Marion County loses Director of Planning, Zoning

The Marion County Commission accepted the resignation of Emma Tajchman, director of Planning and Zoning, approved the 2019 budget and resolved unfinished business from earlier sessions at its meeting Monday.

Based on past discussions, two resolutions were passed regarding how Planning and Zoning board members are selected in each of the three commission districts and when private citizens do public work and preempting public for private use.

The proposed resolution brought forward by Brad Jantz, county counselor, involved a nine-member Planning and Zoning board with three people recommended for appointment by each of the three commission districts.

Jantz said the request to review the resolution, “Membership of Marion County Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals,” was brought forward by Tajchman with a few recommended changes in the operative section.

Even though the resolution would still require the entire commission to vote on a recommendation, Commission chairwoman Dianne Novak offered up an example in the event the other commissioners didn’t agree with that choice.

“One way to solve it,” Jantz said, “is to continue to bring it back over and over again.”

In doing so, the commissioner who made the recommendation would retain control, he said, because the seat would remain open. After hearing the selection again, the other commissioners could either approve the name, or after a certain point, some counties have had special elections, he said.

The second resolution passed by a vote of 2-1 with Commissioner Randy Dallke casting the dissenting vote regarding private citizens taking it upon themselves to handle situations that are normal business practices of the county.

One part of the resolution addressed farming on county roads and keeping farming crops out of ditches, Jantz said.

The county would have a 10-day requirement for the person involved to remove obstruction(s) or if the problem remained, would give the county an avenue in pursuing the matter further.

Regarding private citizens taking a particular project on when it normally is a county function was also included.

One of Novak’s concerns was that even if the commission has said multiple times there would be “absolutely no compensation” for a particular type of work, some individuals would still ask for an exception to the rule and present bills after the fact.

There were two resolutions presented with slightly different language on the issue with the commissioners deciding which was more appropriate to their situations, Jantz said.

Language in one resolution was not to eliminate everything regarding payment. The other was stiffer language stating, “will not ever pay,” unless it was something extraordinary.

Jantz cited that something that would constitute extraordinary could be a 100-year flood, which would fall out of the normal business practices.

MET towers

Tajchman presented two separate conditional use permit applications for temporary meteorological towers for Expedition Wind based in Wayzata, Minn.

The two locations would be at 100th and Mustang and second at 140th and Old Mill Road.

Expedition Wind was represented by Pat Pelstring and Lindsay Ransom. Pelstring said they purchased the assets on the previous companies, Windbourne (owned by Rex and Carol Savage) and SunWind (Joe Craft).

In addition, he said, ARES of New York is partnering with Expedition Wind by providing development capital for this wind turbine project. ARES, he said, is a $112 billion public-owned entity and they have about 10 gigawatts (unit of power equal to one billion watts) around the country.

“We would like the opportunity to build (wind turbines) in the next 12 months,” he said. “This project would cost $260 million for the first 200 megawatts (unit of power equal to one million watts) and two years after that expand to 150 megawatts.”

“We want to be good partners (with the county)” he said, “and we will continue to be owners and part of the operations group.”

Two people, Randy Eitzen and Tom Britain, landowners near the project, opposed the MET towers in the hope of not industrializing the Flint Hills.

Eitzen said it doesn’t matter how much money is involved (regarding use of land or proximity to the overall footprint).

“I don’t want to look at a bunch of wind towers and blinking lights,” he said, “and it’s not just me—there are others.”

Britain said some people had signed leases, and didn’t want this, adding there isn’t much left of the tall grass prairie, and “it’s sad.”

In other business, the commission:

◼ heard from Ed Debesis, Emergency Medical Services director, regarding number of ambulance calls for the previous month. He also said the number of calls is up by 54 from last year at 736 to 790 this year. Commissioner Kent Becker also asked if Debesis thought in-house billing could be brought back. Currently, he said, an offsite company handles the billing. Debesis said he would check into it, but one plus for the company doing the billing is the revenue has gone from $300,000 to almost $600,000 using Omni EMS Billling.

◼ asked Debesis if EMS pays anything for housing ambulances in the other communities. Dallke said the Goessel ambulance crew wants to move its vehicle to another building. “We might want to look at each town,” he said. Becker suggested the EMS crews visit the commission.

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