Commissioners irked by county tax break for new Hillsboro hospital

The financial burden of the county?s revitalization plan for tax abatement hit home with the Marion County Commis?sion Monday with the realization that a large improvement proposed for Hillsboro most likely will come under the county?s plan rather than Hillsboro?s.

The heads-up for the tax money twist was given by Appraiser Cindy Magill, who told commissioners she had been contacted by a person representing Hillsboro?s new hospital regarding filing for tax relief under the revitalization plan.

Magill said Hillsboro?s latest city revitalization plan adopted in 2008 probably doesn?t include the hospital?s location, which is outside the city limits.

Commissioner Dan Holub said that although new development in the county is sought under the plan, he found it disturbing that the county could ?lose? that much tax money to benefit Hillsboro when the city didn?t sign on to the county plan when other county communities did.

?So,? Holub said, ?Hillsboro is going to let people outside Hillsboro provide incentive for them when they didn?t want to help provide incentive for the rest of us.?

Holub represents the northeast portion of the county, including Marion.

Commissioner Randy Dallke, who represents the southern part of the county, including Florence and Peabody, wondered if the hospital thought it had a choice between the city or the county plan. He noted the county plan is up for renewal consideration this year.

Commissioner Bob Hein, who represents the western part of the county, including Hillsboro, said the groundbreaking for the hospital is in July, so there is time for consideration.

Magill said the hospital would save more under Hills?boro?s plan than the county?s plan if it were in the area served under Hillsboro?s plan.

The commissioners asked Magill to come back with Treasurer Jeannine Bateman for a more thorough discussion of the matter next week.

Road issues

On another taxing issue, commissioners continued to wonder how they will accomplish road-resurfacing projects with no new taxes considering the down economy.

Hein said, ?It could affect the mill levy.?

Of top concern was what to do about the four miles of road into Tampa from Kansas High?way 15, where Holub warned that Agri-Producers Inc. has committed to building four huge grain bins in part based on promises by the county to resurface the road.

?We can?t be telling them, ?Dear Tampa, you trusted us, and shouldn?t be doing that!?? Holub said.

He said that the choice, considering the heavy truck traffic that comes to API, is to do a 6-inch hard surface layover of the road, or just to continue putting down more gravel, and packing the heavy base already established even more.

Among other things, the commissioners asked Road and Bridge Director Jim Herzet to look into Kansas Department of Transportation loans.

On another road issue, USD 398 Superintendent Rex Watson and an accompanying group totalling 10 persons asked commissioners to do something soon to upgrade the Peabody-Burns Road, 40th to Timber to 60th.

Dallke chose to sit with spectators as an observer because he said the road is of primary concern to himself as a Peabody resident.

Watson said, ?The primary concern is safety. You can repair school buses, but you couldn?t live with yourself if something happened to the kids.?

Watson said 40th and 60th are in severely bad condition with large chuckholes and loss of surface.

?We?ve discussed running alternative routes, but we still have to come back for 14 children who live along that route,? he said.

Also discussed were the dangers of novice teenage drivers traveling the route, and the need of good inter-connecting routes between Burns and Peabody for economic development in the county.

Hein said, ?We?re very concerned for the safety of the kids, too.? He estimated that the road distance between the two towns is 18 miles, and from Watson?s descriptions, about 10 miles of it is ?of real concern.?

Watson said if the county couldn?t surface the road this year, the school district and local patrons at least would like to see it graded, gravelled and packed to make a good base similar to the Tampa road.

The commissioners asked Herzet to develop a tentative plan for this year?s resurfacing and patching program at the next meeting, Wednesday, March 31.

Extension consolidation

The commissioners, so far, have denied a proposal to allow the extension offices of Marion County and Dickinson County to unite in a common district because they say the plan, developed by Kansas State University and going into effect rapidly across the state in other counties, creates a new taxation entity, the extension district.

County Extension Agricultural Agent Rickey Roberts suggested that part of the reason the commissioners don?t see how benefits of a district outweigh concerns is that he hasn?t clearly outlined how many people extension touches.

For instance, he said, extension is vital to the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies program, which has nearly stopped sedimentation from entering into Marion Reservoir, and working on slowing sedimentation in Mud Creek into the Cottonwood River and Neosho River on down to John Redmond Reservoir.

He said the KSU wheat varieties development program depends on test plots set up by extension county agents. Farmers depend on this even if they get information from someone like a seed dealer because the seed dealer got his information from K-State.

Roberts said the wheat program and WRAPS touch all citizens, let alone the additional effects of programs like 4-H.

Commissioners Dallke and Holub said they understood this from Roberts?s explanations, but they still contended the extension districting is about control of budgeting.

They said if extension offices want districting, they should do it through interlocal agreements that leave money under the control of county commissions.

Lake cabins

Nick Nickelson of Marion, at the request of commissioners, brought in plans for more than $300,000 worth of rental cabins at Marion County Lake to be located north of the existing mobile home court.

Nickelson said the units would include two cabins with two queen-sized beds each, five units with one queen-sized bed each, and an office building including storage and laundry unit for renters.

He said there would be additional expenses for things such as development of utilities.

Magill said that if a developer for the cabins was found, it would have to go to the Kansas State Board of Tax Appeals to determine if the land under the buildings could stay county owned, and tax exempt, while the buildings were taxed as private property.

Nickelson said he would be interested in building the cabins.

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