Commission discusses roads and votes to suspend recycling

At its Jan. 27 meeting, the Marion County Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve a resolution to form an extension district with Dickinson County. This vote came after a presentation from Marion County extension agent Rickey Roberts, who was accompanied by a group including Becky Chase, Dickinson County extension board chair, and Chis Onstad, Northeast Regional Director with Kansas State University.

“We’re trying to build something that we can sustain what we have and the work that we’re doing,” Roberts said.

Onstad said he was a strong advocate for districts because they can provide more in-depth services. He said that after the establishment of a district, local boards continue to play a critical role and agent retention is improved.

“K-State is a very strong advocate for the districts because of the specialization and the increase in capacity of the agency,” Onstad said.

Addressing a concern about a mill levy increases, Roberts explained that mill levy caps can be written into the operational agreement with Dickinson County. Data was also presented showing that some districts have actually experienced a decreased mill levy over time.

According to Chase, Dickinson County “feels good” about moving forward with the combined district and that the two counties already have a strong working relationship.

“We’ve had that trial with Marion County to have agents help us,” Chase said. “We feel like it’s the best thing. That working relationship is there.”

Novak presents road proposal

Commissioner Dianne Novak presented information she gathered regarding roads in Marion County. The information she shared with the commission included reports from Norm Bowers, engineer for Kansas Association of Counties, e-mails from other Kansas counties regarding rock purchased from Harshman Quarry, the results of 17 recent rock tests at Harshman Quarry—of which, Novak said, “11 of them failed flat”—recent negative commentary on Facebook about county roads, rock pricing at Nelson Quarry and a comparison of trucking costs.

“The reason I’m doing this is because, of course, our roads have been the big topic of discussion for a long time,” Novak said. “Whether we want to admit it or not, we have a very large problem with our roads, and that problem goes to different entities, different portions. It’s not just one thing.”

Novak reported that by switching to Nelson Quarry, rock pricing for the county could approximately be cut in half. She also recommended opening bids for trucking companies, citing the average load per ton per mile hauled is about $4 and the county currently pays $5.20 on long hauls.

“I think we need to take this a lot more seriously than what we have because our roads are really bad and it’s really sad, and we can do something about it,” Novak said. “We have resources that we could step up to the plate as a commission and say the buck stops here and we can start doing something different.”

While no official action was taken on Novak’s recommendation to try Nelson’s Quarry or change trucking companies, Jonah Goering, commission chair, suggested the information Novak presented be sent to Marion County road and bridge engineer, Brice Goebel for his review. Goebel will be placed on the agenda at an upcoming meeting to further discuss quarry and trucking options.

County recycling temporarily suspended

The commission voted 5-0 to retract county recycling bins after Feb. 10. Even though the commission stated they remain in favor of the countywide recycling program, there are currently two factors at play in the decision to temporarily suspend county recycling: 1. Currently, Ft. Riley is not accepting recycling, therefore the county does not have a place to dump; 2. With the upcoming build of the new county transfer station, local storage for recycling will also be unavailable. It will be left to the discretion of cities currently operating a curbside recycling program as to whether those individual programs continue or are also temporarily suspended.

Commission discusses letter from Hillsboro city administrator

Larry Paine, Hillsboro city administrator submitted an official letter detailing strategic plans for the city council’s vision for a new public safety building in Hillsboro, per Novak’s request. The letter included plans to reduce current bond debt, develop a planning committee in 2023 or 2024, with project specifics presented to the city council in 2024 or 2025.

In the letter, Paine stated: “Please recognize that this correspondence cannot be something that binds a future council any more than you can commit to the project. At least from our point of view following our strategic planning process, this project is one of the strategic priorities they identified last week. That is the strongest commitment we can make at this time.”

Novak challenged Paine, who was present, saying the letter did not give her any more information than what was presented at the last commission meeting.

“You’re asking us to wait five years,” Novak said to Paine. “What are we going to get in exchange for that? What if something doesn’t happen in those five years?

“Right now we have a building that we can afford. We have a plan in place. We have employees that are entitled to and deserve a better working facility. Honestly, I think the location myself is perfectly fine. I like our plan.”

Commissioner Randy Dallke also raised concerns about waiting five years to move forward with a plan that has yet to be put in motion.

“If this was the last building standing empty (in Hillsboro), I wouldn’t do this,” Dallke said. “Personally I see four different buildings over there of pretty good size, and I don’t think we’re stealing anything or taking anything.”

After questions were raised by Gehring about the property in question, the commission met for an executive session regarding the real estate acquisition in Hillsboro. No action was taken. Travis Parmley, Marion County EMS director will bring more information on different options to the Friday, Jan. 31, payday meeting.

In other business the commission:

  • voted 5-0 to approve the attendance of both Dallke and Gehring at upcoming transfer station construction meetings.
  • voted 5-0 to approve commission board appointments for 2020.
  • heard a quarterly update from Diedre Serene, health department administrator.
  • voted 4-0, with Dallke absent at the time of vote, to approve the emergency preparedness position as written.
  • voted 4-0, with Dallke absent at the time of vote and Dave Crofoot abstaining as a club member, to approve a bi-annual license for the Marion County Country Club with a fee to remain at $100 per year; the state of Kansas mandated the switch to bi-annual licensing.
  • voted 4-0, with Dallke absent at the time of vote, to approve grants for Kansas Legal Services, Families and Communities Together and the Marion County Food Bank.
  • voted 4-0, with Dallke absent at the time of the vote, to table grant approval for Safe Hope and Restoration Center, citing the desire to have more information from both of these organizations.
  • voted 4-0, with Dallke absent at the time of the vote, to approve Epp’s Service from Elbing as the low bid on three fuel bids.