Marion council leases city land for NRCS cover crops


The Marion City Council approved at its July 8 meeting a proposal by the local NRCS field office to provide a parcel of land in the industrial park for planting cover crops.

Through a memorandum of understanding, the city and NRCS, formerly known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, agreed to use the parcel directly north of Spur Ridge Vet Hospital, said Doug Kjellin, city administrator.

“The city wants to support agricultural operations and it had this lot available,” he said.

Present at the meeting was Matt Meyerhoff, supervisory district conservationist, who provided a crop plot map with the basic layout.

“This plot would be planted in July to multiple species of crops and legumes that producers in Marion County would use for cover crops in their fields,” he said.

None of the species planted, he added, would be noxious or invasive. Individual species planted along the road would include cowpeas, forage soybeans, mung beans, sunflower and buckwheat.

Off the road to the south, Meyerhoff said, the plot would contain a cover crop mix.

The area to the northwest, handled by Doug Spencer, rangeland conservationist and professional in grazing and grass hay land, would be used for interseeding legumes into fescue, he said.

All the species would have positive benefits, Meyerhoff said, such as breaking up compaction, increasing infiltration and tilth and increasing the fertility of the soil.

Prior to planting, he said, NRCS plans to destroy the brome on three-quarters of the plot area by spraying a generic equivalent of Roundup herbicide. Following that, the cover crops and cover crop mixes will be seeded.

The other one-quarter of the plot area will remain brome, which is a hardy grass.

Project goals

“The purpose of these plots,” Meyerhoff said, “is to educate and provide outreach to producers in the area.

“Producers would be able to see what different cover crop species look like, and view how the species in the mixes interact and perform together.”

Raising awareness of cover crops in the county, he added, could have a positive effect on the number of acres with cover crops used in the area.

Some potential benefits of these cover crops include reduced erosion, reduced nutrient loading in streams and other bodies of water, increased water infiltration in fields and an increase in revenue and production opportunities, he said.

“If someone buys the land, we are gone—or if someone is unhappy with us, we would be gone,” Meyerhoff said, referring to the city acreage.

Councilor Jerry Dieter asked if the plot would be no-till.

Meyerhoff said it would be 100 percent no-till.

The council vote was unanimously in favor of allowing NRCS to use that parcel of ground.

Gun range

Police Chief Tyler Mermis provided information about the city’s gun range, and how over the past two years, people have asked him if the range could be used by the public.

“The range is already being used for hunter safety and qualifying people for concealed carry,” he said.

Mermis suggested charging a fee of $100 per year, with the proceeds applied to a range fund for building projects, Mermis said.

If the range is opened to residents in 2013, Kjellin and Mermis discussed a prorated fee schedule with the full price being assessed in 2014.

The reason for a full price is for ease in billing, thus avoiding odd expiration dates, he said.

When Dieter asked how many people would take advantage of the range, Mermis said about 10 to 15.

Kjellin said a red flag is hoisted to indicate shooters are practicing at the range.

The only type of guns permitted at the range, Mermis added, are .22 to .308 caliber. No .50 caliber sniper rifles would be allowed. The application form has a place to specify what type of firearm will be used.

“I think this would be a good thing not only for us, but for others who would shoot out there,” Mermis said.

Extensive background checks would be required. Approved applicants would be issued a driver’s license-type card.

When Mayor Mary Olson asked how many people could use the range at the same time, Mermis said there are six to eight spots for both the pistol range and rifle range.

Before the council can consider opening the range to residents, the city needs to research insurance issues.

“By the next council meeting, we should know more,” Mermis said.

Liberty Park wall

At the June 10 meeting, the council directed Kjellin to request bids for repairing the stucco wall on the east side of Liberty Park, 201 E. Main, which is owned by the city.

“The stone craftsman (Dillis Owen) for the Historic Elgin proposed to rework the wall, fill in the damaged area and recondition all cracks and stressed areas for $2,800,” Kjellin said at that meeting.

As requested, the proposed repairs were sent out for bids. “Carved in Stone” of Wilsey, the original bidder, was the only one to submit an offer, remaining at $2,800.

In his proposal, Owen said he would: (1) inspect the wall for loose mortar; (2) chisel loose mortar and widen cracks; (3) fill and/or patch missing stucco or concrete surfaces; and (4) stabilize any structural cracks or identified areas of weakness in the stucco surface.

The council unanimously approved the bid with the approximate completion date 30 days after notification of bid approval.

Comprehensive plan

Olson brought up the city’s most recent comprehensive plan, saying the review was started in 2007 but it wasn’t completed until 2009.

“I thought we ought to start thinking about it,” she said. “If it takes two more years to redo this, then it will be almost five years until done.”

Olson said she wondered about giving the job of completing the plan to someone else.

She then asked if everyone on the council was familiar with the plan, adding that she hasn’t talked with Marty Fredrickson, the city’s zoning administrator, about this.

“Have you mentioned anything?” she asked Kjellin, who said he wasn’t sure where she was going with this request.

In response, Kjellin said, “If I remember correctly, I believe the planning commission is the one that has to do with the comprehensive plan. I don’t think the council can come in and usurp that plan.”

Kjellin suggested the council direct him to encourage the commission to get the comprehensive plan on its schedule and begin working on it.

Olson asked if the commission was finished with subdivisions.

Kjellin said: “Yes. They have also looked at bylaws and are going once more through the zoning regulations.”

Olson said the commission needs a new chairman because Chad Gormley resigned. She noted that Gormley did not provide a formal resignation and asked Kjellin to look into it.

Removing structure

Prompted by a memorandum from Fredrickson, the council discussed the dilapidated property at 310 S. First St.

It was decided that if the owner was willing to tear down the structure at his own expense, and waive his due-process rights through notifications, resolutions and hearings, the council would consider approving his request.

Kjellin said the council plans to come back in two weeks with a completion date for razing the structure.

Fredrickson said the house has not been occupied for more than five years and the integrity of the utility infrastructure is unknown. The roof is in poor condition with an obvious hole allowing water damage and varmint access to the interior.

In addition, even more roof damage was caused during the last wind storm when a walnut tree fell on the house.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• approved a draw request of $3,050 from Evans Bierly Hutch­ison & Associates, for the Jex Sewer Addition. The amount is for 30.5 hours of construction engineering at $100 an hour. and was covered by the city’s loan fund.

• heard from Dieter about a pothole in the 200 block of South Free­born Street.

“If somebody hits (the pothole), they could probably break a tire,” he said.

Kjellin said he would talk with Fredrickson about filling the pothole.

• agreed to have a budget work session at 5 p.m. July 15 in council chambers.

• went into a 15-minute executive session to discuss Kjellin’s evaluation as city administrator.

• heard Mermis suggest the city review an ordinance that states fireworks cannot be sold or discharged within 1,000 feet of a hospital or sanitarium.

“One thousand feet is a good chunk of area,” he said. “We may need to modify this, or it’s something to think about.”

• approved a lease agreement between the city and Skywalkers Gymnastics, 828 N. Roosevelt, in the amount of $8,883 per year and payable in installments of $740.25 per month.

Roger Holter, the city’s economic development director, said the agreement with Sky­walkers Gymnastics will not “box the city in” should someone interested in the property come forward.


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