Roads, lake generate feedback

The featured concert by Charlie Daniels Band was a highlight of the Chingawassa Days festival the first weekend of June.
The featured concert by Charlie Daniels Band was a highlight of the Chingawassa Days festival the first weekend of June.
Competing for attention in 2017 was determining a road for economic growth in Marion County through a new representative organization, and the best way to maintain the more than 1,600 miles of drivable roads within the county.

JANUARY

About 12 citizens attended the Marion County Board of Commissioners meeting with some specifically asking Lori Lalouette, First District commissioner, to resign immediately or face a recall petition. Jim Hefley and Kevin Suderman, both of Hillsboro, said they are heading a recall committee to remove Lalouette from office.

The Marion City Council voted unanimously to sign a 40-year contract with the Kansas Power Pool, a municipal energy agency with 24 member-owner cities.

Fire destroyed a rural Marion County home about 10 miles south of Hillsboro Jan. 10. No one was hurt in the blaze. The 4-year-old home is owned by Eric and Clarissa Dutton.

County Commissioner Lori Lalouette submitted her resignation Jan. 23, effective March 20. “I acknowledge that my competing priorities and illness have affected my attendance and availability to my constituents,” she said.

Marion County commissioners heard from Sheriff Rob Craft about the 800 MHz system.

EMS Director Ed Debesis talked about the possibility of a new building during Jan. 17 meeting.

Craft asked when a meeting could be coordinated between the county, cities and other agencies regarding a transition to 800 MHz radios.

FEBRUARY

Marion County commissioners unanimously approved an eco­n­omic development plan presented by its appointed task force with a fund­ing commit­ment of $163,000 for five years. Commission Chair Randy Dallke said some sort of funding would be in place for this year, but it might not be the full amount since no money was budgeted in 2017 for this plan.

Marion County was a big winner in the historical preservation “grant lottery” with the announcement that two local entities had been selected for Heri­tage Trust Fund money in the coming year. The Historic Elgin Hotel in Marion was one of only two applicants to receive the maximum grant amount of $90,000. The Pioneer Adobe House in Hillsboro will be receiving a $69,340 award.

State budget shortfalls, expand­ing Medicaid and potential cuts to schools were among the themes that surfaced during the annual Cham­ber of Commerce coffee with Rep. Don Schroeder Saturday at Hillsboro City Hall. Schroeder represents District 74 in the Kansas House, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County, including Hillsboro.

Kent Becker of rural Durham will replace Lori Lalouette, who resigned as 1st District commissioner March 20 following a county Republican gathering at the Scout House in Hillsboro Feb. 16. About 25 visitors witnessed the procedure.

Marion County commissioners heard a request from the Fire Chiefs Association asking for a clearer burn-ban resolution.

Commissioners unanimously approved supporting the county-wide Marion County Community Economic Develop­ment Corp., and appropriated a five-year annual budget of $165,000 for the fiscal years of 2018 through 2022.

MARCH

Two armed men wearing ski masks entered a home in Goessel between 11 a.m. and noon March 12. Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft said the homeowners called 911 when they returned home from church at about 12:20 p.m. They found their 19-year-old daughter bound in the bathroom. No one was hurt in the incident.

Kansas Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen of Topeka was in Florence to witness the unveiling of a new extractor machine able to “wash away” dangerous chemicals and biohazards from protective gear.

County commissioners unanimously agreed to amend the 2014 resolution from 12 hours to four hours when calling dispatch for permission to initiate a controlled burn. In addition to changing the hours, commissioners agreed to go over the latest proposal at a town meeting prior to next year’s burn season.

The concept of a regional water system emerged in Marion County with six different projects being considered once an interlocal agreement is executed by Hillsboro, Marion and Marion County officials.

County commissioners thanked Gerry Hen­derson, director of the Resource Center and Food Bank, and the center board for what they do to help families in the county.

Marion City Council passed a resolution by a vote of 3-1-1 supporting the establishment of a Marion Coun­ty administrator at its March 27 meeting. Coun­cilor Jerry Kline cast a dissenting vote, and Councilor Melissa Mermis was absent.

About 15 people, most Marion County Lake residents, attended a commission meeting to talk about problems associated with too many rules and the need for cleanup efforts. Lake superintendent Steve Hud­son attended the meeting and explained why certain actions were taken.

APRIL

County commissioners voted unanimously April 10 to change the county’s insurance carrier from Blue Cross Blue Shield to United Health Care, but also to raise premiums. A special meeting was called April 12 to rescind that decision in favor of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s counter offer.

Having celebrated Circles Marion County’s fifth graduation, coordinator Mark Rogers summed up the local impact of the program in two words: It works. “We have data showing that we are making a difference,” he said.

County commissioners struck a $175,000 deal with Galen Unruh, owner of Auto House on Commercial Drive in Marion, during its April 24 meeting. The purchase means Marion County EMS will soon have a new home.

