Marion council hears free-land request for jail project

Marion County Commissioners Randy Dallke and Dan Holub came to the Marion City Council meeting Monday to ask for free land in the city industrial park for a projected 75-bed county correctional facility that would house inmates for pay from other areas plus local prisoners.

But they had to leave for more consultations with their architect after suggestions for alternate sites from Mayor Mary Olson and City Administrator David Mayfield.

Dallke said they would be back right away for discussions because a site needs to be chosen by the end of January to finalize plans by the end of August for the November election to seek voter approval for the jail.

The architect from Law/Kingdon Inc. of Wichita had planned the jail on a 6.6-acre tract in the northwest corner of Batt Industrial Park along U.S. Highway 56.

Mayfield said the original plan had been for a tract a little over four acres in the southeast corner of the park. He suggested an alternative site to be considered on a field owned by the city on South Third Street before the bridge on the west side of the street.

Dallke verified an observation from Councilor Gene Winkler that the beginning jail would be about 200 x 120 feet. He said room would be needed for parking, plus future expansion that might bring in more inmate housing, or room for the judicial court.

Dallke clarified for onlookers that the main community benefit from the corrections center would be employment?everything from officers to cooks?because the county as a governmental unit wouldn?t be paying taxes.

Olson said the city would get back with the commissioners as soon as possible after both have considered what would be the best location.

The councilmen voted 4-0 in the absence of Councilor Stacey Collett to approve $81,000 in general obligation bonds at a 4.9 percent bid rate from Farmers Bank and Trust at Great Bend for street construction in Country Club Heights as presented by Rose Mary Saunders of Ranson Financial.

Casey Case, reporting on the rails to trails project for the Trail Committee within the City of Marion, said the committee had determined to ?take baby steps at a time? in developing the trail for bicyclers and hikers.

The committee has cleaned one brush area along the dike, and enlisted the help of the city crew for grading and graveling parts of the former railroad siding, he said.

Case said the trail begins at the city library on a city-owned portion going to Main Street. He asked the councilors to direct City Attorney Dan Baldwin in following up on city enforcement ordinances to require commercial land owners to clean up ?trashy, unsightly areas? along the route.

He said that eventually, ?five to 10 years down the road,? trail promoters may even want to asphalt or put concrete down on the trail.

Councilor Bill Holdeman questioned the electrical licensing credentials of Public Works Director Harvey Sanders.

He was told by Mayfield that Sanders is qualified for his work as an electrical lineman.

Winkler pointed out that many electrical workers in Marion were ?grandfathered in? before current requirements because of experience.

Holdeman said he has lived many places, and never experienced the number of electrical outages that he does in Marion.

Mayfield confirmed an observation from Winkler that many of the outages occur from the Westar side of electrical supply rather than from the city?s side.

The Council passed a motion? originally made by Winkler?to extend the ?Bucks for Building? program with its remaining $11,000 budget, after killing a motion by Olson to pass it with a requirement that materials be bought locally if possible.

The change was made after an observation from Nick Nickelson that federal trade laws prohibit government from restricting where items can be purchased.

Winkler also observed that for the $1,000 the city invests through the program on each new home purchase, the city gains far more in tax benefits and residents gained than where purchases are made would benefit.

Economic Development Director Jami Williams said the program began in October 2005, with $20,000. Since then, she said 15 homes have been purchased under the program including five new families that didn?t previously live in the city.

The councilors approved three new building for bucks applications including Jim and Cheryl Christensen at 812 South Roosevelt, Jo Allen at 1018 Denver, and Chris and Sandy Sprowls at 1420 Denver.

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