Becker sworn in for first commission meeting

Students from Ginger Becker’s first-grade class at Marion Elementary School swarm around Judge Michael Powers (standing, left) and Kent Becker, after watching their teacher’s husband be sworn in as the new county commissioner for District 1 prior to Monday’s meeting. He succeeds Lori Lalouette, who resigned.
Students from Ginger Becker’s first-grade class at Marion Elementary School swarm around Judge Michael Powers (standing, left) and Kent Becker, after watching their teacher’s husband be sworn in as the new county commissioner for District 1 prior to Monday’s meeting. He succeeds Lori Lalouette, who resigned.
The Marion County Commission welcomed Kent Becker as the new First District commissioner Monday at a reception and swearing-in ceremony prior to the regular meeting.

In addition to meeting Marion County extension agents Ricky Roberts and Renae Riedy, Becker also tackled issues involving demolition of the Florence school, roads and future concerns with EMS.

Commission Chair Randy Dallke said the old school building in Florence continues to be a danger to that community. He said demolition of the building is on a list of projects that need to move forward.

After being denied a South Central Kansas Economic Development District grant last year because of timing, the commission voted unanimously to come up with a proposal for the demolition of the Florence school.

Bids would be accepted until April 21.

“It would be a good idea to get a ballpark figure on costs,” Becker said.

Road and Bridge Superintendent Jesse Hamm provided bids for signage on a section of county roads, culverts and bridges.

Commissioners accepted 3-0 the low bid of $22,167 submitted by D-C Wholesale. National Sign’s bid was $27,066.

When Becker asked about the signs, Hamm said they were either missing or destroyed.

Jon Halbgewachs, transportation engineer with Kirkham Michael in Ells­worth, spoke with commissioners about 330th Road from Kansas Highway 15 to the Marion County line.

Hamm said he has asked for bids from engineering firms to consider what needs to be done in order to fix 330th Road.

“We have had so many different opinions on what is wrong with the road,” he said. “As far as contractors are concerned, (the road) is an easy fix, but engineers say it’s not.”

Becker said the county can’t continue to blacktop a road when in two years the road needs more repairs.

Dallke said he didn’t want to see the bids received for the project until all bids were submitted.

Halbgewachs introduced himself to Novak and Becker and then explained that more aggressive action is needed on 330th Road.

“A new process has been developed with core samples being analyzed in a lab,” he said. “After analyzing the samples, we can come up with a mix to stabilize (the road).”

The commissioners plan to further discuss the road at the March 31 meeting.

EMS Director Ed Debesis, who recently returned to work after surgery, said he will remain on “light duty” possibly for a couple more weeks.

Debesis also talked about the ambulance service situation in Hillsboro and how he hasn’t hired anyone to fill the void as of yet.

“The almost two weeks I was out hurt us,” he said about interviewing paramedics for Hillsboro.

Debesis said once he lines up interviews, it shouldn’t be long before he gets two paramedics onboard.

Becker asked about housing EMS personnel in Hillsboro and Marion.

“Hillsboro is worked out,” he said, “but we need to do something (in Marion), just don’t know what.”

One concern regarding housing EMS personnel, Debesis said, involves the distance and response time from the ambulance.

An immediate concern for the current housing is that the air conditioner is in another room from where the EMS personnel are sleeping, Debesis said.

“With summer right around the corner, we need to find something to get us by for a year,” he said. “We also need to be looking at five to 10 years down the road, and what to do for the future.”

Other business

In other business, the county:

n announced a “meet and greet” from 10 a.m. to noon April 8 for Steve Hudson on the occasion of his 10th anniversary as Park and Lake superintendent.

n will hear insurance proposals at its April 3 meeting. Open enrollment is scheduled for April 20.

n will have a bid opening for repairing 190th Street April 6.

n heard from Becker about wanting to speak with the other commissioners about a county administrator position.

n received a written statement from Mike Beneke regarding remarks made by Dianne Novak at the March 20 meeting, and how some of what she said was degrading.