County to explore a rails trail

The Marion County Com?mission Tuesday, Jan. 22, directed County Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman to proceed with planning for what must be done to develop a rails-to-trails path from Marion to the McPherson County line.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said it has been shown that tourism to the county will grow if the effort is put behind it. Development of a hiking and biking trail along former railroad siding would be in keeping with that effort, he said.

Huffman said such a trail would require a body responsible for development, upkeep and liability. That body would be the Central Kansas Conservancy, she said.

The announcement followed a 30-minute executive session for personnel with Huffman and County Appraiser Cynthia Magill.

Correction center land

The commissioners named Bob Hein chairman of the commission, succeeding Dallke.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said the Marion City Council has been invited to the county commission meeting to discuss land for a new county corrections center, ?But they won?t come,? she said.

The commissioners said they will accept an invitation from the city to discuss the matter at a Marion City Council meeting next Monday. The commissioners said they need a reply from the city on where it would allow construction, and under what terms.

Commissioner Dan Holub said the city had suggested a location in the southeast corner of Batt Industrial Park, but it is closer to the high school stadium and residential housing.

He said the county would prefer a location in the northwest corner of the park along U.S. Highway 56 that would be away from housing and with easy highway access for prisoner transportation.

Hein said, ?I can?t believe they won?t give us an answer. If they say no, I guess we?ll have to look somewhere else.?

Bridge recommendation

Acting Road and Bridge Director John Summerville said a recommendation has come from the engineering firm of Cooke, Flatt and Strobel that a bridge used by the Hayhook Ranch for heavy loads of cattle either be upgraded to posting for 30-ton loads, or not posted at all.

Summerville said the engineers believe the bridge will support the loads, but will wear out sooner than if left at its orginal 15-ton limit. To build a replacement bridge actually rated to carry the heaviest loads might be in the $300,000 range, he said. That?s a figure the county can?t afford, and that isn?t justified by road traffic, he said.

Since it can be forseen that the bridge may carry actual loads of 80,000 to 85,000 pounds, the recommendation of the county attorney is that it be left unposted, he said.

?If we change the posting, we take all the liability. If we leave it like it is, and they collapse it, they have the liability.?

The commissioners also directed Summerville to have County Attorney Susan Robson write letters to ranchers in both the northern and the southern parts of the county that posts they have placed on county rights-of-way will have to be removed.

Holub said, ?It is ugly on us? that the posts have to be removed because the county probably gave ranchers permission to do so for purposes of fencing roads in for moving cattle. But the posts are a potential liability for the county if a motorist were to hit one, he said.

The commissioners discussed replacing many bridges in the future with box culverts with Road and Bridge Sign Foreman Dennis Maggard noting that a box can cost about $10,000 compared to about $80,000 for a bridge.

Although the bridge gets the road above the flood plain better, the commissioners said some roads aren?t traveled enough to warrant the greater expense.

Dallke said the 150 or so bridges that Marion County eventually has to replace ?won?t get done in our lifetimes? at the current rate of funds ability.

Hein said the five-year plan in place for replacing bridges has served the county well in keeping everything safely up-to-date.

The commissioners discussed what will need to be done in finding a permanent road and bridge director, and touched on the idea of checking whether an engineer might be hired with not much more expense than is being paid for consulting engineers.

Other business

The commissioners said they will join a group of concerned counties talking to the state about U.S. Highway 50 improvements, including possibly making the highway four-lane to the Colorado line.

The commissioners decided to delay planting any new shrubs or other plants along the foundations of the courthouse following recent foundation waterproofing and refurbishment until next fall. The old shrubbery was removed for the project.

The commissioners wrote off $1,716.11 in county checks that have gone two years without being cashed.

The commissioners agreed with Scot Loyd, budget and audit consultant with the firm of Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd, LLC, to delay splitting financial responsibilities to give greater guidance until into 2008 to avoid confusion.

Maggard gave the treasurer?s report of county cash on hand Dec. 31 at $14,328,905 with $1,772,74 in the general fund and $646,942 in road and bridge. The treasurer reported $8,436,403 in ad valorem taxes received in November and December.

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