Jail plan resurfaces frequently for commissioners

The ceremonial steam train carrying Fort Riley soldiers and their families pulls into Marion in September. Locals had the opportunity to thank the soldiers for their service in Iraq and many got a free ride on the classic iron horse.

The prospect of building a new corrections center for Marion County continued to be an ongoing issue behind the scenes in 2007.

It proved to be a year of transitions too, including multiple changes in the leadership of two county departments. Several communities experienced leadership changes and challenges during 2007 as well.

Following are the highlights from across Marion County.


Larry Larsen told the Marion County Commission that although he?s been on the job as supervisor of Emergency Medical Services for only a week, he?s ?already disappointed in what I?ve found? regarding his operating budget.

The Marion City Council voted 5-0 to provide up to 51⁄2 acres of free land in the Batt Industrial Park for a Marion County corrections center in consideration for office space for the Marion Police Department.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners unveiled plans for building a $15 million, 72-bed justice center, with the expectation that the majority of the beds would be used to host prisoners from other counties at a fee of $30 to $48 per day.


Responding to feedback from patrons, county commissioners, working with consultants, began scaling back expectations for a new corrections center from an estimated $15 to under $10 million.


The county commission continued its effort to clean up salvage yards in the county, meeting with operator Daniel King of Peabody about complaints.

Darryl Brewster, representing D&L Enterprises, offered to upgrade seven acres he owns in southwest Marion for semi-truck parking if the city would share the cost of 300 tons of rock.

County commissioners reassured renters of mobile home and camper lots at Marion County Lake by voting unanimously never to change use or zoning requirements on trailers moved there. The only restrictions commissioners would make would be for public safety and insurance requirements.

County commissioners committed to using road and bridge equipment to aid the Marion County Fair Board in removing the top 18 inches of dirt in its rodeo arena and replacing it with a mix of dirt and sand. The work was done to address safety complaints from horse owners about harmful debris left by demolition derby cars over the years.

The Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute provided a live-burn trailer for county firefighters March 11. Firefighters wore bunker gear and air packs into the simulator, which reached temperatures exceeding 500 degrees.

Marion friends Robert Schmidt and Ralph Kreutziger split a $20,000 prize they won through the Kansas Lottery.


Dale Snelling and wife Loretta retired after 43 years of overseeing Marion County Park and Lake.

County commissioners agreed to commit $3,100 to a Marion County Lake restoration project that eventually could top $39,000. The proposed projects were outlined by Marion teenager Landon Leiker.

More than 20 Marion patrons were on hand to ask the city council to consider alternative plans for semi-truck parking than the ones offered by Darryl Brewster.

The Marion City Council criticized the contractor of its spec building in Batt Industrial Park for being behind schedule, saying the delay may cost the city 30 to 35 jobs from a telemarketing center that could move in. Mel Flaming, the contractor, said he has been waiting for subcontractors, who have been delayed by weather.

Echo Penwell of Marion won $20,000 on a $2 ticket through the Kansas Lottery. She purchased her ticket in Newton.

In Marion?s race for mayor, challenger Mary Olson handily defeated incumbent Martin Tice, 348-172.

County commissioners asked a Wichita company, Law King?don Inc., to come up with a proposal that could result in a 72-bed, $8.5 million community corrections center. Meanwhile, Sheriff Lee Becker said he was in conversation with the Kansas State Fire Marshal about how he would deal with inadequacies of the county?s 1930s-era jail.

A move to dismiss David Mayfield as city manager at Marion failed at the April 30 meeting of the Marion City Council. The recommendation was made by Mayor Mary Olson and seconded by Councilor Bill Holdeman following a 45-minute executive session. The recommendation was then withdrawn because a council member was absent from the meeting.

The county commissioners changed the title of Teresa Huffman from economic development secretary to economic development director, and increased her salary from $25,000 a year to $29,000.


Most of Marion County was drenched with rain May 3-6, with accumulation of 6 inches or more reported. Several creeks and streams were flooded. A tornado from the same storm system destroyed Greensburg in western Kansas.

The Marion City Council reappointed David Mayfield as city administrator by a 4-1 vote at its May 7 meeting. Councilor Bill Holdeman voted no.

Congressman Jerry Moran announced that county treasurers across the state will continue to process driver?s license renewals in the rural areas of Kansas, including Marion County. At one time, it was thought the service would be centralized in regional locations.

County commissioners discussed the impact of rising fuel costs on its operating budget. The cost of some road-resurfacing projects could double if prices for oil products continue at present rates.

County commissioners spoke by teleconference with bond representatives about the possibility of creating a public building commission to build a jail.

The Marion City Council voted to proceed with developing a contract with an engineering firm that could lead to street improvements of around $1 million.

Rollin Schmidt, director of the county?s solid-waste transfer station, said he believes Marion County will have countywide recycling within the next few years. He is working on a grant with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment toward the goal.


The county commission has decided to crack down on individual polluters?whether they dump trash along roadsides or run sewage into ditches. The commissioners authorized the county attorney to develop enforcement tools with fines starting as high as $1,500.

Jim Richardson?s images of the Flint Hills featured in the April 2007 issue of National Geographic Magazine were on display in the Marion City Library June 25 through July 1.

Jim Herzet resigned as director of the county road and bridge department. At the same meeting, the commissioners appointed Steve Hudson, Her?zet?s No. 2 in command, as the new park director at Marion County Lake.

