Marion council approves two-way traffic on North Second Street

The Marion City Council discussed during its Feb. 29 meeting reversing one part of a June 23, 1949, ordinance regarding one-way streets at Second, Third and Fourth streets between Main and Santa Fe.

City Administrator Roger Holter said members of the Chamber of Commerce requested the change to ?alleviate the traffic problem in the city.?

?EBH Engineering (personnel) looked at the streets, and the recommendation by the engineers was not to change Second or Fourth streets,? Holter said.

But Darin Neufeld, representing EBH, did recommend opening Third Street to two-way traffic.

?We have no recommendation on South Second as the alteration of this street does not help or hinder traffic patterns for adjacent business or downtown traffic flow, in general,? Neufeld said.

Marion Police Chief Tyler Mermis presented a letter in support of the findings, Holter added.

Mermis stated he believed the city would benefit from opening Third Street to allow northbound and southbound to flow easily between Main and Santa Fe.

Holter also discussed the reasons why the engineering firm didn?t recommend the other two streets.

?On South Second from Main to Water streets, we would need to remove six parking places in order to make a 25-foot roadway,? he said.

The current width is 19 feet, the council was told.

Holter said making North Second from Main to Santa Fe two-way would mean a loss of seven parking spaces in that portion of the street.

On North Third, he said, the driving lane is 25 feet wide and would require no loss of spaces.

?The only traffic flow change would be access to Marion National Bank?s drive-thru and not allowing J-turns,? he said.

Motorists would have to enter either on Second or Fourth streets and come around on Third, which would be the safest, Neufeld said.

Regarding North Fourth and Main to Santa Fe streets, the change would require the loss of 10 spaces to make the driving lane 28 feet wide. It currently runs one way north, away from Main Street, Holter said.

?Preliminary discussions have already occurred with MNB and the Elgin (Hotel),? Holter said.

He said he still needs to contact Tonya Richards, director of Marion County planning and zoning, and Teresa Huffman, director of Marion County economic development, to make them aware.

At the council?s direction, Holter said he would draft a traffic ordinance modifying it for a future date.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said he liked the recommendations, and suggested the council review the draft ordinance at its next meeting.

?If we do have any special notifications (that need to be made), make sure to do that,? he said.

Some signage changes will be necessary, but Neufeld said he didn?t think it would be a major expense.

Frequency band

Mermis wanted to make the council aware of possible changes in the frequency band for its seven handheld radios and five patrol cars.

?Possibly next year, the Kansas Highway Patrol could go to 800 MHz, but it could be in 2017,? he said.

The impact of this upgrade, Holter said, is that the city would lose the ability at the local level to communicate within the county.

?All communications would then have to go from our 400 MHz to the dispatch center before it?s relayed to the (Marion County) sheriff or KHP,? Holter said.

In addition to reoutfitting the equipment with city police, he noted 21 handheld radios for the fire department as well as seven for current fire apparatus.

Mermis said: ?With 800 MHz, you can be clear in Colby, and get back on Marion?s frequency and talk to dispatchers in Marion or officers. It?s a better deal (than 400 MHz), but very expensive.?

Holter said this is being driven nationally, and now it?s coming in because 200 MHz bands have been opened for initial broadcasting (television).

?The 400 MHz is where we are now, and unfortunately to this point there?s no technology to upgrade existing radios,? he said.

Heitschmidt asked who is pushing this upgrade.

?It started with KHP and the state, but at this point it is an unfunded mandate from the legislature,? Holter said. ?In order to communicate with KHP, the county sheriff is having to upgrade their system as well as 911 dispatch.?

When that occurs, Holter said the city will lose the ability to communicate within the county.

?That is where our fear is,? he said, citing an active shooter situation where communication would be critical.

Even the number of fire callouts is a concern in that Marion?s firefighters would not be able to communicate with each other or dispatch.

?If we don?t upgrade our radios, we are slow?ing down the response time, and could ultimately put our officers and firefighters in greater danger,? Holter said.

The council will address the issue at its next meeting.

Marion resident Margaret Wilson asked about the Marion Cemetery and planning efforts to add ground or make changes.

?The land was acquired, and is located on the left side after entering the cemetery and adjacent to a larger plot the city owns to the northwest,? Holter said.

Nothing is budgeted for 2016, but the Parks and Recreation Board is exploring a cremation and serenity garden on site, he said.

?This was a carryover from the former cemetery board,? he said.

Roger Hannaford, who was with the cemetery board, now heads that portion of the Parks and Recreation board.

?He is working on a proposal prior to an August time frame so he can make a request in 2017 for funding to start development of a cremation and serenity garden,? he said.

The council is encouraging public comments about the project. Ideas should be communicated to the city?s Parks and Recreation board at 620-382-3425.

Public comments

In other business, the council:

? approved an invoice associated with the East Park project.

? approved the engineering contract for the 2016 KLINK?project.

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