Marion to prepare terms for land sale for county jail project

The Marion City Council Monday promised the Marion County Board of Commissioners at the council?s Jan. 28 meeting that it would reply by letter within two weeks on what terms it would offer the county for a little more than seven acres in the southeast corner of Batt Industrial Park for possible construction of a new corrections center.

City Administrator David Mayfield said he would meet with City Attorney Dan Baldwin to come up with contract terms that would be negated should the corrections center with its pay-to-stay jail for convicts from other areas fail to be approved by voters in the November election.

County commissioners Randy Dallke and Dan Holub said at the meeting they needed the city?s written proposals to plan a facility that could be presented to voters.

Offers tentatively suggested by city council members included giving the land to the county at no cost if the county built needed streets and utility hook-ups, or the city doing the streets, and charging for the land.

Councilor Stacey Collett said he would rather give the land to the county if the county would build streets to city specifications.

Councilor Bill Holdeman asked if the county couldn?t put a new jail near the courthouse on the ground to the northeast now occupied by a former lumber yard.

Dallke said the lumber yard location wouldn?t meet county needs because the land area is too small. He said the county wants more area for potential expansion of the jail and possible inclusion of court facilities in the future.

He said county commissioners realize the county will be required by the state to replace the aging current jail sometime in the near future. They want room also to stay in state compliance, he said.

Dallke said he understood that Marion might also like to locate its police department at the corrections center as part of the deal.

Collett said the city might like that, but he was concerned it would jeoparadize the success of the bond election if voters in other communities had the idea they were also building the City of Marion a new police facility.

There were several suggestions from council members and Sheriff Lee Becker that they might work out leasing of space in the sheriff?s office at the site for the police to be there, too.

Mayor Mary Olson said the Harvey County sheriff and Newton police share office space.

Manhole issue

Dallke asked if there was any conflict with the county that could chill cooperation because of destruction of a manhole cover by the construction company that resurfaced Third Street as an extension of the county?s Sunflower Road project.

Mayfield said the company contends the manhole cover wasn?t marked as it should have been, but his investigation tends to support that it was marked. He said that wasn?t the county?s problem, but was between the city and the company.

Mayfield said the company involved should pay for the $700 repair to the manhole cover, but if it doesn?t, the city has to. He said the city could then bar the company from doing work in the city again.

?If they want to lose million-dollar projects over a $700 manhole cover, that?s their choice,? he said.

County recycling

Dallke also asked the council to put together its thoughts on recycling for the county. He said the commissioners want input from all of the communities of the county before proceeding with a recycling program.

Holub said recycling is needed to hold down the cost of the county solid waste disposal program.

He said it is an opportune time to move in that direction because of environmental consciousness and because recyclables are gaining demand.

Holub said one of the higher volume recyclables, cardboard, now brings about $150 a ton at its end destination. That won?t make a county program profitable, he said, but it can help hold down total costs.

School improvements

USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker updated the council on construction of improvements. He asked for city consideration of financing items on the new swimming pool that it shares with the schools on items to benefit the city that he isn?t free to spend school funds on.

He also asked for city sharing on expenses for added equipment that will end up saving on operational costs.

Concerning the benefit items that Leiker said would be at city expense, he included a graduated zero to 18 inches deep ?baby pool? or wading pool that would be outdoors and separate from the indoor swimming pool that goes to 12 feet deep.

He said the city could also consider spray features for recreation in the same area that would cost an estimated $50,000.

On the shared items, Leiker said the school would like to install an iron guard purification system that costs $10,000 a year to operate compared to the $14,000 worth of chlorine otherwise needed, the difference paying for the system in a year.

Leiker said the iron guard is an ionization system that puts copper and silver with positive charges into the water which attracts the bacteria and algae which have negative charges, penetrates their cell membranes, and kills them. The dead cells are removed as the water recycles, he said.

In answer to a question from Holdeman, Leiker said the iron guard system also removes lotions too.

Leiker said the ionization system reduces chlorine use 80 to 90 percent, gets rid of chlorine odor in the water and area, is more gentle on the skin and is less corrosive.

Another item the school would like to share with the city, he said, would be a $30,000 solar heating system mounted on the indoor pool?s roof, which would save an estimated $7,400 in natural gas annually, therefore paying for itself in four years. When it becomes too cold, Leiker said, the natural gas would come on to share in heating the water.

Leiker said the city already is expected to share in about $47,400 annual cost for utilities, including water and chemicals at the pool.

He reviewed many cutbacks the school made in its new music and sports facilities while still retaining quality.

Other business

The council approved a contract with Crossroads Wireless that will give the city $500 monthly payments from the company in return for allowing the company?s transmission equipment to be mounted on the city water tower.

Carol Kooken, Crossroads representative, said the company is owned by rural telephone companies, originally in Oklahoma, and is designed to give voice and signal communication in areas where the services normally haven?t been available. She said that Tri-County Telephone out of Council Grove, which services northern Marion County, is a local owner.

Councilor Gene Winkler was concerned that coverage by Crossroads might not be sufficient when Kooken said transmission distance from the Marion tower would only be up to seven miles depending on obstructions.

But Kooken said engineers for Crossroads have a grid system with equipment on many tall structures?from water towers to radio towers?to insure adequate coverage. She said that if the Marion water tower hadn?t been in that plan, she wouldn?t have been here to talk to the city.

Casey Case told the council that support is building in the city for hosting the 2008 Cal Ripken Babe Ruth tournament for baseball state champion teams from seven states in July. He said it is the biggest baseball event that Marion has ever had scheduled to host.

As an example of that support, he said Brad Seacat of Seacat Hardware along with other tournament and rec supporters, looked at the need for a new enclosed press box for the baseball fields last week. He said Seacat ended up volunteering to provide materials and labor with other volunteers in building a new press box.

Case said bidders are being sought for new restrooms so the Council can consider building them before the tournament.

He also commended shop teacher Roger Schwab and his class at the high school for drawing alternative options for the restrooms.

Jamie Williams, economic development director, said a letter from the governor?s office was received notifying the city of the approval of its CDBG grant for street improvements on Eisenhower and North Cedar. She said application was for $400,000, but the governor?s letter didn?t include the amount approved.

Margo Yates said plans for Chingawassa Days in June are proceeding with announcement of a lead classical rock band for the event expected soon.

The council voted 5-0 for Police Chief Josh Whitwell to purchase two new Chevrolet Impalas at $17,887 each under the Highway Patrol Partners Program after he illustrated that buying two new cars every four years saved money over buying a used highway patrol car annually.

Bud Hannaford, Forrest Smith and Rosse Case were approved for three-year reappointments to the cemetery board.

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