$5,000 minimum set for motel sale

Although it stands to lose as much as $30,000 in back taxes on the property, Marion County will require a minimum bid of only $5,000 when a former Florence motel is auctioned off at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Courthouse.

Commissioner Dan Holub and Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman expressed concern about what they regarded as a low minimum bid.

“I fear someone will come in if it’s very low and make another storage unit,” Huffman said. “We need the bed space.”

If the building were converted into storage, Huffman said, it will quickly become “a nothing building.”

Florence “has too much of that,” Holub said, adding that he thought the motel was a “viable concern.”

“If that wind farm thing goes, we might be able to fill it up,” he said.

However, Commissioner Roger Fleming said, “I for one don’t want the county involved.”

Chairman Roger Dallke added: “The City of Marion has projects here that have gone awry. I’d rather take the bird in hand.”

The commission voted 2-1, with Holub opposed, to set $5,000 as the minimum.

Student loan program

In other business Monday, the commission heard from a Kansas Department of Commerce official that Marion County has one of the state’s longest waiting lists for a program that repays up to $15,000 in student loans for graduates who relocate to rural areas.

The county shares the cost with the state. A new provision allows employers to put up the local share of the cost.

In all, 24 applications have been approved in Marion County, but the county contributes only $3,000, enough to cover just two applicants.

“Marion is in a sweet spot between Wichita and Kansas City,” said Renee Lippencott, regional project manager with the Department of Commerce. “You need to embrace your centralness.”

The program applies not just to college graduates but also to technical school graduates.

“You are one of the counties that’s losing population,” Lippencott said. “If you let things stay the same, change will happen. You will have to decide whether its degradation or improvement.”

Fireworks at lake

Commissioners also approved plans by United Steel Workers union members from Agco Corp. in Hillsboro to put on a professionally managed fireworks show Sept. 1 at Marion County Park and Lake.

Diana Williams of Canada said union members from throughout the state would have their Labor Day weekend meeting at the lake — in part so that Wichita-based members would understand that Marion County has more than just an algae-tainted reservoir to offer.

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