Richards ?under fire? from oil drillers, state about regs

Marion County Environ?mental Health Director Tonya Richards said Monday she doesn?t think she?s ever ?come under fire? as badly as she did last week when she informed oil drillers they need to comply with federal guidelines.

Richards told county commissioners she informed oil drillers that are expanding in flood plain areas by letter that they have to follow Federal Emergency Manage?ment Agency guidelines in regard to setting drilling rigs 8 feet above ground.

The Kansas Corporation Commission ?came down on her? by phone and by letter, she said, and some drillers threatened to cap their wells and bypass Marion County in the oil boom.

?I told them I was just doing my job,? Richards said.

She said she is required to do so under federal guidelines that are expanding with satellite and communication technologies.

Commissioner Dan Holub led the commissioners in telling Richards she only did what regulations require her to do, and ?not to worry about it.?

Holub said he also has been contacted the state and oil companies, expressing the same kind of unhappiness. They are accusing Marion County of unfounded interference when all counties in the state and the country are required to do the same thing.

?Let FEMA and the KCC battle it out,? Holub said. ?FEMA has just added extra steps for everybody. We just do what we?re supposed to.?

Zoning issue

In her other role as planning and zoning director, Richards brought another case before the commissioners. She said a person living along one of the older, narrower streets at Marion County Lake wants to build an addition that would extend too close to the roadway, under existing regulations.

Holub said, ?It?s my opinion that we need either to enforce the rules or change them. I?m thinking that in those old areas we need to change things to allow building 8 to 10 feet from the street. What exists has been going in since the 1950s, and it?s hard to get it changed now.?

Commissioner Randy Dallke said rules prohibit building closer than 20 feet to the street right of way. After years of trying to enforce the rules, he said, if they are changed somebody who is not allowed a permit will say, ?Well, you just don?t like me.?

Other business

The commissioners approved Richards? purchase of a portable computer for $1,445.37 from Great Plains Computers, Marion.

The commissioners liked a plan offered by Mike Hurst, groundskeeper and custodian, that would add three spaces for handicapped car parking at the south end of the courthouse to enable easier wheelchair access. The project would require removal of a smaller tree and a bush.

The commissioners said they also would like to proceed with a plan Hurst presented that would allow Davey Hett, a local contractor, to replace stone walkways at the entrance with new concrete to avoid people tripping. The probable cost would be $3,200 to $3,500.

The commissioners said they also would like to widen the old jail driveway by taking out two parking spaces to do so.

Commissioner Roger Fleming said issuing a county burn ban needs to be more flexible because conditions may change?with a rain at midnight?to make burning feasible on the very same day the commissioners institute a ban.

The commissioners approved having a ban if KWCH-Channel 12 issues a red-flag burning warning if winds in dry weather exceed 20 mph. But they agreed to put a permanent resolution on hold for the time being.

Health Department Administrator Diedre Serene said her department has to oversee the food bank at the request of the Marion Christian Church, which says it has difficulty keeping it staffed.

Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt said a section of floor over a dug-out portion of the transfer station has had to be closed to traffic because of structural weakness.

Ashlee Gann of Families and Communities Together Inc. presented an outline of accounts to the commissioners.

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