Commission considers mask mandate

The Marion County Board of Commissioners met for their regular, weekly meeting on Monday, April 5 to discuss if they would continue a mask mandate.

“The county was previously under the Governor’s mandate established through Executive Order 20-68 which expired on March 31. The Governor reissued a new Executive Order 21-14 which was overturned by the Legislative Committee. Therefore, unless Marion County adopts our own mandate, we are not under a mandate,” said County Clerk Tina Spencer.

Marion County Health Administrator Diedre Serene had a video for the commissioners to watch regarding the importance of wearing a mask at the beginning of the conversation.

Commissioner Jonah Gehring pointed out that the CDC has announced that it is very unlikely that those who have been vaccinated can pass on COVID-19 to others (after a two week time period). He asked that if there is a mandate, that people who have been vaccinated be excluded from any mandate.

“I’m not saying that I am for the mandate, but if we have one, we can put stipulations on it,” said Gehring.

Commissioner Kent Becker read a piece against mask use in order to make a case for not having a mask mandate.

Commissioner Randy Dallke shared that he was called by his company’s human resources last week about someone at his company having COVID-19. He said that they began by telling him that he needed to quarantine until he said he was vaccinated. At that point, they told him he was fine and didn’t need to worry.

“I would like to suggest that if you don’t mandate it that you at least strongly suggest people still wear them. You are talking about people who have done vaccinations, but there are many who haven’t. We also have to keep in mind that people do not always live in the county they socialize and work in so it’s really hard to know for sure works or doesn’t work, but it is a small thing we can do to slow the spread,” said Serene.

Serene also asked that the commissioners encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

The Board did not take action to adopt a mandate, but they asked that people continue to be wise and wear masks when necessary as well as take advantage of the vaccinations that are available.

Serene also gave the COVID-19 update that there are currently three active cases and zero hospitalizations.

“Marion County is in the green. The 14-day positivity rate for the period of March 14-27 is 4.5%.,” said Serene.

Serene gave updates on the vaccinations available this week. You can find the schedule in this week’s FP issue.

“The online scheduler is connected to our electronic health system.This allows individuals the capability to schedule online. For those who cannot register online, they can always call the health department and we will schedule it for them. The schedules are on our facebook page and the county website,” said Serene.

Park and Lake

Isaac Hett, Superintendent of Park and Lake Department, asked the commissioners for permission to change the rules at the lake so that visitors to the lake can swim within 15 feet of the docks as long as they are wearing life jackets. The commissioners approved this.

Byron Lange brought a proposal for a Marion County Lake Bait Shop and Store. Lange and the commissioners spoke about the need for something local for visitors to be able to grab more fishing supplies and snacks.

The proposal suggested a budget of $15,000 for stocking inventory, buying/upgrading necessary equipment, hiring part-time help, etc. The store would stock basic grocery items, live and packaged bait, fishing tackle, ice, drinks, candy, chips, basic camping/boating/swimming supplies, propane, charcoal, firewood and more. The proposal also suggested the store be managed by Lake Superintendent Isaac Hett.

“One thing I would like to see is the store using local businesses as much as possible,” said Gehring. “I’m not looking at it like a discount store but a bait store. I know it’s going to cost more than other places, but it will keep business in the county.

The commissioners, Hett and Lange discussed the proposal further. No decisions were made.

Road and Bridge

County Engineer, Brice Goebel spoke with the commissioners about pressing projects that need attention.

He explained that he has until Friday to make a decision regarding several projects around the county that need to be taken care of. Goebel wants to submit them to a state grant program that will assist the county in the cost of repairs.

There are two main projects that seem to be of most concern. The first is 190th and the second is on Indigo, south of Hillsboro. Both roads have sections where water pools as well as other issues.

Goebel suggested doing an overlay of a few inches which could give another 8-10 years of use on the road. He also stated that the department could do patch and chip sealing although it would not be as effective of a move.

Another project deemed not as much of a priority is on 290th and Nighthawk where a bridge exists that is too narrow and one of the rails is gone.

“I can go with any of the options. Objectively all of them need something but it all costs. I need you to decide what is priority,” said Goebel.

Commissioner Dave Mueller said it makes the most sense to do 190th and Indigo since funds can be used through the program to help offset some of the county costs. Mueller also pointed out that both routes have a high amount of traffic making those repairs urgent and important.

The commissioners voted 5-0 to submit for the repairs for the Indigo project. Goebel will move forward on it.

The commissioners held public hearings on two road closings. The first one is at 300th between Diamond and Eagle.

According to the Road and Bridge Department, 1,800 feet of 300th between Diamond and Eagle beginning at Diamond and then east on 300th for 1,800 feet between sections 2-18-1 and 11-18-1 in Moore Township, Marion County need to be closed in order to do repair work on a bridge.

Goebel explained that there were ineffective structures that were there that the county had put up. He explained that it happened before he took over but now the Kansas Department of Agriculture Water Resources has been notified and given notice with a 60-day timeline to leave it —which will result in a large fine—or to fix it. The structures have now removed the structures and need to do repairs to the area.

“We took them out. I then told the commission at the time that in order to put back a structure that would hold that amount of water, we would need to do a study. It would probably cost and take about two years to finish it. Because it was taken off of the bridge list, the county has to pay for the repairs,” said Goebel.

The public had questions regarding other bridges in the area, but Goebel explained that this was the only project that the federal government needed fixed because of the Cottonwood River and the resource that it is.

Resident Betty Wiebe made a public comment that the county needed to follow due process and have time for a hearing.

Spencer explained that barriers were put up for a temporary closure at the time the danger became evident. Regulations were followed for the hearing at the meeting for the suggested closure.

Becker mentioned that many of the public who were present to speak at the hearing were his neighbors and friends and his heart goes out to them. He stated that it was the county’s fault and it has caused hardship on the landowners.

Cheryl Bartel who owns property that is directly impacted by the road closure pointed out that her family is very frustrated as it has been a lot to deal with and that the Bartel family has been on their property for six generations. She stated that she didn’t have a chance to add up how much they have paid in taxes for all of those years but the amount is substantial considering all of the issues they have faced.

The commissioners voted 4-1 for closing the road in order to fix it. Becker voted against.

Mueller pointed out that it is a closure rather than a vacation mentioning that there is a huge difference between the two.

The second hearing was for 310th between Bison and Chisholm—1,400 feet of 310th between Bison and Chisholm beginning 1,225 feet west of Chisholm and continuing west for a distance of 1,400 feet between section 33-17-1 (Logan Township) and section 4-18-1 (Moore Township), Marion County. The reasons for the road closure and repair works are the same as the other road closure minus one change. This closure will still allow some access through for landowners impacted by the closure.

A resident who attended the meeting asked about adding gates for closures and expressed his concern that the road is not marked correctly to give warning of hazards ahead. The resident stated that he fears that someone will drive off into water and be harmed. Goebel and the commissioners discussed marking it more clearly and possibly changing the closures to include more area. Someone from the public brought up concrete barriers, but Goebel stated that they are not allowed to use those.

The road closure passed 5-0.

In other business, the board:

n proclaimed the week of April 11-17 as National 911 Telecommunicator Week for Marion County. It is already nationally recognized

n met in executive session for personnel matters. No action was taken.