The Marion County Board of Commissioners met for their weekly meeting on Monday, Aug. 17. All of the commissioners were present. After a brief update from the Marion County Health Department (please see the article in this edition for that information), the meeting moved on the discuss the hot topic of the road conditions.
Marion County resident Bill Harmon, who lives in the northern area of the county, came and spoke with the commissioners about the roads near his homes. He expressed his frustrations over the fact that he has not only notified the Road and Bridge Department several times, but the most recent time he spoke with someone
“I can’t say that I have seen much cooperation. I’m not here to implicate anyone, but being told ‘I will put your name down with the other one hundred and something names’ is not how it should be handled,” said Harmon.
He told the commissioners that they could come out and see his road or even look on Google earth but they would be able to see that the maintenance has really fallen off although it had been bladed and rocked recently and did look somewhat better than it had been. He pointed out that as soon as it rains some more it will be bad again.
“I’m just concerned. I have a neighbor with health issues. With EMT services, these roads become a serious issue.
Harmon respectfully shared his frustrations giving multiple examples of times the roads had not been dealt with or maintained. He spoke to how the roads had been handled many years ago and how they are handled how. He stated that he noticed more regular maintenance when he first moved in than he does now.
“There are many different routes you can take to get around, but after a two-three inch rain, there is going to be flooding no matter where it is.
“Mr. Harmon, I would say as far as the way you were spoke (SIC) to by anybody in our road and bridge, I do apologize to you. This could have been handled better. I do not like our taxpayers treated like that. I do apologize to you for that,” said Commissioner Dianne Novak.
Harmon thanked her.
“I’m not going to hold a grudge. I would just like to see improvement,” said Harmon. “I know you all have difficult jobs to do and I appreciate any time you can give to it.”
Brice Goebel, County Engineer, spoke with the commissioners after Harmon.
Novak asked Goebel about his list of projects needing down in regards to roads and stated that when she saw it, the list was not hundreds long.
“I’m just wondering. Was his name on that list? I’m going to go back and look but I can’t recall it,” said Novak.
Goebel said he wasn’t sure but said he only shows the commissioners a list of the last few months of a list that needs done.
“But it should be on there until it’s done. When it’s done, then it’s done,” said Novak.
Goebel did not reply to that.
Several of the commissioners encouraged Goebel to figure out a way to make Harmon’s roads better even if Goebel and his staff couldn’t completely fix it, they asked him to help improve it.
“Even if we can do something to make it go from two hours to one for the water to recede and his road to be drivable again. Anything would be an improvement,” said Commissioner Kent Becker.
Goebel explained that the culvert near Harmon was built in 2001 and was poorly designed. There are a lot of costs and complications involved in it.
“If I were to go back and build a concrete structure there, we are talking a $160,00 project there,” said Goebel.
Goebel and the commissioners discussed the roads more, but Goebel pointed out that he and his staff are blade patching tomorrow which takes out everyone in the department and will keep them busy for the next 6-8 weeks.
Goebel stated that he would like to speak with Harmon about how he was spoken to and shake his hand.
The meeting came to a close with commissioner comments.
Commissioner Randy Dallke brought up the wind farm and his desire to get going on the project. He expressed frustration with the pending litigation going on and wondered if the commission could get a letter out supporting Expedition and the wind farm.
“Is that not a proper thing to do when you are waiting for the judge to make his orders?” Dallke asked County Attorney Brad Jantz.
“I would hold on that until the judge rules. At the moment, given where it is at, it is pragmatically a good idea to wait,” said Jantz.
“How long could this thing go on? Indefinitely?” asked Becker.
“That’s not an unfair way to put it,” said Jantz.
“Seem’s ludicrous to me,” said Becker.
“Right now with COVID and with our businesses needing business—like up North near Dianne and what we saw up there—that’s what we need in our county right now. That’s my concern,” said Dallke.
Novak pointed out that the lawsuit is not what is holding up the project but it is the permits and the planning and zoning department which Jantz agreed with her on.
As Novak and Dallke began to argue, Chairman Jonah Gehring stopped the conversation and changed the subject.
The meeting adjourned soon after.
In other business, the commissioners:
n approved salary changed for county employees
n approved the 5-year solid waste management plan
n went into executive session for a discussion about property acquisition. No action was taken.
n heard from the SPARK committee regarding the SPARK Grant. The full details on this will be available in next week’s edition of the Free Press
n heard from Marion Economic Development Director Randy Collett regarding the Kansas Trail Guide and placing an ad for Marion County for the Sante Fe Trail. The commission approved it.