County Commissioners continue road discussions

After the lengthiest discussion at its March 2 meeting, commissioner Kent Becker moved that the Marion County Commission vote to maintain a mile and a quarter section of Mustang north of 260th leading to business owner Mike Meisinger’s cattle operation and custom harvesting business. The motion passed 4-1, with commissioner Randy Dallke in opposition.

The vote came after Meisinger commented during public session about the poor quality of road leading to his business, the county’s lack of adherence to a former verbal agreement and his concerns about whether an ambulance could reach his employees if needed.

Meisinger said he had a verbal agreement dating back to 2004 from former road and bridge director, Jim Herzet, that if Meisinger purchased rock for this portion of Mustang, the county would then maintain the road. Meisinger said he spent over a thousand dollars to purchase rock, but the county did not adhere to the agreement. Meisinger said he “is tired of having to run four-wheel drive at 15 miles per hour up and down that road twice a day to get out there to feed cattle.”

Commissioner Randy Dallke said that at some point the policy had changed and that Meisinger’s tax base would not cover road maintenance. Dallke said the policy was changed several years ago because the commission “felt that we could not make that kind of agreement anymore.” Dallke said his no vote was in adherence to the policy change.

Commissioner Dianne Novak said she wanted to support the business of local farmers and ranchers by maintaining roads.

“I guess I have a problem with the whole scenario because this is an agricultural county,” Novak said. “I just think we hinder our agricultural people all the time. We talk about bringing business in, business in, business in. This is business! They’re willing to build the base and then we’re going to haggle about maintaining the road? I think it’s absolutely not the right thing for the county to do.”

Becker said that because Meisinger had a prior verbal agreement with a county employee, the right thing to do would be to honor the commitment, but moving forward, a road maintenance policy regarding county businesses would need to be implemented.

“I think the county committed itself in 2004,” Becker said. “Verbal contracts still hold water in the state of Kansas. Now that doesn’t fix the problem, but it helps [Meisinger] because the county didn’t stand behind their word.”

A work session was scheduled for March 31, to continue discussing this topic as it relates to the county as a whole.

New Equipment for Elections

In preparation for the upcoming election cycle, the commission voted 5-0 to approve a purchase of new equipment upon the request of Tina Spencer, Marion County clerk. The cost of the new equipment will come from Spencer’s department budget.

Five additional “express vote” machines will be purchased at a total cost of $20,380 for use at county polling sites. The new machines will match the technological capabilities of the express votes already owned by the county, so the system will work together. The availability of more touch screen ballots will “make it more efficient for the public when they’re out in the voting place,” Spencer said.

Spencer also requested the purchase of a DS-200 precinct-level scanner at a cost of $5,205. This scanner will especially help speed up the counting of advanced ballots, as well as limit the potential of error, Spencer said. The current machine used to count the advanced ballots has the tendency to miss grabbing ballots, and it can take multiple tries to get the ballots through the machine.

“We have a system in place but there’s potential error if you don’t have the right person running the machine,” Spencer said. “I just don’t want that and this [new equipment] I think would be a great solution for that issue.”

County Clean-Up

Following up on the Feb. 24 discussions on county clean-up issues, the commission took action on two items.

The commission voted 5-0 to enter into a cost-share agreement with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for the clean-up of illegal dumping on three properties owned by Steven and Sharon Williams of Lost Springs. The project totals for each location are $6,500, $5,500 and $5,500. KDHE will pay for 75 percent and the county will pay the remaining 25 percent.

In a separate agenda item, the commission voted 5-0 to adopt a resolution that re-implements a countywide program to help with the cost of construction and demolition waste disposal at a rate of $15 per ton, effective March 2. Resolution 2020-07 allows for reduced rates for the disposal of designated types of waste—no stone, asphalt, brick, concrete, dirt, metals or hazardous materials—for the purpose of reducing blight as well as promoting business development in the county.

In other business the commission:

  • set March 31 as a workday for road and bridge department issues, including road maintenance.
  • approved the use of two grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the road and bridge department that will go toward bank stabilization projects.
  • agreed to survey county employees about county health insurance options before next week’s meeting.
  • voted 5-0 to allow agenda items to be placed on payday meetings as well as adjust the meeting schedule to accommodate payday. If payday falls on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, the regular meeting and payday meeting will be combined; if payday falls on a Thursday or Friday, two meetings will be held, one as a regular commission meeting on Monday and one as a payday meeting.
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