The Marion County Commission heard from Dave Mueller, who represents landowners leasing ground to Enel Green Power-Diamond Vista for its wind turbine project, but at Monday’s meeting, he wants the commission to remove Kirkham Michael as the county’s road consultant.
“As the role of representing landowners, I handle their concerns and their issues, and their biggest issue through this entire project has been dealing with the road consultant,” Mueller said. “And, they are mad.”
He provided the commissioners with 26 letters from landowners in the project, and they all live in northern Marion County and they have all been directly impacted.
One recent issue involved the subcontractor and the clash between what the county’s consultant Kirkham Michael said about the use of metal tracked equipment and questioning from Commissioner Dianne Novak as to whether that type of machinery was legal on roads.
At the June 10 meeting, Novak said she didn’t want to proceed with the metal tracked equipment until the commission had a chance to verify state statute on this.
“But,” Mueller said, “we have seen the delay tactics with the crane issue this past couple of weeks.”
Novak said, at that time, she didn’t want to make a decision on something the county has a signed contract on without knowing for sure.
“From the landowners’ standpoint,” he said, “the consultant that specifies just dealing with roads should know what the laws are concerning those roads.”
Tanner Yost and Dave Prater, both with Kirkham Michael, which is the engineering firm hired to supervise the road maintenance agreement is overseeing Diamond Vista’s work on making sure the roads are put back to the condition they were before the project started.
Some of the frustrations also voiced by landowners was about the leftover materials from the project, and how Kirkham Michael wouldn’t allow the landowners to use any other road but the designated haul routes.
Mueller said these are taxpayers and they are driving on their roads.
Prater said that the driver was in a commercial truck, and so he directed him to stay on the haul route. He didn’t know this was a local landowner., but the issue was resolved, and KM said they will not stop local traffic carrying heavy materials.
However, Diamond Vista personnel will be required to stay on the haul route.
Mueller also provided information that the contractors have met or exceeded expectations regarding land restoration and the county roads thus far.
“Kirkham Michael has harassed Diamond Vista and local landowners, and routinely places new demands on the contractor-delaying restoration and completion,” he said.
Mueller said with a new county engineer on staff, he believes closing out the project can be done.
After hearing from both sides, Commissioner Randy Dallke said he liked the idea KM presented about closing out segments using the example of doing the east side and west side roads.
However, the commission was not in favor of releasing KM from the project.
In other business, the commission:
◼ was provided information on the county’s EMS runs and patients from January through May totaling 109. Travis Parmley, EMS director, categorized the responses to include transfers, 25; cardiac, 4; medical emergencies, 34; standby, 3; motor vehicle accidents, 4; falls, 13; patient not transported, 24; calls disregarded (10-22) 1; fatality (10-40) 2. The total number of runs for the year thus far is 598. In addition, a 10-year comparison was done. The total number of ambulance runs, patients in 2009, 1,102; in 2010, 1,039; in 2011, 1,090; in 2012, 1,063; in 2013, 1,119; in 2014, 1,077; in 2015, 1,172; in 2016, 1,179; in 2017, 1,290; and in 2018, 1,419. The report also broke down numbers for Peabody, Florence, Marion, Hillsboro and Tampa.
◼ reviewed the county’s transfer station monthly tonnage report for May, which was almost 630 tons. According to Bud Druse, director, the report was classified by the type of waste to include municipal solid waste tonnage at 572.25 tons; construction and demolition, 51.90 tons; white goods (appliances or larger items) 5.02 tons; special waste (requiring different disposal methods), none; and tires at .29 tonnage. The cost per ton for the fuel and driver was about $40 in May. The gate price at the waste processing facility, also known as a tipping fee, was $19,364; and the tipping fee for the months of January through May was $76,436.
◼ saw a report on recycling for the month of May indicating the tonnage was about 36 tons, and for the year, 128.33 tons. Recycling materials by city in May included Goessel with 6.46 tons; Tampa, .80 tons; Durham, 1.28 tons; Florence, 1.14 tons; Burns, 1.46 tons; Centre, 2,10 tons; Peabody, none collected; received at the county’s transfer station, 5.41 tons; Marion Elementary School, 3 tons, and the city of Marion, 9.09 tons. The total cost, which includes all Marion County cities totaled 107.36 tons. The number of trips to the recycling site totaled 102, with transfer station employees driving a total of 4,269 miles with a fuel cost of $1,002.40. No income was received from January through May.
◼ approved two new appointments to the Harvey-Marion County Community Developmental Disability Organization board of directors. The recommended appointments filling the vacancies left by Diedre Serene and Mary, who both served two three-year terms, include Anita Unruh of Tampa and Mary Gill of Marion. The new board members term begins July 1 and through June 30, 2022.
◼ approved a resolution with new features to the Rural Opportunity Zone, a program with about 80 counties authorized by the state to participate. The program helps in the repayment of student loans up to $15,000 over five years, but it also could offer a tax waiver for five years depending on rules and qualifications. The resolution agreed to allocate $3,000 a year with the state matching payments but also agreed to include cities and foundations to sponsor participants. Matthew Self, Kansas Department of Commerce in Topeka, said the KDC has worked hard to help counties unable to fund the program find options. “The solution we came up with is that sponsorship does not have to come directly from the county. Sponsorship can come from the applicant’s employer, a local foundation/non-profit, or even the city the applicant lives in.” For more information, call Rachel Rowand, program manager, at 785-296-3345.
◼ listened as Ty Wheeler, attorney with the Kansas Legal Services, presented his budget request of $4,500, which he said is the same request as in 2019. Wheeler said the focus of KLS is in assisting special needs individuals such as victims of domestic violence, those homeless, children in foster care, the elderly, farmers, those disabling conditions, people seeking access to health care, mediation services and people who need basic life skills and employment training. The primary purpose, he said, is in providing equal access to justice for those unable to pay for legal and other essential services.
◼ heard from Jessica Kay, president and CEO of Prairie View, a mental health facility in Newton that helps people within the county by providing services with substance use or mental health issues. The financial support being requested by Prairie View in the 2020 budget is $65,000, which is the same amount received in 2019.
◼ heard from Scot Loyd, with Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk and Loyd CPAs, responsible for assisting with the overall budget. While departments and outside agencies continued to present budget requests, Loyd gave input on what the counties financial picture for 2020.
◼ heard from Joel Ensey, county attorney, plans to be full-time in the job and probably won’t go into private practice, too. By doing so, he said, it will mean fewer conflicts and less need for special prosecutors to come in because of conflicts. However, Ensey did say his budget would be slightly higher than in 2019. One of the reasons he requested more is to pay an increase of 2.5 percent for staff.