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Commission debates involvement with Florence motel

Staff writer

Marion County Commission on Monday mulled whether to take the former Holiday Motel in Florence off the hands of South Central Kansas Economic Development District or whether to allow SCKEDD to sell the building to pay back taxes.

After someone defaulted on a loan on the former motel along U.S. 50, SCKEDD took it over. Approximately $27,000 of back property taxes are owed on the property. County Attorney Susan Robson told the commission that SCKEDD has found a potential buyer, which would allow the county to recoup the back taxes.

Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman said the buyer might let the motel “sit there and rot” because they don’t have the resources to renovate it for further use as a motel.

Planning and Zoning Director Tonya Richards said an inspection she conducted with Hillsboro Building Inspector Ben Steketee revealed mold in every bathroom and a leaky roof, but that the building could be made habitable again and is in surprisingly good shape structurally.

Commissioner Dan Holub advocated accepting the property from SCKEDD, arguing that the county could then control who bought it and for what purpose. If restored to an active motel, the county would benefit from increased property tax, as well as guest taxes collected.

Huffman compared it to the City of Peabody’s purchase of the former Baker Furniture buildings to be updated for new businesses. She said without that intervention, the buildings would have probably become a blight.

Robson said she wasn’t sure how much control the county could have selling a property for back taxes. The county can set a minimum bid in certain situations to recoup costs, but she said she didn’t think the county could require it be restored and reopened as a motel.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he wanted to consult the City of Florence whether it wanted any involvement with the motel before making a decision.

Huffman said the potential buyer was pressuring SCKEDD to make a decision quickly. Robson said she would contact SCKEDD and ask whether a decision could be delayed a week.

Tampa road should be complete by July 1

Engineering firm Kirkham Michael had a phone conference with the commission to finalize plans for bid-letting on an asphalt overlay of 330th Road between Tampa and K-15.

The commission will open bids at 1 p.m. Jan. 23. Construction will occur between April 1 and July 1, with each day beyond the completion date penalized $1,000 of damages. The road will remain open during construction using flaggers and a pilot car.

The commission asked the engineers to work with Road and Bridge Superintendent Randy Crawford to prepare specifications for 24 miles of double chip seal. A 2009 project cost $230,000 for 5.5 miles of double chip seal. Projecting that out, 24 miles would cost approximately $1 million.

In other business:

  • An inspection of the former Marion County landfill on Oct. 19 by Kansas Department of Health and Environment found no major problems, either with the cap of the landfill or water samples taken from testing wells.
  • A 15-foot utility easement along the east edge of the new jail site was approved.
  • A letter was sent to Peabody City Council encouraging the city to appeal a $400 filing fee for Peabody City Park to be exempt from property taxes.
  • Holub encouraged the commission to be wary of the negatives associated with a possible boom in horizontal drilling for oil. He said Marion County is situated in a location that makes such a boom possible.
  • An order for a new ambulance was canceled, because the funds for the new ambulance aren’t part of the budget until 2012.
  • Robson met with the commission in closed session for five minutes to discuss personnel matters. On return to open session, the commission approved giving Karen Selznick an extra month to use vacation days before they expire.
  • Dale Cope requested to allow cattle to cross a minimum maintenance dirt road in the very northwest corner of the county, using signs to warn drivers of possible cattle crossing and cattle guards to keep them from wandering out of the appropriate area. The commission agreed to work on a written agreement with Cope.
  • Butler County Landfill will raise the fee for the county to dump municipal solid waste by $1 per ton on Jan. 1, to a price of $34 per ton.
  • Noxious Weed Department will purchase six tires from Rod’s Tire of Hillsboro for $1,566 for the spray truck. Cardie Oil Company of Tampa bid $1,765.
  • The former spray truck sold online for $3,100.
  • Noxious Weed Director Rollin Schmidt received the commission’s approval to purchase 2,4-D herbicide before the end of the year. Schmidt said he expects the price to climb significantly in 2012, and he wants to avoid the price increase. He said he might purchase up to $10,000 worth of the herbicide, which the county is required by state law to make available to farmers at a 25 percent discount.
  • The commission met in closed session with appointed department heads in the afternoon to discuss evaluations.

The next commission meeting is scheduled for Monday.

Last modified Dec. 14, 2011

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