Odd election finish capped a challenging year

A year that began with arctic temperatures ended with complaints about deteriorating gravel roads in Marion County. During the months in between, county residents and leaders experienced a variety of highlights and challenges?including a most unusual election.

January

The major front of arctic air that enveloped much of the upper U.S. brought snow and plummeting temperatures to Marion County at the start of the year. The cold bottomed out at minus-4 degrees in some places. The six school districts in the Free Press distribution area, except for Marion, extended winter break vacation by at least one or two hours; Centre closed for the entire day. The storm brought 2-3 inches of snow.

Many residents across Marion County woke up Wednesday morning, Feb. 5, to see a sundog on the eastern horizon. Becky Steketee of Hillsboro captured this image of the unusual weather phenomenon that followed a foot of snow and single-digit temperatures. Free Press file photo
Many residents across Marion County woke up Wednesday morning, Feb. 5, to see a sundog on the eastern horizon. Becky Steketee of Hillsboro captured this image of the unusual weather phenomenon that followed a foot of snow and single-digit temperatures. Free Press file photo

The Marion County Board of Commis?sioners heard County Clerk Tina Spencer report at the Dec. 31 payday meeting that the monthly sales tax receipts in the county were the largest on record for the decade.

Gov. Sam Brownback announced the nomination of Sen. Jay Emler to the Kansas Cor?p?oration Com?mission. Since 2001, Emler represented Senate District 35, which currently includes Marion County.

For almost three hours Jan. 16, the entire city of Peabody lost electrical power because of high winds. A spokesman with Westar Energy said 561 customers were without power for 168 minutes.

The deadline to sign up for the April 1 local election ended Jan. 25. The only contested races were in the city of Marion with a three-way race for mayor, and five candidates vying for two council seats. Challenging incumbent Mayor Mary Olson are Todd Heitschmidt, a city council member, and Steve Unruh, who described himself as a concerned citizen interested in city government.

February

Marion County was covered with a blanket of snow last week that ranged from 12.5 inches in the northern part of the county to 9 inches at the southern end. Single-digit temperatures kept the snow amounts almost intact for nearly a week. The snow began falling Monday night, Feb. 3, and continued through Tuesday. All six school districts in the Free Press distribution area canceled classes Tues?day and Wednesday; some resumed classes Thursday with a delayed start to the day.

Six months after breaking ground, the Marion City Library opened its new 30-foot by 30-foot addition. A come-and-go reception was set for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20.

March

More than 40 people attended the March 3 candidate forum at the Marion Community Center as candidates squared off for mayor and city council seats.

Rollin Schmidt, transfer station and recycling director, told commissioners that 71.7 tons of recyclables had been disposed of since beginning the effort in late 2013; 45.38 tons have been disposed of this year. Schmidt said money received for the materials covers the fuel ?and a little extra.?

For the first time in recorded history, whooping cranes were sighted in Marion County on their migration journey north. Mike Miller with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said an estimated 250 wild whooping cranes were migrating through Kansas.

Nine whooping cranes were feeding on farm ground about a mile east of Aulne in Marion County in late March. Mark Miller of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks estimates 250 cranes are migrating through Kansas this spring. Free Press file photo
Nine whooping cranes were feeding on farm ground about a mile east of Aulne in Marion County in late March. Mark Miller of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks estimates 250 cranes are migrating through Kansas this spring. Free Press file photo

Marion?s Chingawassa Com?mittee announced that Love and Theft would be the main act for the Satur?day night feature concert at this year?s Chinga?wassa Days festival in Marion, June 6-8.

Residential and business customers in Marion will see higher electric rates when they get their bills May 1, based on action taken March 24 by the Marion City Council. City Administrator Roger Holter said the rate increase is tied to consumer consumption.

Seventy-four people who called in were denied permits by county offices for burning grass pastures and Conservation Reserve Program acres Saturday during calm wind conditions. The following Monday, Emer?gency Manage?ment Director Randy Frank told the Marion County Com?mission that county firefighters were called to put out eight different rangeland fires.

More than 125 people registered to take part in the Marion County Health Fair March 2 in the Marion Sports and Aquatic Center. Fifty vendors, representing a variety of health and wellness organizations, offered myriad services and discounts to fairgoers.

April

Marion has a new mayor after Todd Heit?schmidt received 329 votes to win the April 1 local election. Incumbent Mary Olson received 187 votes and Steve Unruh 29. Heitschmidt will relinquish his seat on the council April 14 and take his place as mayor.

Anita Goertzen resigned as Goessel city clerk effective June 30 after 18 years in that position. She and her husband will be moving away. The council authorized Goertzen to place ads in area newspapers for the full-time clerk position.

May

May 4?s 100-degree temperature shattered the former record-high of 85 degrees in 2012, according to Marion County Park and Lake officials.

The Goessel City Council welcomed Jennifer White?head as the new city clerk ?in training.? Her first day was May 19; her hours increased to full-time in July.