MAY

County com­missioners listened to an unhappy group of county lake residents at its meeting. About 20 Marion County Park and Lake residents wanted the commissioners to consider a more proactive approach and changes in policy.

Work on 190th Road finally started on the South Cotton­wood bridge project. Larry Cushenberry with the Road and Bridge department will be removing the old concrete and other materials, and replacing it with riprap or large boulders of rock.,The road was closed Sept. 1, 2016; repairs were projected to be completed by July 1, barring rain delays.

County commissioners discussed the structural integrity of the floor at the trans­fer station at 320 W. Santa Fe, Marion. Bud Druse, director of the facility, said the floor needs replacing and the roof is leaking. The cost to repair the floor, he said, would be about $278,000.

Marion City Council approve a five-year $44,500 commitment to the Marion County Community Economic Development Corp. May 8. For the remainder of 2017, the council agreed to give the corporation interim funding of $7,500 to get them started.

After investing nearly $150,000 for improvements, the Peabody Township Library Board invited the public to see how well the 143-year-old library is positioning itself for current and future generations. Rodger Charles, library director, said the projects have made a noticeable impact already.

JUNE

With an estimated turn­out of 2,000 fans for the Charlie Daniels Band concert on Saturday night, organizers of this year’s Chingawassa Days called the weekend festival a significant success. The Daniels turnout was one of the largest for the Saturday featured concert.

Officials at the U.S. Corps of Engineers office at Marion Reservoir said they won’t know until for a few days whether the toxity level of its harmful blue-green algae bloom will decrease enough to allow them to open the lake waters to recreation. Kevin McCoy, assistant lake manager with the Corps of Engineers, said this bloom was unusually toxic.

After more than 10 years as the Marion County Park and Lake superintendent, Steve Hudson tendered his resignation June 5. Hudson said his last day would be June 19.

After a 25-year absence, the Marion County Histori­cal Society had a reorganizational meeting June 20 at the Harvey House in Florence. Peggy Blackman, MCHS president, said the agenda included a final review of the constitution and by-laws, setting membership guidelines and fees and electing directors.

County commissioner learned June 19 about the resignation of Chris Her­nan­dez as chair of MCCEDC. Russell Groves of Hills­boro agreed to fill the vacancy.

Marion City Council reviewed debt service as part of its budget meeting. City Administrator Roger Holter said the debt carried for 2017 was about $550,000; of that, obligation bonds accounted for $450,000 and the rest was Kansas Power Pool debt, which should be retired in 2024. The final debt service payment on obligation bonds would be $57,200 in 2040.

Robb Stewart, 50, was shot and killed at his home in Lehigh after pointing a gun toward a law enforcement officer June 20. Marion County Sheriff Robert Craft said a 9-1-1 call was received at 6:10 p.m. from Stewart threatening to take his life.

JULY

County commissioners addressed the concern that heavy traffic was raising a lot of dust for residents living along one county road. Commissioner Diane Novak said 50 to 70 trucks per day are driving along 220th Street from U.S. Highway 77 to transport quarry rocks to a construction site. Jesse Hamm, Road and Bridges superintendent, expressed surprise because he said he had been told seven to eight trucks would be traveling on the gravel road.

Marion City Council moved ahead on a federal grant application for $1.177 million for a local water-line project.

County commissioners addressed ongoing concerns about county roads. County residents Linda Peters and Max Hayden, former county appraiser, asked the commissioners create a “fact-finding” committee on roads. Peters said the committee’s role to gather information can help decide priorities for maintaining the roads.

Following a 90-minute discussion with city engineer Brian Foster, the Goessel City Council decided July 16 to upgrade the city sewer system. The city receives revenue from the 239 sewer users, and the rate they pay will need to increase in order to qualify for a grant and loan.

After a 45-minute discussion about Windborne Energy’s con­ditional-use per­mit, county commissioners directed the county counselor to check case law on CUPs with no expiration date. The issue of the open- ended CUP was concerning to some landowners affected in the south central part of the county.

AUGUST

Goessel’s three-day festival, sponsored by the Wheat Heritage Engine and Thresh­ing Co. and the Men­no­nite Heritage & Agricultural Museum, offered activities from ethnic food, fun for kids and even a ventriloquist program, but the 100-plus antique engines and tractors, large and small, attracted sizable crowds over the Aug. 4-6 weekend.

County Commissioner Dianne Novak asked fellow commissioners Kent Becker and Randy Dallke to review spreadsheets she compiled using 2018 budget numbers compared with other counties. “If I were a business wanting to expand into another county, I would think Marion would be one of the last ones I would consider,” Novak said.

Two new employees started work at the Marion County K-State Research and Extension office in Marion. Tristen Cope, 24, was hired June 4 as the new family and consumer sciences agent, succeeding Renee Riedy. Jana Miller, 31, is the new office manager at the Extension office.

