Commission debates five member group

The Marion County Commission debated on the issue of five members as opposed to three members, but this time Marion city officials also attended the Monday, Oct. 22 meeting.

In addition, the commission discussed the 5th annual Marion County Health Fair from 8-11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 3.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt and city administrator Roger Holter provided some options related to dividing the county into five districts, along with what they have been hearing from constituents.

“I think we need to be fair to both sides (of the issue),” Heitschmidt said, “and I think we are putting the cart in front of the horse again (referring to county administrator).”

Heitschmidt said he is not against the idea, but at this point, would probably vote “no” on this proposition.

In one of the options that was presented for dividing up the county, he said the idea of cutting the Marion County Park and Lake out of the city is illogical.

“We already supply the county lake with sewer and water, and not being represented with the city of Marion doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Heitschmidt said the county shouldn’t develop the five districts without a plan, and having other leadership help in the process would be a good thing.

“In one plan (according to a Free Press newspaper article last week) it has Marion as an island, creating a gerrymandering issue,” he said.

Commission chairwoman Dianne Novak said information about the five-member board was too long of a wait, but correcting that wasn’t an impossible task before the election on Nov. 6.

But, she said, having others assist in a special meeting to iron out the details would be a good idea.

Regarding the concern by some taxpayers that the five-member board would cost more money, Novak said she would have no problem giving up 50 percent of her salary or one-third to avoid any expense.

Outlying communities need to be represented, and that’s where the focus should be, too.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said the change needs to be done the right way, but not sure what that right way would be.

County clerk Tina Spen­cer suggested putting out general information, and what would change if the measure passed.

“The commission could also designate whether it would look at divisions or another group,” she said.

In addition, Spencer said that because the commission is so far into it, as the public information officer, she could release facts on the website.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said that after the Free Press article came out, he said two former commissioners said they were concerned about this.

“The public doesn’t know what to vote on,” he said, “and before too many wild stories get out there, my main goal would be in providing better representation.”

Commissioner Kent Becker agreed, saying that another concern he has is getting people to run for office.

Dallke said in Peabody, three of the five council members were elected and the other ones were brought in by the mayor in Peabody.

Becker said: “Trying to get people to fill positions is difficult.”

Novak disagreed citing a recent letter to the editor with one man willing to “step up to the plate” and not ask for a salary.

However, Novak said there is a lot of time involved in the job and compensation is justified.

Heitschmidt said when his father was a commissioner in Ellsworth a five-member commission was defeated because two of the larger cities would not have a majority in the mix.

The problem would have been the dominating vote would come only from agricultural community.

Holter brought maps of the current configuration and what it would look like with the option presented in the Free Press.

In addition, he also included Kansas statutes pertaining to this issue.

In the next two weeks, the commissioners plan to introduce more factual information about the five-member commission concept.

Voting locations Nov. 6

Voting locations in Marion County for the 2018 general election on Nov. 6 include:

◼ in Burns, Burns Community Center, 301 N. Washington.

◼ in Florence, Florence Masonic Center, 421 Main St.

◼ in Goessel, Goessel City Building, 101 S. Cedar.

◼ in Hillsboro, Hillsboro United Methodist Church, 905 East D St.

◼ in Lincolnville, Lincolnville Community Center, 213 W. Sixth St.

◼ in Marion, Eastmoor United Methodist Church, 105 Eastmoor.

◼ in Peabody, Peabody Senior Center, 106 N. Main.

◼ in Tampa, Tampa Senior Center, 100 Main St.

Annual health fair

Serene Diedre, county health department, reminded the commissioners of the health fair and said this year the Hillsboro Community Hospital could sponsor the event.

“Each year the fair rotates between the sponsors—Marion County Health Department, Hillsboro Community Hospital and St. Luke Hospital,” she said.

The fair is made possible through advertising and posters paid for by the group coordinating the event for that year.

Next year, the Diamond Vista Wind Project group agreed to sponsor new advertising banners for the fair.

Using the contribution, according to information in the department’s recent newsletter, “The Pulse,” four 16-foot banners will advertise the event.

Buying van tabled

Gay­la Ratzlaff, Department on Aging, on behalf of the Senior Citizens of Marion County transportation committee, requested a meeting to gain approval to purchase a van for its transportation program.

The program is for people over 60, and living in the county, who need transportation for any kind of appointment.

The vans are available to senior citizens, groups for trips to recreational events, sightseeing, shopping and going to restaurants, according to information on the department’s website.

After getting four bids at three different dealerships, Ratzlaff said the committee received bids from Kansas Truck Mobility, Jay Hatfield Mobility and Hillsboro Ford.

The recommendation was to go with Jay Hatfield Mobility, Wichita, on a used (rental) 2018 Dodge Caravan with Braun conversion for $43,400, plus $303 fee for a total of $43,703.

This included a $4,000 trade allowance for the older van, she said, which is a 1998 Dodge Caravan SE, used by the department at this time, and that runs “fine.”

The dealer, she said, would also offer the option of an extended warranty at $3,300 now or when the van is closer to the expiration of the original warranty.

The current warranty is three years or 36,000 miles. The van has 8,344 miles.

Kansas Truck Mobility submitted two bids for a 2017 van at $46,110 and 2018 van at $45,500.

“Hillsboro Ford doesn’t have these vans,” Ratzlaff said, “but has a contact with a Dodge dealer in Guthrie, Okla., who would convert a 2018 Dodge Caravan into a wheelchair ADA compliant van for $48,422, and no trade.

“It would also need to be built.”

Novak asked Ratzlaff how much money she has in the vehicle line item of her budget, and it was $38,000 or about $6,000 short in buying the van.

“But, you have other money in your budget?” Becker asked.

Spencer said she and Ratzlaff would look at the total budget and bring the issue back at the next meeting.

In other business, the commissioners:

◼ heard from Susan Robson, former county attorney, who discussed the county tax sale.

Robson had some questions about the sale. In addition, the commissioners could hold an auction later in November.

The purpose, according to the discussion, was in attempting to sell properties the county acquired at the more recent tax sales.

◼ inquired about county participation related to flu vaccines. Diedre said the biggest clinic was Centre. In addition, Tampa was added and about 20 vaccines were given.

Florence, she said, had a “good showing,” and typically, so does Goessel.

“It seems different places have a different population group,” she said. “For example, in Centre, it is more young families, and not a whole lot of high dose vaccines.”

In Peabody, Diedre said, the staff went to the senior center, and also the school, and more high dose vaccines were given at the senior center. Dallke said he could see 50-60 percent in participation already.

◼ offered the idea of bringing back public transportation within the Department of Aging. Novak asked Ratzlaff to look into it, but the deadline for filing for a grant is November.

◼ went into executive session with Serene, at her request, for five minutes to discuss personnel performance, and a second executive session for five minutes to discuss personnel hiring.

No action was taken on personnel performance, but in open session, the commissioners approved the hiring of Erin Hein, child care licensing surveyor. The job is to offer services to child care providers that could include on-site visits, investigations, and more. In addition, Hein will be part of the Safe Kids program with a mission of keeping all children in the county safe.

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