June

Roger Fleming, the 1st District representative on the Marion County Board of Commissioners, said he will not seek relection in Novem??ber, citing personal reasons. No other candidates filed for the position before the June 2 deadline.

Attendance at the 18th annual Chingawassa Days June 6-8 was down slightly, but organizers said it was still a successful weekend. Committee member Tammy Ensey said, ?We had beautiful weather, a great crowd of people and two awesome concerts.?

City officials met with representatives with the Kansas Department of Transportation to discuss plans for a roundabout at First and Main streets in downtown Marion. ?There?s a lot of opinion, but with very little facts,? City Administrator Roger Holter said about the project.

Craig Dodd, owner of Chisholm Trail Outfitters in Hillsboro, observed the June 9 county commission meeting as the only declared write-in candidate to succeed Commis?sioner Roger Fleming.

About 53 youth between the ages of 7 and 16 turned out May 31 for the first Scott O? Dell Memorial Youth Day at the wildlife area at Marion Reservoir?s French Creek Cove. The event was sponsored by Marion County Quail Forever, the Kansas Depart?ment of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and the U.S. Army Corp of Engin?eers.

Lori Lalouette-Crawford, an attorney and business owner from Hillsboro, announced via email that she will seek write-in votes as a Republican in the Aug. 5 primary election.

After learning Butler Community College plans to vacate the Bown-Corby building Aug. 1, the Marion City Council at its meeting June 9 started exploring options of how the property can continue to be used. The Bown-Corby building at 412 N. Second St., once served as the elementary school.

Justin Terrel, 17, of Marion, cleared the first hurdle to his dream of winning ?The Voice,? the nationally televised singing contest, by receiving a red card during his first audition in Denver, Colo.

Terry Jones, Marion?s new economic development director, said he sees exciting future possibilities for the city. Jones was appointed to the position by the city council in late April. He said he wants to see Marion continue to grow while reflecting the values and goals of its residents and business stakeholders.

Former Emergency Medical Services Director JoAnn Knak was appointed by the Marion County Com?mission to be interim EMS director after the commissioners ?relieved? the current director, Steve Smith, from the position, effective at noon, June 30.

July

Two adults and one child volunteered to repaint the American flag mural at Liberty Park in Marion. Joy Waldbauer of Dur?ham and Skye Young of Hillsboro and her granddaughter, Alyssa Young, started the project July 11 and finished it within a week.

Three Marion County volunteers?Joy Waldbaurer on scaffolding and Skye Young (walking) and Alyssa Young on the ground?repainted the huge American Flag mural at Liberty Park in Marion during July. Patty Decker photos
Three Marion County volunteers?Joy Waldbaurer on scaffolding and Skye Young (walking) and Alyssa Young on the ground?repainted the huge American Flag mural at Liberty Park in Marion during July. Patty Decker photos
Marion County Lake and Park Superintendent Steve Hudson told the Marion County Commission that dogs running loose at lake residences were causing enough problems for campers across the street in the park areas that commissioners may have to change leash laws. Dogs were fighting each other in camping areas and one potentially vicious dog had threatened campers, he said.

Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole was in Marion July 14 as part of his 105-county gratitude tour. At 90 years old, Dole said he looked forward to meeting the more than 40 people who attended the event at the Marion Com?munity Center. Dole was a U.S. Senator from 1969 to 1996.

A total of 2,429 marijuana plants were discovered in the southern half of Marion County in mid-July, but because of the circumstances, no arrests are expected. The Marion County sheriff?s office was contacted about the plants by property owners in the area, said Sheriff Rob Craft.

Brightly colored wagon wheels, sunflowers, stars and other objects were part of a ?Barn Quilt 101? class July 12 with 19 participants signed up. Teresa Huffman, Marion County Economic Development director, said this was the first class for local artists, adding that it won?t be the last.

Benefiting from a couple of breaks in the summer heat, plus a roster of new activities on Saturday, the organizer-in-chief of last week?s Marion County Fair said he is initially pleased with the attendance and participation at the four-day event. ?As a whole, the fair went very well,? said Myron Regier, who is in his first year as fair board president.

Since Fleming?s decision not to seek re-election, three people announced their intention to be write-in candidates. Craig Dodd, owner of Chisholm Trail Outfitters in Hillsboro, won?t be involved in the Aug. 5 primary election because he is not affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. Instead, Dodd would be required to file by petition. The other two write-in candidates, Lori Lalouette Crawford, a Hillsboro attorney, and Donald Ewert, a retired farmer-stockman from the Durham area, were write-in options on the Republican ballot.

August

By a unanimous vote, the Marion City Council approved a 6.2 mill increase for its 2015 budget. City Administrator Roger Holter said the main expense is the debt service, which is slightly more than $5 million.

Registered voters in Marion County exceeded Secretary of State Kris Kobach?s prediction of a 22 percent statewide turnout during the Aug. 5 primary election. Lalouette prevailed over Ewert, 191 to 118. She will face Craig Dodd on the Novem?ber ballot.