Karen Dickerson was hired as the new public works director for the city of Goessel.

Larry Larsen resigned as director of Marion County Emergency Medical Services ?due to personal conflicts.?

Marion County Relay for Life raised an estimated $42,000, including in-kind donations. The amount eclipsed last year?s record. About 200 people participated in the 12-hour event at the Tabor College track that started Friday evening, July 20. About 1,675 luminaries were lit in honor of cancer victims.

The death of three dogs possibly linked to the blue-green algae bloom at Marion Reservoir should not alarm residents of Marion County?s three largest cities about the safety of their drinking water, county officials said.

The Florence City Council approved the purchase of buildings in Florence being offered by USD 408 for $1. One building is currently a source of revenue because of the OASIS special-education program.

The Marion City Council was told the city may receive up to $250,000 in grant funding in early 2008 to encourage more children to walk to school.

Goessel?s Country Threshing Days marked the debut of the local antique engine club?s ?new baby??a 34,500-pounder that once created electricity for the city of Canton.


A team of four people was appointed to provide interim leadership for the county road and bridge department: Dennis Maggard, Tom Holub, Bev Cooper and Gary Williams.

Josh Whitwell was appointed by the Marion City Council to be the town?s next police chief. He had been serving with the Sheriff?s Department.


Marion County Fire District No. 7, serving the Tampa area, was awarded a grant of $143,000 by the U.S. Department of Home?land Security. The money will go toward bunker gear and a 3,000-gallon tanker truck.

Mayors from several communities asked the county commissioners for more services for the contributions the cities make to the road and bridge budget under an outdated 1973 agreement.

A motion made by Marion City Council member Bill Holdeman that all appointed city employees report directly to the mayor failed for lack of a second. Holdeman said he?s been hearing from city employees who feel intimidated about reporting to City Administrator David Mayfield.

Steve Smith was hired as the county?s new director of Emer?gency Medical Services, effective Aug. 27. Gene Winkler, Marion, will serve as interim director until Smith begins his new assignment.

The county commissioners voted 3-0 that there would be no mill-levy increase in the 2008 budget.

Martin Rhodes, former building inspector for the city of Hillsboro, was named public works director for Marion County.


To the delight of onlookers, a steam train carrying about three dozen Fort Riley soldiers and their families rolled through Marion and Peabody Sept. 7, giving local crowds an opportunity to thank the soldiers for their service in Iraq.


County commissioners denied a conditional-use permit for Daniel King to operate a salvage yard between Peabody and Goessel that he had been operating for the past 25 years. The permit was denied because King failed to make improve?ments on the property as the county had required.

Jane Vajnar, 68, Tampa, won the first Kansas Senior Spelling Bee by successfully spelling ?surreptitious.? She competed against 47 senior spellers.

Dorothy Melcher, 93, Marion, was selected ?Fan of the Game? at the Kansas State-Colorado football contest in Manhattan. Melcher has been attending KSU games since 1969, when her son Gary played for the Wildcats, and has been a season-ticket holder for 37 years.

Marion Reservoir is filling with sediment to the degree that it could result in water shortages within five years if there is an extended drought, experts told a gathering in Marion Oct. 23. Hillsboro, Peabody and Marion use the reservoir as the source for their water supply.

A teacher and his family from Durham, England, met with residents of Durham, Kan., in a friendship visit. The connection began when Gary Ewert, a Newton teacher who lives in Marion, traveled to England on a teacher-exchange. Ewert told the host family about the namesake community in Marion County.

Faye Makovec retired as the county?s register of deeds, effective Oct. 1. She served nearly four four-year terms in that role. Jo A. Ottensmeier was appointed by the governor to succeed her.

About 70 residents from Marion gathered for a town meeting on the city?s future Oct. 29. Participants shared ideas for how to grow Marion?s economy.

Martin Rhodes resigned as public works director Oct. 31. John Summerville, second in command at the road and broad bridge department, was named acting director.


The county commissioners turned down a written request from Judy Reno, president of St. Luke Hospital and Living Center at Marion, asking for a special meeting to discuss a new county-wide medical center.

County commissioners decided to place a proposal for a new corrections center on the November 2008 general election ballot. The $7.5 million, 75- to 78-bed facility would be financed by a combination of property and sales tax increases.

In response to an inquiry to other communities around the state, the city of Lehigh planned for Christmas lights along its main street for the first time in some 27 years. Twelve Kansas communities donated used decorations toward the cause. Emprise Bank, Hillsboro, agreed to pay the $800 needed to add electrical outlets to Lehigh?s light poles.


Organizers of the annual Marion County Toy Run distributed $10,100 in cash and 41 bicycles to charitable organizations from four communities.

County commissioners Randy Dallke and Dan Holub asked the Marion City Council for free land upon which to build a 75-bed corrections center. A site has to be determined by the end of January if the project is to appear on November 2008 ballot.

An ice storm Dec. 11 knocked out power in parts of Marion County for two weeks or more. The northern part of the county was worst hit. Centre schools cancelled classes until the start of the new semester.

Terry Holt, park ranger at Marion Reservoir, received the prestigious de Fluery Award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engin?eers for his work in helping to develop a critical-incident stress-management program for the Corps.

Representatives from the city of Goessel assisted Lincolnville residents with supplies and bottled water after the town lost electricity for several days following the Dec. 11 ice storm.

The Florence City Council heard a preliminary proposal to turn a vacant nursing home into an affordable-housing project.

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