Key county roads
to go back to paved
Six miles of gravel roads that used to be paved, including the east access road to Marion Dam and a continuation leading to Cottonwood Point, will return to asphalt later this year.
County commissioners approved a $1.13 million bid from low bidder APAC of Wichita last week to hard surface:
- Pawnee Rd. from US-56 to Marion Dam, particularly important now that the dam has a six-ton weight limit.
- Pawnee Rd. from 220th to 230th Rd., extending to a Cottonwood Point access road.
- Timber Rd. from 10th to 40th Rd. in the extreme southern part of the county.
- 90th Rd. from K-15 to Chisholm Trail Rd. in the southwestern part of the county.
Commissioners also accepted an $83,360 low bid from APAC for the county’s half of repaving Industrial Rd. / Jade Rd. from 190th Rd. north to Hillsboro Community Hospital at US-56.
Hillsboro is paying for the north half of the project. Unlike the other paving projects, which will be paid out of the county’s capital improvement fund, the county’s share of this project will be paid out of federal money.
Commissioners, who spoke passionately and at length about the need to improve roads for farmers, also approved purchasing two new dump trucks for $95,652.50 apiece from Williams Service of Florence.
From Tractor Parts and Equipment, the county also will purchase a $51,345 bed and plow with a hitch for a pup trailer for one truck and a $52,470 bed and plow with a high-lift gate for the other.
One truck will be purchased outright this year. The other will be bought as a lease-purchase, with county banks invited to bid on the interest rate.
Two old trucks will be sold at auction. Another dump truck purchase is likely next year.
Appraiser’s 39.1% raise
After a series of closed-door sessions, commissioners offered deputy appraiser Brian Frese a 39.1 percent raise to serve as interim appraiser for one month.
His monthly salary will go from the equivalent of $41,664 annually to the equivalent of $57,996 annually.
He will let commissioners know before July 1 whether he will agree to be the permanent replacement for appraiser Ray Cook, who announced his resignation March 20.
Demolition bids flawed
Despite having hired EBH Engineering to ensure the adequacy of bids to demolish the former Florence school, commissioners voted to void a just-concluded bidding process and start over.
A mix-up in paperwork did not make it clear to all bidders that they would have to provide a so-called bid bond, guaranteeing that they would perform the work if their bid were accepted.
Like three of eight others who submitted bids, low bidder Middlecreek Mining of Peabody did not include a bid bond in its $84,000 bid.
Bids ranged as high as $221,000, with two clusters — between $84,000 and $98,000 and around $120,000. EBH’s estimate had been $114,500.
With Middlecreek’s Frank Oursler in attendance, commission chairman Randy Dallke expressed concern that rebidding would allow others to undercut the low bid.
Other commissioners said there was no option but to reopen bidding to all parties. Dallke cast the lone vote against doing so.
EBH’s Darren Neufeld apologized for the mix-up and, on questioning from commissioners, said county counselor Susan Robson had not reviewed the paperwork in advance.
Resubmitted bids will be evaluated June 19.
Bowron proves divisive
The future of downtown Marion’s historic 1886 Bowron Building appears to be the next looming controversy for the commission.
The building, a half-block from the courthouse, houses the county’s planning, zoning and environmental health department. Until last year, it also housed the public health department, which has since moved across town to near St. Luke Hospital.
“We need to get out of it, put it on the market, and move on,” Dallke said. “My feelings are that I’d like to spend money for more than one department.”
Renovating both floors of the building could be costly, Dallke said.
County clerk Tina Spencer said a previous feasibility study put the cost at $500,000. Not mentioned were previous feasibility studies indicating that building a courthouse annex could cost more than $7 million.
Dallke said he was looking more into the idea of creating a storage shed — a metal building or a concrete block building nearer to the courthouse.
He cited concerns about the half-block citizens might have to walk to go between the Bowron Building and the courthouse.
Commissioner Dianne Novak seemed to disagree, saying: “We just need to get in there and fix it.”
She urged having the building listed, as its sister structure, the adjoining Historic Elgin Hotel is, on the National Register of Historic Places.
However, both Dallke and commissioner Kent Becker thought doing so would limit options by forcing the county to retain historic elements of the building’s design.
“I don’t see putting money into that building if there are alternatives,” Becker said.
Commissioners decided to re-examine possibilities, but Dallke said he thought it would best to rely on private enterprise, rather than government, to make any attempt to preserve the historic structure.