After months of debating on whether to repair the existing Marion County Transfer Station or build a new, larger facility, the commissioners chose to do the latter.
The proposed cost can’t exceed $4.67 million being imposed with one-half percent sales tax by a special election question on March 20, according to Resolution 2018-03.
As part of the decision, the commissioners considered three possible locations to include the area north of the current building, south of city or an area further north of town.
Marion City Administrator Roger Holter, Mayor Todd Heitschmidt and councilors discussed a proposal presented by County Clerk Tina Spencer at their Jan. 16 meeting.
Beneficial to everyone
“The county is working on an extremely tight timeframe,” Holter said referring to securing a location and preparing the special ballot question (for April election).
Regarding the peripheral issues, Holter explained that all of those items can be handled in dialogue.
“We could continue to negotiate on those other items (once land is secured),” he said.
“This is an editorial opinion,” Holter said, “but prior to the land purchases, all that’s accomplished was every citizen of Marion County paid more than they should.
“And, if we have an opportunity as a city—particularly being the county seat and the designated community to facilitate this project—I see that mending a relationship for negotiations on other properties as we move forward.”
Holter said: “The county has a distinct need to address. Councilman Chris Costello questioned the county as to why they were investing $1.3 to $1.7 million to repair a facility for a 5-year usable life.
“Now they have gone forward with a plan that creates a 40-to 50-year usable lifespan without duplication for taxpayers.”
Holter was quick to point out that he isn’t saying what the right price is, but his advice as the city’s administrator, is not to collect a lot of issues right here.
“Creating a six-month delay on a project where the engineering reports and analysis of the current structure only adds to the greater risk of the tipping floor failure,” he said.
Another area Holter said he would like the council to consider is the dirt fill portion.
“The fill comes down to what the city has available, and based on two plans—one for 24,000 cubic yards, and the one adopted requires 59,000 cubic yards,” he said.
Holter said he’s not sure the city has that much dirt, but by working with the county’s Road and Bridge Department and BG Consultants, the city will do what it can.
“I believe Mayor Heitschmidt and other negotiations are still there to help the county—help them find a new home for the Road and Bridge Department that enhances their operations, lessens the safety concerns of its current location and addresses the aesthetics moving forward,” he said.
Holter said he thinks this can be accomplished through conversations with the board of commissioners but more importantly with their department heads.
“We have been very much involved in this project with Transfer Station Director Bud Druse, which has been going on for five months.
Heitschmidt said he could appreciate the timeline constraints facing the county, but he also said he was disappointed with the offer of $6,500 for the two parcels north of the current building appraised at $23,000.
“My disappointment is that the county offers more than its own appraised value in this city, and Marion has actually taken properties off the county tax rolls,” he said.
Heitschmidt explained that he and fellow city council members are working with the county.
“But, for the county to come back with a proposal that’s less than half what the properties are worth—it insults me a little bit,” he said, “and where others are given more than the county appraised value.”
Commission Chairwoman Dianne Novak, who was present at the council meeting, inquired as to whether the council might want to make an offer.
“It’s $15,000 or $16,000 (below appraised value),” he said, “I get that, but the actions of how this is operating and how its coming back to us doesn’t make sense.”
City passes land sale
Following a vote of 3-1, with Heitschmidt voting “no” to selling the two parcels and Councilor Chris Costello absent, Councilor Melissa Mermis wanted to make a statement.
“I am basing my decision today on this sale of the property for this project,” she said.
“I am not getting muddled by anything else going on, I am basing (my vote) solely on this.”
Once the city o Marion voted in favor of selling the land north of the current transfer station, the next step for the county was in adopting a resolution to call for a special question election in April.
Commissioner Randy Dallke said at the Jan. 16 meeting, and prior to the council’s vote, was that the purpose of the resolution would be in asking Marion County voters to vote “yes” on a one-half percent countywide sale tax.
The commissioners unanimously passed it.