Marion County Road and Bridge Director Randy Crawford told commissioners at their Aug. 29 payday meeting to take a ?hard look? at converting some bridges on dirt roads to low-water bridges using steel railroad cars in place of building high-dollar bridges under state requirements.

September

Two women, including Jean E. Case, 85, of Marion, died as a result of a two-vehicle collision at the junction of Ash Street and U.S. Highway 56 at Hillsboro.

According to a written opinion issued by a Kan?sas Associa?tion of Counties attorn?ey, Board of County Commissioners candidate Lori Lalouette-Craw?ford would face only limited conflict-of-interest issues if she were to be elected to the position Nov. 4. Her husband is Randy Crawford, road and bridge director; her brother-in-law is Sheriff Rob Craft.

County commissioners sought input from the public on whether to stay with a volunteer Emergency Medi?cal Services staff or change to a full-time paid staff.

Hillsboro?s ?mystery business? made its way into the Sept. 2 Marion City Council meeting when one council member requested information about these ?big box? retailers. Coun?cilor Jerry Dieter said he heard a lot of gloom and doom from acquaintances around town.

With more than 260 people taking advantage of the opportunity, organizers said the first Marion County Prepared?ness Fair was a success. ?We?re very happy with how things went, we?ve already started planning for next year,? said Randy Frank, director of the county?s Emergency Man?age?ment office. The fair was from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Marion County Fairgrounds.

The potential for an oil drilling boom in Marion County seems to have dried up. A couple of years ago, county commissioners were speculating that the county would not have enough housing for the number of people who might be working on drilling. Now the topic rarely surfaces.

October

The Marion County Health Department investigated an increased number of whooping cough cases in the county.

This year?s 20th annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Marion County raised almost $28,000 Saturday in the fight to eliminate the dreaded disease. According to Bryn Mecum, ACS staff partner, 12 teams and 142 people took part in the event at Warrior Sta?dium in Marion .

County commissioners announced the appointment of Brandy McCarty as the county?s Emergency Medical Services director Oct. 20. McCarty succeeds interim director JoAnn Knak.

Marion is considering a new outdoor marketing campaign by replacing old signage with a more consistent, simpler message.

November

The ?Republican avalanche? declared by national pundits after the Nov. 4 midterm election was little more than a normal day at the voting booth in Marion County. Marion County voters declared support for Republi?can candidates in even greater percentages than voters statewide.

In the race for the 1st District county commission seat, Craig Dodd led Lori Lalouette-Crawford at the end of a long election night by a mere two votes, 670-668. But with 17 provisional ballots for the race and five ballots that could not be read by the machine, Spencer declared the official result to be ?too close to call.?

Eileen Sieger checks signals with Anita Brookens during the recounting of ballots for the 1st District county commission seat. Joining them on the three-person team was Ruth Lange. The recount found that Lori Lalouette-Crawford defeated Craig Dodd by three votes.  Free Press file photo
Eileen Sieger checks signals with Anita Brookens during the recounting of ballots for the 1st District county commission seat. Joining them on the three-person team was Ruth Lange. The recount found that Lori Lalouette-Crawford defeated Craig Dodd by three votes. Free Press file photo
The outcome reversed after commissioners canvassed the ballots the following Friday. Lalouette led Dodd, 676-675. A week later, a five-hour hand count of ballots confirmed that Lalouette-Crawford will be the new Marion County commissioner for District 1, 678-675. Craig Dodd had asked for the recount at his personal expense. Write-in candidate Donna Klose received 113 votes. The results became official and final after commissioners canvassed the recount the following Monday.

The Marion City Council unanimously approved a 15-year water-tank maintenance contract at its Nov. 11 meeting. Marty Fredrickson, building inspector, said the main?ten?ance contract is impor?tant because the city hasn?t had a consistent or defined program for years.

Rex Savage of Florence, who has spearheaded Wind?bourne Energy, received final approval to seek expansion of leases and construction for the project during the Nov. 10 Marion County Commission meeting by a 2-1 vote.

The first same-sex marriage license was issued in Marion County for Kaci Miller and Amanda Horacek Nov. 13, the same day the 8th Judicial District and 19th Judicial District signed an admini?strative order allowing it. Chief Judge of the 8th Judicial District Michael Powers of Marion said the judges have an obligation to follow the law.

December

Representatives from the organizations that sponsored the annual Marion County Toy Run in early November distributed more than 100 toys, 27 bicycles, two tricycles as well as $14,000 in donations raised at an auction and chili feed among ministerial and charitable organizations from four communities.

District 2 resident John Siebert addressed commissioners about the condition of Yarrow Road following the weekend?s soaking rain. Siebert said the base of the road is ?disappearing in a sea of water and mud.?

In response to additional complaints, Commis?sioner Dan Holub said a declining population in the county is making it increasingly harder to generate sufficient tax revenue to maintain the county?s expanse of rural roads.

Andy Pitts of Treanor Architects in Lawrence began planning, with the commissioners, for a proposed multi-purpose county building to be located south of the county jail in Marion.