From jail project to zebra mussels, county faced tough issues

From high fuel costs that ravaged their county?s road and bridge budget, to a controversial and ultimately failed plan to build a pay-to-stay jail, commissioners faced their share of tough issues in 2008.

The discovery of zebra mussels in Marion Reservoir wasn?t one of their problems directly, but it did pose a disheartening scenario for the county?s leading tourist attraction.

January

Jami Williams announced her intention to resign as Marion?s economic development director at the Dec. 31 city council meeting. The council voted 4-1 to decline her resignation, but she held firm to her decision.

Todd Heitschmidt presented the idea to the Marion City Council of forming an economic development corporation from several city-based groups. He said the new group, varying from 10 to 24 members, would take over the job of recruiting and directing the city?s economic development director in order to avoid the ?politics? that led to Williams? resignation.

The first managed, designated endowment of the Hills?boro Community Founda?tion was presented to the Lehigh City Council from the Lehigh Senior Center Jan. 14. The center, now closed, endowed $20,096 from the sale of its building to the Lehigh City Parks Endowment for maintenance and beautification of the local park.

The Marion County Commis?sion directed Teresa Huffman, economic director, to proceed with planning what must be done to develop a rails-to-trails path from Marion to the McPher?son County line for hiking and biking.

The Goessel City Council approved a $1,000 annual assessments incentive for five years for the first five houses built within the city limits of Goessel.

The county commis?sion came close to tacit approval Jan. 28 of new renal cabins at Marion County Lake. The plan, proposed by Debra and Jim Whitfill, includes a breakfast cafe and snack bar on one end of the community lake building.

Dennis Maggard, county road and bridge signs foreman, told county commissioners he is placing an order to replace half of the county?s 150 missing road-name signs. Most of the signs are gone because of theft or vandalism.

February

The Marion City Council agreed to move ahead with plans for new restrooms at the city baseball complex after it was learned Marion Manufacturing had pledged to donate a metal building to be built with volunteer labor.

County commissioners terminated Jayne Gottschalk as director of the Marion County Depart?ment for Elderly on Feb. 12. She had worked in that role for seven months.

March

Marion native Amanda Steiner was crowned the fourth annual Ms. Wheelchair Kansas in Topeka. She will serve as an advocator for people confined to wheelchairs.

County commissioners heard from a group of about 25 members of the Citizen Association of Marion and McPherson Counties, predominantly farmers, who didn?t like potential county participation in a rails-to-trails project. ?I think the people have spoken,? said Bob Hein, commission chair, indicating the project should be dropped.

A commercial fishing company removed well over 20,000 pounds of smallmouth and largemouth buffalo??rough fish??from Marion Reservoir from late February through mid-March. The company was hired by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to improve sport fishing. An accompanying benefit could be improved water quality.

April

Incumbent Bill Holdeman and challenger Steven Smith won the two at-large seats on the Marion City Council in the April 1 local election. They were the top two vote-getters, with 226 and 201, respectively, in a field of four candidates. Gerald Hender?son received 193 votes and Katherin DeFilippis 161. Incum?bent Jerry Kline, who was eliminated by finishing fifth in the primary, received 167 write-in votes.

Marion city staff and local volunteers put together new play equipment for Central Park April 4. Money for the equipment was raised by donations and was dedicated April 7.

The Marion Performing Arts Group presented two short comedies April 12 in the Marion City Auditorium. The production was part of an effort to use the auditorium for community productions now that the school is moving its plays into the district?s new facility.

The Lehigh Fire Department happened to be assembled for a training drill when an actual fire call came in at 7:34 p.m. April 10. The eight-person department put out the storage-building fire successfully.

Fifty-three volunteers braved a strong northwest wind and 35-degree temperatures April 12 to clean up Marion Reservoir. The volunteers filled a Dumpster with trash from the grounds.

The northern half of Marion County endured a crushing storm of rain and hail April 23 that led to sand-bagging in Durham, a huge setback to the county?s road program and a 3.5-foot rise in the water level at Marion Reservoir.

