County may put jail on April ballot

Staff writer

Marion County Commission will have a special meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to evaluate the possibility of putting a proposal for a new jail on the April 5 ballot.

The commission wants to meet with bond counsel David Artebury and architects from Treanor Architects, P.A., of Topeka, and HMN Architects, Inc., of Overland Park.

Marion County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Center Committee recommended the architecture firms to the commission. The committee has since disbanded.

A 1 percent sales tax to pay for a 77-bed, $8.65-million jail was defeated by a 3-1 margin in a November 2008 referendum. The committee had recommended the county build a smaller jail, with 26 to 40 beds. In a meeting Sept. 22, 2009, architects told the committee a 32-bed jail would likely cost between $3.2 and $4.3 million, which would include space for the sheriff’s department and emergency communications.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he wanted to be sure any new plan addressed the concerns of voters who rejected the 2008 plan. Among those concerns were the proposed location in Marion Industrial Park, financing the project with sales tax, and size of the project.

The commission is negotiating with property owners adjacent to the courthouse to buy land, which could solve the location concern, and the committee recommended a jail about half the size of the earlier proposal. But financing could remain a contentious point, commissioner Dan Holub said. There was no middle ground on how to finance the project in 2008, he said. People either hated sales tax and wanted financing on property tax or hated property tax and wanted financing on sales tax. Holub said he would prefer a 50-50 split.

Commission Chairman Roger Fleming questioned whether the county has enough time to get the proposal on the April 5 election. He said he didn’t want to rush things.

“It seems like there are so many decisions to be made in such a short time,” he said.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said ballots need to be available two weeks before the election for advance voting. The next countywide general election is November 2012.

The latest countywide special election — a referendum on a proposed casino in 2005 — cost the county about $10,000. Additionally, Dallke said, detractors of such projects are more likely to turn out to vote in a special election than supporters.

Pipeline safety discussed

Robert Latimer and Jim Prescott of Transcanada Keystone Pipeline project met with commissioners to discuss what would happen in the event of a pipeline emergency. The pipeline is transporting slurry from Canada to Cushing, Okla., although it isn’t operating at full capacity yet.

The pipeline has remote-controlled shut-off valves approximately every 10 miles that can isolate a segment of pipe within about 12 minutes, Latimer said. In the event of an emergency, the company would also notify local emergency responders and send an incident commander to the scene.

The company’s main expectations of local authorities are to secure the site and provide crowd and traffic control, provide first aid, and extinguish secondary fires. Local responders are urged against attempting to contain oil or operate valves, Latimer said.

The company has had a few spills of more than 5 gallons at pump stations in Missouri and North and South Dakota. Any spill greater than 5 gallons has to be reported. There are no pump stations in Marion County.

Holub said he was concerned about a chemical additive that could be added to the heavy oil in the pipe, which includes hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is flammable and toxic, he quoted from a material safety data sheet. He said he wanted to know the quantities of the additive in the pipeline.

Holub also expressed concerns about timeliness of response to an emergency. He cited the case of another company’s pipe that ruptured in Michigan, which took five days to have full response crews on scene.

Prescott repeatedly asked Holub if he or anyone else was accusing Transcanada of wrongdoing. Holub said no, but that he was concerned because if it happened elsewhere, it could happen here.

In other business:

  • The Sheriff’s Office will purchase a 2011 Dodge Charger to replace a 2006 Charger with about 150,000 miles on it. The new car will cost $24,537. A new Ford Crown Victoria would have cost about $800 less, including the cost to replace equipment that couldn’t be moved from the current vehicle.
  • Marion County Planning Commission will have a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. March 10 regarding new floodplain maps.
  • Prairie View Chief Executive Officer Jessie Kaye gave a presentation about the role of community mental health centers in Kansas and their funding. Prairie View is the designated center for Marion County.
  • Jessica Laurin of Marion County Park and Lake asked commissioners what would be needed for the county to maintain side roads at the lake. Holub said an interlocal agreement with the improvement district at the lake would allow the county to maintain the roads without having to make them county roads and widen them to the state’s 60-foot-wide right of way requirement.
  • Road and Bridge Superintendent Jim Herzet will seek bids for five new chainsaws to replace worn out saws. Fleming said he had received a comment from a resident that recent brush clearing along roads had been good.

The next regular commission meeting is Tuesday.

 

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