Commission approves probe for testing reservoir water

Staff reporter

Marion County Commissioner Randy Dallke doesn't want the county to assume the responsibility of monitoring Marion Reservoir.

And by purchasing a probe to monitor and collect water samples, he's afraid the county is assuming more responsibility than it should.

In the end, the commission approved the purchase of the $8,360 piece of equipment, 2-1, with Dallke voting against.

The discussion began when county environment health director Bobbi Strait told the commission that she was prepared to purchase the monitor, a planned expense, and was wanting approval to do so.

She said the monitoring could be conducted on a regular basis, not just when there's an issue.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel is willing to assist by providing a base line.

"Is it the county's job to test the water?" Dallke asked.

Strait said she felt it had been dumped in the county's lap and was more of a perception issue. If the county didn't test the water it would make the county appear as if it doesn't care if the water is safe to drink and safe for recreational use.

Commissioner Dan Holub agreed.

"If someone gets sick or dies from the water, we can't say it's not our problem," Holub said. "It's a moral issue."

The equipment could be used to help predict an algae outbreak which may bring peace of mind to some reservoir visitors who have been reluctant to camp and use the water for recreational purposes.

Strait said the Marion County Surface Water Board suggested Tabor College students be involved in the environmental science aspect of the monitoring with some testing being conducted by the students as part of the curriculum.

Dallke said he agreed with what was being said but doesn't want the county to be solely responsible.

"The question is, 'Whose jurisdiction is this?' I don't believe it's the county's. In my opinion, we need to throw it back to the agency that's responsible. If something happens because we didn't catch it, I think it puts us at a legal risk," he said.

After the county gathers data for a year or so, the county then can go to state or federal agencies for funding, Strait said. The plan is to be prepared for action when funding is received.

The monitoring would be focused on swimming areas, campgrounds, and other places where there is a concentration of people.

With that Holub made the motion to purchase the probe with commission chairman Bob Hein seconding. When Dallke cast the dissenting vote, he said the county had taken over the funding of the WRAPS program. Cities in the county pay for membership to the Kansas Water Board and the water board should help with expenses.

In other business:

— Acting public works director John Summerville asked for direction regarding the county providing road rock to a new residence. A county resolution allows up to $3,000 worth of rock for new houses but Summerville said with increased fuel costs, the county would spend approximately $3,700 for the rock which was approved.

Dallke expressed concerns about the county maintaining the road in the future.

Summerville said 300 tons of rock was needed for three-quarters of a mile. The house is located on 140th Road, one-half mile east of McPherson County.

It was suggested that rock be stockpiled in various locations in the county for road maintenance which could save fuel costs in the end. Rock is obtained from quarries in Florence and Marion.

— More pay for his crew was a request Summerville made after a section man resigned, saying he couldn't make a living from the county wage. Summerville said he was afraid if the employees aren't given more money he was going to have turnover.

Holub commented the issue was universal.

— No decision was made regarding repairs to Gilham Road at Marion County Lake. The county did not accept the road when that area was platted, therefore making it a private drive. However, several years ago the county did put rock on the road.

Summerville said he was concerned about the county providing rock for private lake roads but charging residents to rock county-owned, low-maintenance roads.