Two guests from Goessel?s sister city in Poland, Jarek Paja?kow?ski and Henrk Zamoy?ski, gave a presentation about the lowlands where the Kansas Mennonites emigrated from during the pair?s visit in mid-April.

County commissioners approved a record fuel bid of more than $51,000. The county is paying $1 more per gallon than it did a year ago.

May

The Marion City Council used part of its May 5 meeting to tour the nearly completed gymnasium and indoor-pool being built in partnership with the school district and the city.

The county?s architect, Tony Rangel of Law/Kingdon Inc. estimated the cost of building a 75-bed county jail at just over $7.5 million. The estimated cost to remodel the current jail into an 11-bed facility acceptable to future state standards was nearly $5.1 million.

Safe Kids Marion County, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas Department of Wildlife and local law enforcement and emergency response sponsored a day of family activities at Marion Reservoir May 17.

Marion County Fire District No. 7 (Tampa) took possession of a new 3,000-gallon Kenworth Tanker for use by its department.

County commissioners and the city councils from Hillsboro and Marion passed resolutions in support of Peabody?s pursuit of establishing a passenger station along a rail route being proposed by the Northern Flyer Alliance.

Doug Kjellin was unanimously named the Marion?s new economic development director June 30 by the city council.

June

Commissioners decided June 2 to see if they can put a funding mechanism for a 75-bed, $7.5 million new county jail on the November ballot.

Grand Funk Railroad was the featured band at the 2008 Chinga??wassa Days festival the first weekend of June.

Don Dahl, HIllsboro, decided June 6 not to seek re-election as 70th Dis?trict state representative. He said he was frustrated that lawmakers seemed more interested in short-range political gains than in the long-term economic well-being of the state.

With Dahl?s announcement coming four days before the filing deadline, two Marion County residents quickly filed as Republi?cans to succeed him: Roger Hannaford III and Bob Brookens, both from Marion. A third candidate, William Spangler, Burns, had previously filed as a Republican.

Storms during the first two weeks of June prompted county commissioners to initiate plans for a storm shelter at Marion County Lake modeled after one on the Iowa state fairgrounds.

The county commission voted 3-0 to pay the city of Marion $80,000 for the acreage needed to build a new jail in Batt Indus?trial Park, with the city to install a connecting street and utilities.

July

The county commissioners voted July 7 to use a 1 percent sales tax as the mechanism for paying off bonds for a proposed jail, now estimated to cost $8.65 million.

The Marion City Council approved a construction and demolition landfill initiated by the Rocky Hett family on the their land where the Martin-Marietta Quarry now exists. The land was annexed by the city several years ago.

The iLEAD leadership-training program, made up of 4-H members age 12 and older who are enrolled in livestock projects, is in its initial year. Eleven students are enrolled.

Commissioners discussed moving to a four-day work week for county workers as a way to reduce energy costs.

The commissioners visited the Marion County Jail to view the sewage water that was leaking from the top floor, where the prisoners are housed, down to the first-floor offices. The problem had been addressed previously, but unsuccessfully.

Gayla Ratzlaff began working as the new coordinator for the Marion County Department for Elderly.

The 78th Marion County Fair endured hot temperatures and a Saturday rain shower during its run July 23-26 in Hillsboro. The theme was ?Dog-gone Fun.?

More than 20 Tampa residents came to the county commission meeting July 28 to ask what could be done about the chronically damaged roads under construction that leave them with limited access to their community.

August

The first infestation of zebra mussels in Marion Reservoir was discovered by a fishing angler who saw one attached to a stone in the water. The small mussels, which reproduce exponentially, have created a significant nuisance at other Kansas lakes. Marion County Lake, meanwhile, is mussel-free so far, according to lake officials.

Bob Brookens emerged as the winner of the Republican primary for the 70th District seat in the Kansas House with a comfortable win over Roger Hanna?ford and William Spangler. Rob Craft upset incumbent Lee Becker by 35 votes in the sheriff?s race, but Becker said he was considering a write-in campaign for the general election.

