4th deputy departs with drug dog
The sheriff’s office has less than half of a full slate of deputies now that Marion Police Department has hired back its former drug dog handler.
The hiring of Aaron Slater brings Marion’s department back to full staff, meaning it will not necessarily have a vacancy it can use to hire a permanent replacement for Gideon Cody as chief.
Interim Chief Zach Hudlin told city council members Monday that he wanted to hire Slater, who previously was a dog handler for Marion before he went to the county a year ago. He had worked for the sheriff’s office before that.
Hudlin said Sheriff Jeff Soyez was willing to sell Blue, the Belgian malinois that Slater handles, for $6,671 — the amount the sheriff’s office paid the city for the dog a year ago.
Hudlin said money in his department’s canine fund would cover the purchase and get the department through the next year of expenses for having a dog.
Council member Ruth Herbel initially was opposed to the idea of reinstituting a drug dog program, saying the city could use sheriff’s department dogs when needed.
Council member Zach Collett also expressed concern, saying he thought Blue’s price should be depreciated.
“It would be like the last year Aaron’s been gone, that didn’t happen,” Hudlin said.
City administrator Brogan Jones argued to pay the full price.
“We’ve got to keep a good working relationship with our sheriff’s office,” he said. “We don’t want to burn any bridges over what might be $500.”
Herbel contended the city had gone without the dog the last year, “and we haven’t missed it.”
Slater and Blue’s departure would leave the sheriff’s office with one dog.
A drug dog ordinarily costs $7,000 to $8,000, but one that already has worked some of its expected span does not cost as much.
First purchased in October, 2019, Blue is trained to sniff for methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy as well as to track people and recover evidence. She also was used for public relations by the police.
In February, 2021, she ate an electrical cord and had to have emergency surgery.
In other business Monday, council members discussed a request from Kansas Power Pool to put solar panels in Marion.
KPP wants to install the panels on six to seven acres to generate 1 megawatt of electricity. The city current has solar panels that produce just 25 kilowatts of power. The new array could produce nearly 400 times as much power.
Jones said the city would get a reduced electricity rate, but did not know how much the reduction would be.
Jones originally suggested placing the array in the city’s industrial park, but Herbel asked about putting it instead north of the county’s transfer station. Collett agreed that would be the best location.
Collett then moved to propose lots north of the transfer station for the project. Council members voted unanimously to have Jones propose that location to KPP.
Council members also discussed buying a bucket truck.
Jones admitted he had been wrong two weeks ago when he told council members a lease on a bucket truck the city now uses expired in October.
“That said, the earliest we could come up with a (new) bucket truck is 2025,” Jones said.
He proposed that the city purchase a $68,000 chassis and ship it to South Dakota at a cost of $21,000 to have an Altec bucket assembly mounted on it.
Altec would charge $145,248 for setting it up.
Collett asked whether the city needed the three trucks it still has.
Council member Kevin Burkholder asked whether a smaller bucket truck could be sold.
Ultimately, the council voted to buy the chassis, send it to Altec, and pay $145,248 when the truck is completed.