County cancels mail ballot election for project

The Marion County Commissioners voted to cancel the mail ballot election using the 0.5 percent sales tax for building a $4.6 million transfer station at its meeting Feb. 5.

Based on that decision, no informational meetings are scheduled nor will the county be considering flyers about the proposed project and financing.

Commissioner Randy Dallke asked the other commissioners if they might be open to looking at another, possibly less expensive, option for a new transfer station.

The commission had a special session last Thursday, and afterwards directed the county’s project firm, BG Consultants, to compare the costs at the south location and the one north of the current transfer station.

Bruce Boettcher, engineer, and David Devore, architect, with BG Consultants reviewed their findings Monday.

Although some geotechnical engineering and other test­ing needs to be done south of town, the cost savings would be substantial at more than $1 million less than the location north of the current transfer station, Becker said.

Based on the savings, the commissioners agreed to let the .5 percent sales tax sunset, and decide funding once all the testing is completed.

“We were criticized by the residents and city of Marion when we looked at the Straub building,” he said.

“And I just think we need to be conscience of what the citizens are wanting.”

Commissioner Kent Becker said one concern he had about keeping the transfer station in the city was with blowing trash.

“I know we will have some,” he said, “and is the public going to be accepting of that?”

Bud Druse, director of the Marion County Transfer Station. said that so far that hasn’t been problem.

Commission chairwoman Dianne Novak said she thought looking at the south shop where the county’s road and bridge department is located could be a problem.

Druse said the flood plain area was in the access area.

Regarding residents north of the current transfer station, Novak said it would be an easy thing to simply talk to them about the situation.

“We didn’t get anywhere last time,” Dallke said.

In response, Novak said, “It was a different situation.”

Old transfer station

Even though the commissioners are on hold until tests are completed and land sale is considered, the current transfer station is on borrowed time.

Boettcher said there is accelerated deterioration to the tipping floor.

“The tipping floor is a structural floor (about 8-feet of clearance below) that was not designed for the current use of the facility,” he said. “The public as well as solid waste staff are on top of the tipping floor with vehicles and equipment with daily operations.”

If the structural damage continues to increase and becomes unsafe, the current facility will have to be closed, he said.

“The county is trying to make the facility last as long as possible so that a new facility can be in place in time, Boettcher said.

Diamond Vista project

After two executive sessions totaling 40 minutes with Pat Hughes, attorney with Adams/Jones Law Firm and hired to represent the county with wind farm discussions, the commissioners returned to open session.

Once back in open session, the commission was unanimous that Diamond Vista can submit applications early to the county’s planning and zoning department prior to the road maintenance agreement.

Additionally, the commission stated the planning and zoning department can begin its review process as soon as possible, but isn’t required to do so.

No construction can begin until the permits are actually approved, which can’t be done until the RMA is effective unless the commission takes further action.

Brice Barton with Tradewind Energy and Diamond Vista Wind Project, along with its lawyer and other representatives, spoke about the $450 million project with respect to the RMA and decommissioning both needing to be done by March 1.

“We have gone over these with the landowners,” Barton said. “And, we almost always have a letter of credit on these.”

Barton said it is a shared understanding with the goal of building a wind farm, operating it and decommissioning it with the landowner or county drawing on the bond.

Dallke said he was disappointed that nobody came to the commission first.

“(Diamond Vista) has been working in the county for two years,” he said.

Barton said he could respect his position.

In other business, the commission:

◼ approved the annual weed report presented by Druse.

◼ tabled the county counselor bid review.

◼ tabled the monthly Marion County Park and Lake discussion because no one attended. Gordon Pendergraft, a lake resident, said he was there to listen only.

The next commission meeting is Monday, Feb. 12.