The county commissioners discussed a possible four-mill tax increase for 2009, with most of it going to the Road and Bridge Department for maintenance.

Temperatures in the three-digit range didn?t keep fans of antique steam engines and classic tractors from attending the annual Goessel Country Thresh?ing Days Aug. 1-3.

With a maintenance backlog of 32 miles projected to carry over to 2009, roads and bridges rank as the No. 1 critical concern for Marion County, a consultant told the county commis?sion.

The Marion Police Depart?ment received $2,250 in donations at the Aug. 11 Marion City Council meeting to equip squad cars with digital camera systems.

The county commissioners approved a four-mill increase in the property tax levy for 2009 while the Marion City Council approved a 2.9-mill increase.

September

Michael Martin Murphey and the Diamond W Wranglers were the featured artists at the 71st annual Florence Labor Day Celebration.

Rising country singer Candy Coburn was the featured artist at a day-long family festival sponsored as a fundraiser by the Marion County Fire Chiefs Association at Marion County Lake. About 600 people came to the concert.

A consultant told county commissioners that 47 bridges in the county have been deemed unsafe for a school bus to cross. The following week commissioners were told by the firm that the consultant had misinterpreted the results of the study.

County commissioners voted Sept. 8 to put its proposal for an $8.5 million jail project on the November ballot.

The Marion City Council sold two lots in the Harris Heights Addition to Auto House Inc., which intends to build a 2,500-square-foot building for car transport and sales.

Near-perfect weather attracted a sizable crowd to both the Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair and the Marion Art in the Park on Sept. 20.

The county commissioners announced the following schedule for public meetings regarding the $8.7 million jail project that will appear on the Novem?ber ballot: Sept. 29 in Peabody, Sept. 30 in Hillsboro and Oct. 2 in Marion.

Teresa Huffman, county economic development director, told commissioners that Florence will need the county?s help to be the gateway community for next summer?s ?Symphony in the Flinthills,? an event that drew around 30,000 people to Morris County this summer.

Beautiful fall weather highlighted the annual Old Setters Day celebration in Marion Sept. 29-30.

A citizen group presented plans to the Marion City Council regarding the future of the city auditorium. The plan called for the development of a gathering place that could host up to 500 people for public and private events.

A brochure produced for the county commission stated that if the $8.65 million sales-tax bond for a new jail and communications center doesn?t pass in the Nov. 4 election, the county could be faced with remodeling and adding to the jail at a cost estimated at $11.46 million.

A second round of public meetings regarding the jail proposal were announced as follows: Oct. 20 in Hillsboro, Oct. 21 in Marion and Oct. 23 in Pea?body. The stated purpose of the meetings was to answer questions raised during the first round of meetings.

Jim Heinicke, a researcher from Newton hired by a grass-roots organization calling itself Marion County Citizens for a Better Way, said the county?s pay-to-stay jail project, as proposed, would require an increase in property tax to raise $1 million a year to sustain its operation.

November

In the Nov. 4 general election, voters in Marion County rejected the county?s plan for an $8.7 million corrections center to be funded by a one-percent sales-tax increase by better than a 3-1 margin. Meanwhile, Rob Craft easily fended off incumbent Lee Becker?s write-in campaign for sheriff, and incumbents Dan Holub and Randy Dallke defeated Demo?cratic challengers for their seat on the county commission. A proposal to remove the county?s portion of the intangibles tax was approved and the USD 410 representation plan was approved with a 64 percent majority.

December

Sponsoring organizations of last month?s Marion County Toy Run distributed checks totaling $12,700 to charitable organizations from Hillsboro, Marion, Peabody and Goessel. The money will go toward gifts for children in low-income homes.

The Kansas Health Founda?tion approved a $100,000 grant for the Leadership Marion County program. Half the money will go into a health leadership program and the other half will be used for programs for Marion County children.

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