Business owners, school officials and a few residents in Goessel, Hillsboro and rural Marion County woke up Friday morning to find vandals went on an over­night spree damaging public and private property. Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft said there seemed to be “no rhyme or reason” to the places targeted. At least four individuals, age 15 to 19 years, were formally charged within a week.

SEPTEMBER

County commissioners continued discussing the pros and cons of having a full-time IT person on site as opposed to calling only when problems arise or new equipment is installed. Lloyd Davies, owner of Great Plains Computer & Networking in Marion, has been servicing various systems and departments.

County commissioners heard from Lester Kaiser, District 5 fire chief, who questioned why money can’t be used on the new 800 MHz radios needed by emergency responders.“I have got people screaming because we are having to scrimp and save (for the radios),” he said. “And some of my people have asked if the ($16 million in cash reserves) is already earmarked, why isn’t there a list of what it’s for?”

Doug Kjellin of rural Marion wanted to know more about artifacts he collected at the family farm, and to his surprise, one of the pieces was estimated to be 9,000 to 10,000 years old. Paul Johnson, with Mud Creek Chapter of the Kansas Anthropological Association at McPherson, said Kjellin’s Dalton spear point was an incredibly rare find.

Hundreds of people attended the 106th annual Old Settlers Day parade the fourth Saturday of the month with the theme: “Moving Forward Together to the Next Century of Progress.”

The Goessel City Council adopted new water and sewer rates at its Sept. 18 meeting. The council had been informed the city’s rates are too low. Raising the rates would enable the city to qualify for state funding a proposed sewer project.

OCTOBER

County commissioners could soon be looking at wind turbines going up in the northern third of the county when Tradewind Energy starts building them. Known as the Diamond Vista Wind Project, multiple landowners were invited to a public hearing to consider a conditional-use permit hearing Oct. 26. The number of wind turbines is estimated to be 150.

Dorothy Winkler retired after 55 years with the Marion County Research and Extension office. “To my knowledge, Doris would be the longest tenured employee in all of K-State Research and Extention,” said Rickey Roberts, Extension agent.

The Senior Citizens of Marion County highlighted the careers of nine retired nurses during its 57th annual meeting Oct. 19. Each honoree was nominated by friends, neighbors and family: Virgina Ham­mond, Margaret Tice, Lavonne Hanna­ford, Rhonda Brenzi­kofer, Sue Clough, Mary Ann Conyers, Eleanor Herbel, Jeanne Rziha and Carol Smith. The featured speaker at the meeting was Sally Andrews, a registered nurse at St. Luke Hospital in Marion. The meeting drew about 90 people.

The Goessel City Council discussed the empty lots in the Harvest Meadows addition. Currently, one lot has a house and 13 lots are empty. Russell and Jean Groves said they are interested in purchasing four of the empty lots.

Marion City Council established a land bank with the adoption of Ordinance 1424 Oct. 23. City Admini­strator Roger Holter said a land bank is a separate entity focused on converting vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent properties into productive use.

NOVEMBER

Marion County voters experience their first November local election Nov. 7. The Kansas Legislature changed the timing of local elections from April to November, with the goal of increasing voter turnout.

One question on every Marion County ballot was a yes-no vote on whether the county should create the position of county administrator. The result was 962 in favor, 1,192 opposed.

Supporters and staff of the Florence Public Library reconnected with the town’s Holly­wood past to raise funds. The Florence Public Library Board of Trustees and John McKay Post No. 308 of the American Legion hosted “Dinner and Movie Night” at the American Legion Nov. 12.

Organizers of this year’s Marion County Health Fair were pleased with the positive reception the event received. Thirty health-related organizations and providers stationed themselves in the USD 408 Sports and Aquatic Center, offering information and giveaways. About 166 people came to the fair, according to Jessica Gilbert, event organizer for the Marion County Health Department. The other two sponsors were St. Luke Hos­pital in Marion and Hills­boro Community Hospital.

Spectators at this year’s 24th annual Marion County Toy Run saw 148 motorcycles and 16 classic cars the first Saturday of November rumbling down the main streets of Hillsboro and Marion with Christmas toys accompanying the riders. Tom Koslowsky, treasurer of the Toy Run consortium, said donations could be less than in previous years.

County commissioners moved their meeting to the courtroom when about 30 people arrived to attend a discussion regarding wind turbines. After nearly 40 minutes of questions and comments, Commission Chair Randy Dallke and Commissioner Kent Becker voted to approve a conditional-use permit recommended by the Planning and Zoning department.

DECEMBER

The planning committee for Chingawassa Days 2018 announced that Montgom­ery Gentry will be the headline act in June. Clayton Garnica, committee chair, said their board believes this show will be one of the biggest in Marion to date.

Linda Peters, chairperson of a fact-finding road committee, provided recommendations to county commissioners Dec. 18. “We identified the two main concerns throughout the county, which are communication and road maintenance,” she said.