Marion 2009 budget approved with 2.9-mill tax levy increase

The Marion City Council Monday approved its 2009 budget of $568,439 with an increase of 2.9 mills to 60.293 mills.

Councilor Bill Holdeman was the lone dissenting voice in a 4-1 majority on the budget itself and an accompanying ordinance required by the state for increasing in tax revenue.

Holdeman said he thought the city should do ?the same as everybody else with some belt tightening.?

City Administrator David Mayfield said the city had been looking at a larger increase, especially with oil prices, but had stayed as low as it did by cutting departmental budgets.

Holdeman said companies like Westar, which provides electricity to the city, are able ?to pass on costs down the line, and keep on getting their share. I don?t want us to be like them.?

He questioned whether Westar would jump electric rates along with the budget increase.

Mayfield replied the city is on a contract with the utility with 21⁄2 years to go, and Westar can?t have a rate increase until then.

Later in the meeting, Mayfield said he and Public Works Director Harvey Sanders have been in teleconferences with other cities discussing how to negotiate future Westar rates.

Mayfield said if the cities wait until they have 20-year contracts, they may also be prohibited by contract from building power plants or wind turbine generating farms.

Mayfield said legal fees to contest Westar are prohibitive, and only by cities joining together can they bear the costs.

Councilor Stacey Collett made the motion for budget approval saying, ?I don?t like to raise taxes any more than the next guy. But I?ve studied this time and time again.?

Mayfield introduced an inquiry from Rocky Hett, who is planning a construction and demolition landfill on his land where the Martin Marietta quarry also operates, to see if the city would operate the landfill under a lease agreement.

Mayfield said Hett indicated he intends to offer the operation first to the city, then to the county, and then to private companies depending on who first accepts operation.

Hett already received city approval for a provisional use permit for the landfill, and after regional solid waste approval, will be responsible to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for operations.

The council rejected Hett?s offer 5-0, voicing concerns about having adequate equipment and knowledge.

Two ordinances introduced by Holdeman, one to prohibit tobacco use on city property and one to prohibit the planting of female cottonwood trees, both died for lack of seconds.

Jeff Cady and Mickey Lundy presented $1,500 from the Marion Advancement Campaign to the police department toward purchase of video cameras.

The council, after a hearing, voted to give 30 days to property owners of a house at 201 N. Freeborn St, for its rennovation or removal before the city will proceed with its demolition as a health hazard.

Mayfield said only 45 residents responded to a survey on whether to continue twice a week trash service, or reduce to once a week. The council agreed that was too small of a response for the city to make a decision.

Collett said it is only a matter of time before the county forces a recycling program, and suggested the city wait until it sees how that will tie in.

Mayor Mary Olson made a motion to halt dispersion of free trash bags to patrons on city trash routes, but the motion died for lack of a second.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the standard traffic ordinance, to approve the uniform public offense code, to approve a bucks for building application for Burton Tidwell, and to approve a liquor license for Superior Wine and Liquor.

The council went into executive sessions for trade secrets and attorney-client privilege.

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