Marion, Dickinson to join forces to create new extension district

The extension councils of Marion and Dickinson counties have voted to push forward with creating a new extension district by next summer that would have its own mill levy authority similar to that of a school district.

Extension agents told the Marion County Commission Monday that they wouldn?t expect taxpayers in either county to pay more than they do now in commission allocations, about 1.2 mills in either county.

But, with any change at all, they said, Marion County could be the main financial beneficiary, gaining budget stability while paying slightly less. Dickinson, as the larger county of the two, would pay slightly more because of its bigger valuation.

Dale Fjell, Northeast Area extension director for Kansas State University, said the biggest benefit with such an arrangement is the sharing of county agents between counties to take advantage of their specializations. For instance, one agent may be more specialized in crops while another, perhaps like agricultural agent Rickey Roberts here, is stronger in livestock.

Roberts said he may defer to one of the three Dickinson County agents on matters of horticulture, even though he still will be called upon to answer general questions.

Marion County Home Extension Agent Nancy Pihl said one agent may be better specialized in household projects while another is better at family finance.

Fjell said the district structure strengthens the pool of talent available in each county without removing anything. Each county still will have its agents and its buildings, he said. All current county fairs will be maintained.

He said Dickinson and Marion counties already have a track record of cooperation with the Tri-County Fair at Herington.

Fjell said the legislature passed a law allowing counties to form extension districts in 1991, with the first one actually formed in 1994.

There are now nine districts in 25 Kansas counties including two-county, three-county and four-county districts, he said.

Marion and Dickinson counties have an advantage in being similar in size with similar agriculture, he said. Fjell said Saline??a huge population,? and Ottawa??very small??counties, which have paired together, is a different combination.

Roberts said he has heard many discussions of more districts to be formed in neighboring counties. Some counties that refused to form with neighbors probably won?t have the option now, he said.

?There?s a danger of being boxed in,? he said.

Fjell said the current structure of the extension board in each county is a membership of 24 with nine of those appointed to the executive board to do the actual work.

Now that the two county boards have met and agreed to form a district, he said, the board would be reduced to eight members, four from each county.

Fjell said the board would start off with accountability to county commissions because the first members would be appointed by commissioners. After serving initial terms, he said, the board members would be elected.

He asked that the commissioners vote a resolution of approval by sometime in November after which the councils would get Kansas Attorney General approval to implement an operational plan in 60 days.

In other commission business, County Clerk Carol Maggard said the county?s cash position was reported by the treasurer?s offices as of Sept. 30 at $10.66 million including $2.56 million in the county general fund and $1.75 million in road and bridge.

The county had about $121,330 interest income for the year-to-date, she said.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he personally would be investigating large trenches dug at a farm on South Diamond Road to make sure they are for normal farm activities and not for burying trash.

The commissioners decided to put the old courthouse generator, replaced this summer up, for bids through Purple Wave advertising rather than go to the expense of moving it for use at the Marion County Lake Hall.

Dallke said he would rather get a new generator if really needed for the hall rather than trusting the reliability of the old one after moving it.

The commissioners noted they were to meet with mayors of the county Tuesday night to discuss the economic development council.

The commissioners accepted a bid of $5,295 for installation of carpet tiles in the appraiser?s office from Supreme Floor Company of Hillsboro over competitive bids of $6,400 from the County Seat in Marion and $5,787.10 from Baker Furniture of Peabody.

Communications and Emergency Management Director Michele Abbott showed commissioners a ?grab and go? radio repeater received under security grant that can bond different UHF, VHF and 800 radio frequencies from different emergency personnel and counties together when communications are needed during disasters.

She said the repeater can be operated from a battery, a generator or from regular power outlet. It can even be run and transported from the back seat of an ordinary passenger car, she said.

Sheriff Robert Craft said a squad car purchased from the state is nearly ready to go with new equipment installed and graphics applied. It replaces a vehicle destroyed in an accident, he said.

There may be enough insurance and departmental funds to buy one more vehicle, he said.

Craft said advertising for a part-time deputy has drawn 16 applicants.

Treasurer Jeannine Bateman and Register of Deeds Jo Ottensmeier said they will host the annual North-Central Kansas conference for fellow officers for their offices from counties in the district Nov. 6 at the Elgin in Marion.

Their offices will be closed until 2:30 p.m. that day, they said.

Health Department Administrator Diedre Serene had commissioners sign off for $36,395 to receive the Phase 3 of a federal grant administered through the state for flu vaccinations.

They also approved her spending $6,154.60 from second phase funding for purchase of refrigerator and freezer units specified for medical storage.

Serene said her department continues to receive new vaccinations, but the H1N1 flu virus also continues to spread with reports of 30 students per school absent with it or other illness very common in the county.

Dallke said he is much encouraged for the economy of the area and the trash disposal needs of Marion County by the purchase of 200 acres north of Herington for a facility that will process municipal solid waste and recyclable materials into an end product to burn with coal to make it cleaner.

The facility is expected to employ 1,400 persons, and to be eligible to sell carbon credits under cap and trade legislation being considered by Congress, he said.

Plus that, it probably will help Marion County dispose of trash more economically in the future, he said.

?Not only is it good for Herington,? Dallke said. ?It?s good for us.?

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