Novak succeeds Dallke as commission chair

After a two-year stint as chairman of the Marion County Commission, Randy Dallke relinquished this seat to Dianne Novak during the first meeting of the new year on Jan. 8.

By a unanimous vote, No­vak will be chairwoman, and Commissioner Kent Becker will serve as the vice-chairman.

Dallke said: “It’s been a privilege sitting here two years in a row as the chairman, and before that having the privilege of serving this county three terms,” Dallke said.

“But never until last year did I have my doubts of where to go with the board chair.”

Dallke talked about the difficulties regarding representation in District 1, and how that district was “shortchanged” its turn as chair in 2017.

Even though Becker in District 1 was not the chairman in 2017, he said it wasn’t that important of a matter to him.

“The chairperson is a person that just controls the meeting—we are all the same vote,” he said.

“My feeling is that (Novak) was on the commission prior to me, and I would be open to allowing her to be chairman.”

Novak said the only thing she would say is that she thinks it is District 2’s turn to serve as chair.

“I do appreciate what happened in District 1, and that was unfortunate, and I would reiterate (Becker’s) thoughts entirely,” Novak said.

Time to stop fighting

Residents at Marion County Park and Lake are divided into two different camps.

In previous meetings, one group seeks to form its own committee and take the lead in doing what its members believe is best for park and lake.

And another group, based on information presented by Sherry Conyers and Jackie Volbrecht, would prefer the commission formulate a plan based on expert opinions and what’s best for all involved.

In her remarks, Volbrecht said she suggests that all park and lake residents consider what is won and lost when neighbors turn on neighbors and are encouraged to “form” groups for and against.

“I believe Mr. Dallke’s agenda is at play,” Volbrecht said. “He has administered the county lake and county roads as the Godfather, bestowing favors on those he chooses.

“Then a new commissioner is elected—a little woman that he couldn’t put in her place or run off,” she said.

Volbrecht said she has called Dallke before regarding his bullying and rudeness and his agenda to get back to the days of unaccountability—the good old boys just shaking hands.

“I’m very sad about what I’ve observed,” she said. “Neighbors are calling the sheriff about neighbors with some organizing into vigilante groups, and when I asked my friend if couldn’t we have a civil discussion, she emphatically said, ‘No.’”

Even more heartbreaking is that Volbrecht said she attends church with some of these same neighbors who don’t even realize they are being used as pawns.

“We have been constant fodder for the newspapers, and we look like clowns,” she added.

“Self-centered retirees and weekenders living everyone’s dream sniping and screaming about everything from dead trees to goose poop.”

Volbrecht said she believed it was time for all to put up their pitchforks and torches and start walking dogs together again.

“We can wait to see if a plan is developed, and if not, we have the vote or the opportunity to run for commissioner,” she said.

Another resident Sherry Conyers echoed similar remarks as Volbrecht, who added that sometimes when a group has “implied power,” they don’t handle it well.

Committee ideas

Mark Wheeler, a resident of the lake, presented the commissioners with a proposed strategic plan in identifying important management issues through input from key stakeholders.

In his remarks, Wheeler said goals and issues could be prioritized and consulting services could include KDHE, Kansas Forest Service, the county’s planning and zoning, NRCS, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and others.

Wheeler said the committee could have 30 to 35 Marion County residents providing the commissioners with a “forward-looking strategic plan that preserves, improves and protects” the park and lake.

Wheeler said: “Why the park and lake were constructed” could be the central focus while adapting new requirements to insure its long-term survival.

But after Wheeler presented a proposal, Matt Meyerhoff, with the Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Ricky Roberts, Marion County extension agent in agriculture and natural resources, talked about how they could help.

Meyerhoff said Shawn Hutchinson at KSU proposed using courses to focus on individual projects and an overarching goal of developing a management plan with students backed up by professors.

“The students would not be coming in and saying this is how you fix blue-green algae,” Meyerhoff said.

“The first class is Jan. 16, and Ricky Roberts was instrumental in coming up with five potential projects, but Hutchinson nixed one of those because they didn’t have professors in that area.”

The projects would include assessing water quality at the lake and sediments as well as site assessments and analysis of watershed and major changes, Meyerhoff said.

The one area that wouldn’t be included was wildlife and fish population, he said.

Roberts also talked about the possibility of a survey sent out to county residents, but he noted that the problem with surveys is that they are approved by multiple layers as to validity and usefulness.

Becker said he thought the four areas of assessment are what is needed at the park and lake.

When asked about the timeframe, Meyerhoff said data on two of the four could be in the spring, adding it is a long-term process.

“One thing to remember is that (the county) is not paying a professional engineering firm $10,000 for recommendations, but the one thing about this work is that it will be non-biased and nobody will have preconceived ideas,” Roberts said.

The commissioners unanimously approved allowing KSU, Meyerhoff and Roberts to move forward with their proposal and using students to work on the assessments.

In addition, the park and lake committee was put on hold.

In other business, the commissioners:

• heard the quarterly report from Lisa Reeder, county appraiser, who said agriculture values are up. She also said her office is handling 41 real estate protests.

“We are doing 16 this week and more next week,” she said.

• heard from Jessie Hamm, road and bridge supervisor, regarding survey company with cornerstones in the county. Hamm said his crews are doing about 15 to 25 digs per section, and it could take a while to complete.

Hamm also spoke about a resident wanting to close 360th at Bison and Chisholm Trail. He asked the commissioners if any kind of paperwork needs to be filed.

• asked Hamm if he would call one of the rock suppliers Novak said was willing to “comp” as a way of getting the county to try its product. Hamm said he would call.

• received a letter of resignation from Nick Kraus, chairman of the Planning and Zoning board. As a condition of resigning from the board, Kraus said he wanted the commission to put Jeff Bina in his seat as chairman. The commission voted 2-1 in favor of the condition with Novak dissenting.

• learned from Mike Beneke, appointed by Dallke to serve on the Marion County Community of Economic Development Corporation, that three interim members were going off the that group. Those included Tammy Ensey, Jim Hefley and Russell Groves. Judy Mills stepped down as interim at the previous meeting.

• talked with Darin Neufeld about the RV camper area at the Marion County Park and Lake and water lines that are in need of replacement. The commissioners requested Neu­feld continue on the project by putting the project out for bids.

• designated the official newspaper in the county, set mileage reimbursement, and other administrative business done at the first meeting of the new year.