing of groundwater at the landfill for Kansas Department of Health and Environment approval.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said officials of the city of Marion will meet with commissioners at the regular Commission meeting Feb. 25 to discuss terms for a location in the Batt Industrial Park for a Community Corrections Center.

Holub noted a letter from the city outlined charges as high as $80,000 for city water and sewage lines installed to the proposed facility according to city standards.

Maggard said the county has received $432,122.99 from the Kansas Department of Transportation as compensation for resurfacing Sunflower Road. She said there will be a further $500 paid that was withheld until state audit of the project.

The commissioners discussed what to do about people who build homes and remodel to receive tax rebates under the county?s revitalization plan, but who don?t respond to report deadlines to stay in the program. County Appraiser Cindy Magill said only 28 persons responded by a Jan. 17 deadline out of 42 persons notified at the end of December.

Under terms of the notification, she said, failure to respond results in termination from the revitalization program. The purpose of the program is to expand new building by giving temporary tax reduction.

Holub said, ?You?re talking a hunk of change here on a new house when all you have to do for it is fill out a piece of paper.?

Commission Chairman Bob Hein said the lack of response may be due to the citizens not being familiar with the requirements of the new program. He said that when these taxpayers receive tax notices and they are back to full taxation, ?the light will come on in their heads.?

The commissioners and Magill said they all wanted to be as fair as possible with participants, and they decided to delay a decision until next meeting.

Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt said the county is receiving $40 a ton to get rid of commercial and demolition waste from contractors tearing down or building new homes.

Holub said he would like to study using the income as a free incentive for contractors to remove old buildings in cities and put up new construction, especially spec homes.

John Summerville, acting road and bridge director, said the county has received notice from Union Pacific Railroad that train speeds through the county are being increased from 40 to 49 mph with train frequency also increasing. He urged citizens to be aware of this to avoid accidents at crossings.

Summerville said the state is turning over a bridge to the county on 110th Road west of Highway 77 at Florence.

He said the county will also need to decide what to do about three deteriorating bridges on one mile of road on 310th just west of Chisholm Trail Road. Summerville said one of them is a five-span bridge built in the 1960?s that has sub-standard concrete.

Summerville asked commissioners to write to the Chase County Commission asking its intention to help with a bridge at the Chase County line on a road the county doesn?t maintain anymore. He said a similar situation exists with Dickinson County.

Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman was commended in a letter from Sue Klassen, Florence PRIDE chairman, for donating extra time and help to assist Florence in obtaining an $84,000 grant.

The commissioners decided to follow advice from Tom Brown, consultant with Savant Services of McPherson to hold meetings at the five unified district high schools in Centre, Marion, Goessel, Peabody and Goessel this summer for public input into the county strategic plan. The plan must be turned into the state in September.

In addition, questionnaires for public input would be made available at banks, city buildings, libraries, the courthouse, and other public places.

Hein noted that mailing the surveys to the entire public could cost as much as $2,500 in postage, a cost commissioners opted to avoid.

Among county changes accomplished as a result of the last survey, commissioners listed cleaning out county road drainage ditches to avoid surface flooding of agricultural land, hiring an economic development director, looking at infrastructure to improve economic vitality and dividing audit and budget responsibilities of consultants to gain more financial advice.

The commissioners said they still want to do more about water quality and supply, especially with improvements at Marion Reservoir.

Brown noted continuing population loss problems with people having fewer children, young people leaving the area for jobs elsewhere, retired former natives returning here but not in sufficient numbers to offset other losses and the change in fuel prices reducing numbers of people willing to commute.

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