Lake residents talk about rules with commissioners

About 15 people, most Marion County Lake residents, attended Monday’s commission meeting to talk about what many consider problems associated with too many rules and the need for cleanup efforts.

Commissioner Dianne Novak requested lake superintendent Steve Hudson attend the meeting and answer questions or explain why certain actions were taken.

Regarding trees, Hudson said he has identified trees that need to be removed.

“I know the black locust around camping spots need to get removed,” he said, “but we have been planting new trees like maple and so forth.

“We are doing what we can out there with a shorthanded crew,” Hudson said. “Can’t imagine doing this overnight.”

Novak said she wasn’t asking for anything to be done over­night.

“You’ve only had 10 years,” she said, “so I am not asking for anything overnight.”

Resident Gordon Pendergraft, Hudson said, has been at the lake from the beginning of his tenure, and he knows what improvements have been done.

“It’s been a lot,” he said, “but it’s been kind of at a snail’s pace in some peoples’ eyes.

“Some people think that the growth we have there now is Mother Nature taking care of herself.”

Dead trees

Pendergraft said some of the dead trees could be hauled out by the Road and Bridge crew when roads are muddy, and they have equipment available.

“They could drag those trees out,” he said. “There were three trees out there last weekend. They are going to kill somebody or ruin a boat or plug up a drain out at the dam.”

The longer those trees float, he said, they are going to sink below the surface and that’s when the trees are going to kill somebody, and the county will be liable.

Hudson said: “When the wind blows them over, the trees are partially attached and above the water. We can keep an eye on them.

“A lot of wildlife perch on those. So if we were to cut them off and lay them in the water and keep them submerged, then we are going to have problems.

Another resident said, “Get chains and a backhoe and pull them out.”

Garry Dunnegan, a developer and lake resident, said he knows Hudson needs some help, but doesn’t like seeing county equipment sitting around the lake building not being used.

“Steve is a good equipment operator, and if he needs to be paid something extra, he could get out there,” Dunnegan said.

“The county needs to help and I don’t think we utilize the equipment we have out there right now.”

Taxpayers at the county lake pay a lot of taxes, he added.

In addition to other problems, Dunnegan said junk vehicles have been out there for seven years.

Talking about taxes, Pendergraft said he asked about taxable properties at the county lake versus Tampa, Ramona and some of the other small cities in the county.

“We have more at the lake that’s taxable,” he said, “and we are paying some pretty good taxes.

“Thanks to Garry, our property values are going up and therefore the county’s property values are going up and the county is getting more taxes at the county lake than in some of those smaller cities.”

Dead trees

Commissioner Kent Beck­er said he didn’t have a problem with what Novak is proposing as long as large trees aren’t being cut down.

“Or like Steve said, going out in the lake and cutting that stuff because it will be a problem,” Becker said. “It’s better to let it stick up.”

The only other option would be to cut the trees and tie bricks around it to pull it to the bottom like what is done at Marion Reservoir, he added.

“I don’t like to see too many trees cut, but I don’t have a problem with doing a cleanup like that,” he said.

Novak said she does know people with bucket trucks to get into some of those difficult areas where the cedar trees are growing.

“As long as they could prove they are insured,” Becker said. “I know farmers that have bought bucket trucks.”

The only other point Becker said he wanted to make is that he has lived around water all his life.

“My farm is dissected by the Cottonwood River,” he said. “And I have used government contracts to put in buffers, and you have got to have grass areas or there will be more blue/green algae at the county lake.”

Kathy Armstrong, who is a lake resident, said a lot of weeds, brush and trash are around the lake.

“We live out there and the junk gets built up so high,” she said.

Private property

Speaking about private property, a resident said that at one time he was told he could have as many docks as he wanted because it was on private property.

But Hudson came by and told him to get his dock out of the lake, and it wasn’t said in a nice way.

Hudson said he introduced himself and gave the man rules and regulations, along with a letter from the county attorney that stated rules could be pursued on that part of the lake.

The resident said it was his opinion that if it was his private property, then he should be able to do whatever he wanted with it.

After hearing more comments from other lake residents, the commissioners decided to look at April 24-29 as the week to begin cutting undergrowth and brush, but only in one section.

By concensus, the commissioners agreed to have volunteers working from Upland to the low water bridge, also known as “the cement slab.”

Once the first section is completed, a review of the area will determine how next to proceed, Dallke said.

Other business

In other business, the commissioners:

• spoke briefly about the county administrator position, which Becker asked to be placed on the April 3 agenda.

“I thought we could start a dialogue,” Becker said. “We would have to have the right person there, but I don’t know the criteria and maybe we should gather information.”

Dallke said it would depend on how much it would cost and if the county could afford it.

Novak said, “I don’t think we can afford not to have one. I think what appeals to me is the wealth of information they can bring to the table, and we can make better informed decisions.”

Becker said he thinks it’s important enough to talk about at least once each month.

Dallke said he would not want to look at anyone local.

“I would like to see a new person come in, and I would like to see him have experience in administrating before we break him in,” Dallke said.

Regarding a salary amount, Novak said she would consider somewhere between $100,000 to $150,000, plus total benefits.

• Mark Isley, president of HUB International in Wichita, spoke with commissioners for more than an hour about insurance and whether to stay with Blue Cross Blue Shield or consider another insurance option.

The decision to consider another insurance option happened when BCBS said that because of an increase in claims, primarily prescriptions, the premium would go up 31.9 percent or from $832,656 to $1.098 million.

The other two insurance companies that could be considered were United Healthcare and Aetna, Isley said.

In discussing both companies, Isley said he leaned more toward United Healthcare, which carries a similar plan the county employees had with BCBS.

With open enrollment on April 20, the commission decided to look over the numbers presented by Isley, find out if BCBS will consider negotiating a lesser amount and make a decision prior to the enrollment date.