Commissioners discuss arrangement with engineering firm

Marion County commissioners discussed their road-maintenance agreement with Kirkham Michael Engineering representatives involving Trade­wind Energy at the Dec. 4 meeting.

Nick Coil with Trade­wind Energy, Jesse Hamm, county road and bridge superintendent, and Emma Tajchman, planning and zoning director, were also present during the talks.

Yost said: “The county selected us to have a full-time person onsite during the wind farm developments to include road and bridges, potholes and other repairs needed.”

In addition, Yost said we recommend including pre-, post- and structural valuation in road maintenance. Hamm said he would like having Kirkham Michael on the project.

Friction

But, at the Dec. 11 meeting the tables were turned prompting Coil, Hamm and Tajchman, to ask the commission about who has the final authority.

Coil said he thought there could be consequences with choosing the consultant as the final word on road maintenance.

Offering a brief explanation as to why, Coil said Hamm and Tajchman are assets, and yet, the commission is putting decisions in the hands of a third party—Kirkham Michael. and

“I really see this as your decision to make, but Hamm and Tajchman know intimately the needs of the community, and they are your best outlet for decision-making and the county infrastructure,” he said.

By using Kirkham Michael as the ultimate authority, Coil added, the ultimate authority is taken from the county employees.

Offering a hypothetical situation, Coil said Tradewind Energy expands a dirt road from 12-feet to a 15-foot gravel road.

“After construction, we put the road back to 12-feet, but there might be some reason Kirkham Michael would do it by the book and back to specifications,” he said.

“Maybe there’s a reason why we can’t reduce the sie of the road to its original width for whatever reason.”

The point, Coil said, is that if the road can’t go back to the original width, he can call Hamm and ask if it’s OK and keep construction rolling.

“But if Kirkham Michael’s consultant says this is how it has to be, I really have to err on the consultant’s behalf rather than the county being the expert,” he said.

Commission chairman Randy Dallke said the talk among the commission was that contact would be made to them no matter what the issue was.

“They would relate to us whether it was a road issue or planning and zoning issue,” he said.

Hamm said: “But that wasn’t said.last week. It was all Kirkham Michael, which is what concerned us.”

Dallke said the commission needs to be contacted about these types of issues, and who it goes to and how to handle the issue.

We hired expertise

Commissioner Dianne Novak said the commission hired Kirkham Michael because of their expertise.

“That’s in no way to discredit your expertise,” she said to Hamm. “We hired them, and if they call you that is fine—they are the professionals and have contract on roads (dealing with wind turbine work).”

Another example, Coil said, involved aggregate and asking Hamm if a certain rock was acceptable from one of the quarries, and he agreed it was.

“When the dust settled, Kirkham Michael engineers said that’s not to specifications and needs to be redone,” Coil said.

“We had to scrape the gravel and use another gravel even though the superintendent was fine with it—that’s when the third party becomes the boss and not the consultant.”

Novak said if Kirkham Michael said it doesn’t meet specs and Hamm said it does—what are the specifications?

Coil said he will go with what the commission wants, but there will be things that come up with construction.

Coil said construction needs to keep rolling.

“If the landowner wants something specific, and Hamm says it’s OK for a variance, then I will have to say: ‘Mom said it is OK if we do this, and they go back to the commissioners—whereas this is your guy.’”

Commissioner Kent Becker said Marion County is unique in that it has 1,200 miles of road to oversee, and Kirkham Michael was hired to take some of that load off Hamm.

In addition, Becker said Tradewind Energy should be used to third parties handling aspects of the project.

Emotionally charged talk

Kathy Shockley and Mark Wheeler, both Marion County Park and Lake residents, asked for a 20-minute block of time Monday, but after more than an hour past their allotted time for comments, the discussion went amok.

After reading a letter about what actions were taken in the previous months, Shockley said the commissioners lack a plan for the lake.

Is the plan for beautification, conservation, or prevention or eradication of blue-green algae? she asked.

“Some don’t want to speak (about the lake issues) for fear of being misquoted,” she said.

But, Shockley said she would like to see a moratorium on cutting trees.

Wheeler showed pictures of one section of the lake area where trees were cut down, but this was done without supervision or as a coordinated part of an overall plan.

“On the north end of the lake,” he said, “there are (about) a 1,000 geese with deposits going to the shallow bottom.”

The commission voted to stop any further cutting of trees, grasses, or making any changes at the lake until a master plan is decided on.

Becker and Dallke were in favor and Novak abstained.

Wheeler said he will continue to get a committee together to include lake superintendent Bryan Metz, NCRS and Kansas State representative and Tajchman, director of planning and zoning.

In other business, the commission:

• put a cap of $15,000 or NADA, whichever is lower, on a 550 truck, that Hamm said is versatile enough to do patching and dumping.

• heard update on work at 330th. Hamm said there are road closed signs at Kansas Highway 15 and 330th. Additionally, he said, painting was to take place Monday on Roxbury Road.

• discussed quality of rock at various quarries and the possibility of bidding for tonnage in the future. Sand was also something considered depending on the road.

• received a letter from the Insurance Board of Marion County opposing the county participating in an insurance pool, and instead staying with a conventional insurance policy.

After hearing from Kakim Kunantaev, the commission decided to go with KCMAP, which was formed in January 1991 and currently has 66 member counties in the pool, said David Luke, chief executive officer.

The local insurance bid was $185,690 and KCAMP’s bid came in at $143,690.

“A difference of $42,000 a year in savings is substantial,” Novak said.

Becker said that it’s always his position to do business locally, if at all possible.

“But, this was a huge difference in premium and coverages,” he said.

Dallke said he remembered KCAMP bidding for the county’s liability insurance years back, but at that time he thought the difference was only about $10,000 between them and the local insurance agency.

The commission also voted unanimously to take the three-year rate stabilization option.

• County Counselor Susan Robson said she planned to schedule Brad Stout, legal counsel, to discuss various wind farm documents and contract drafting/discussion between Kirkham Michael and Stout.

• Lincolnville Fire chief Lester Kaiser said a red flag warning was in effect Monday for extreme grassland fires even though the season is over.

The red flag warning was around this area and means that critical fire weather conditions are occurring or imminent because of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures.

“This could be a bad year (for fires),” Kaiser said.

• recognized Mike Meisinger who thanked the commission for their time and patience in serving the community. He also wanted to let the commission know they are going down a dangerous path by subsidizing rock for some of the county roads.

“If we are going to subsidize rock then we need to have protocol and if we reimburse (ranchers, farmers) then steps need to be taken,” he said.