Commission votes to close county road

At its Feb. 24 meeting, the Marion County Commission held a public hearing to close or vacate a section of 360th Road between Bison and Chisholm Trail. Landowner Dale Koop made the request and collected signatures of other affected landowners who supported the closure. This portion of road is a minimum maintenance road that gets graded twice a year. Koop said by closing the road, he wants to expand irrigation to his adjacent land as well as keep nuisance drivers away from his fields.

“A couple years ago we had some unwanted traffic out there, but since then I put in a pivot and if we close the road I can add some more sections onto it and irrigate some more acres,” Koop said.

After nearly an hour of discourse between commissioners, landowners and road and bridge director Brice Goebel, commissioner Kent Becker made the motion to vacate the road with a “perpetual easement” contingency that needed further review by county counselor, Brad Jantz. The motion passed 3-2, with Randy Dallke and Dianne Novak casting dissenting votes. This motion was later overturned during Jantz’s scheduled agenda slot when he said that a vacated road could not have contingencies. With vacating a road, the county simply relinquishes its right to the property.

Jantz said the county could instead close the road, but then work with Koop to establish provisions that would allow his irrigation system to expand across the closed road without actually vacating the property.

With this information, Becker then moved to close the road, allowing the county to continue as the owner of the road, but also allowing for provisions for Koop to expand his irrigation system. In this motion, it was requested that Koop pay for gates to close the road. Becker’s second motion carried 3-2, with Dallke and Novak in dissention.

With the approved closure, Jantz said he will work with Koop to determine provisions and a resolution will be presented mid-March for commission approval.

County Clean-up Options

The commission discussed two separate issues, both regarding county clean-up options.

First, commission chair Jonah Gehring said he would like to see a re-implementation of a countywide program to help residents with the costs of disposing of construction and demolition waste, not including cement or asphalt. County Clerk Tina Goering was asked to prepare a resolution, updating the former program policies for review at a future meeting.

Second, Toby Kuhn, environmental compliance/regulatory specialist for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, was on hand to discuss a program that assists Kansas residents with the clean-up of illegal dumping on their properties. Illegal dumping is an accumulation of unlawful waste that violates state statutes. With this program, KDHE is invited at the request of local governments to a cost-share, 75 percent from KDHE and 25 percent from local governments, to clean up properties with illegal solid waste. The amount issued from KDHE is not to exceed $10,000 per property.

Kuhn said he was asked by the city of Lost Springs to help on three projects and he was also asked to meet with the city of Florence. Kuhn would like the county to take over for the cities, which don’t necessarily have the budgets to complete the scope of the individual projects. IIf the county chooses not to partner with the KDHE program, it will still be responsible for getting residents to comply with the state’s dumping statutes.

The commissioners were favorable to working with Kuhn and the illegal dumping program, but will have Jantz first look over the conditions before committing to the project.

In other business the commission:

  • heard from Marion County resident Linda Peters regarding Marion County roads and a perceived lack of communication between the county and landowners. Peters requested, and was given, 10 minutes on the agenda where she read a letter she had prepared on the subject.
  • heard from Gehring that a five-year plan for county road maintenance will be revealed in March.
  • listened to Bruce Shultz, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, explain different options the commission could implement with the county’s health insurance renewal in May.
  • discussed with Jantz whether the commission could have a regular slot on the agenda for “general comments” by the commission. Jantz said this is a possibility.
  • was advised by Jantz to post a policy for public comments at the meetings, as some public comments cross lines when it comes to evaluation of county personnel. “None of our employees should be allowed to be degraded in front of the general public,” Jantz said. “There’s an expectation of privacy that is still maintained on those kinds of instances.