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Marion debates truck purchase

Staff writer

A plan to purchase a third bucket truck came under intense scrutiny Monday at the Marion City Council meeting, fueled by differences regarding the need for additional equipment.

“This was brought about by me asking about what I thought was going to be a trade-in of a truck, which I guess is not going to be,” Mayor Mary Olson said. “So that being said, is there any real need for this third truck?”

“Working with the Electrical Department, we came up with six or seven reasons why an additional truck is necessary. The primary one is safety,” City Administrator Doug Kjellin said.

“When we get into tighter areas we do not have the ability to swing the large truck boom around, so it becomes tight and we don’t have the ability to get the work done that we need,” Kjellin said.

The current year budget, approved by the council, includes $53,000 in capital outlay earmarked for purchase of a used bucket truck that Kjellin said will increase effective response to electrical outages in emergencies, enhance ease of repairs and in areas the large bucket truck is difficult to maneuver, and increase overall safety.

“It is a way to make sure we honor our emergency operating procedures, which say we have the capability of having three two-man crews going out to repair electrical,” Kjellin said. “At this point we are not able to without that extra vehicle.”

Council member Steve Smith pointed out one option that already exists to augment repairs in emergency situations.

“I understand that you want to have the capability of having three trucks when something like that happens, but we also have that mutual aid agreement that we can bring in someone else if we need to,” Smith said.

Kjellin responded by describing a recent situation when the small bucket truck was temporarily inoperable, and suggested if an event had happened where the large truck could not be maneuvered in the available space, the repairs would not have been done.

“So this is going to make three trucks in that department, and I’m wondering if that priority would really hold true,” Olson said.

“I think it’s probably at the top,” Kjellin said. He went on to describe various large equipment items, such as a backhoe, that are on a multi-year plan for replacement or enhancement.

“The only two things on the list this year were a new mower and this used bucket truck,” Kjellin said.

“If we had an ice storm and Hillsboro didn’t, could you call Hillsboro to come over with a truck. Would that cost us something?” council member Bill Holdeman asked.

Kjellin said under the right circumstances, the city could apply to FEMA for reimbursement of costs. But Kjellin noted crews from elsewhere would be at a disadvantage.

“We’ve got seven electrical circuits, and there are different cutout points, different fuseable points, there’s different substations, and they don’t know our system like our guys do,” Kjellin said.

“Well, I have to be honest, I’m not too enthused about buying another truck right now. I suppose we need it, but right now I’d like to see you prioritize what we have,” Olson said.

“They pretty much have prioritized what we have — they said that is more of a priority ….” Meierhoff said as Olson cut him off.

“I sometimes wonder about that,” Olson said. “It’s just like he (Kjellin) said, it’s according to which one you’re talking to. We’ve got other old equipment that’s really getting old.”

“At budget time you’ll see the five-year projection of capital outlay for equipment reserve,” Kjellin said.

“This will probably be in the paper and maybe we’ll get some feedback from the public as to what they would like us to do,” Olson said.

“I think really you need to trust your department heads,” Kjellin countered. “If the next time somebody comes along and they say we need a backhoe, are we going to do this again, saying well, we need the public to tell us whether or not we need a backhoe?”

“Well, I don’t know that I listen to the public all the time, but they still have a feel as to what’s out there, they’re watching, every day, the street cleaner that’s not sweeping where it’s supposed to,” Olson said.

“When do you want to budget for this third truck you’re wanting?” Holdeman asked.

“It’s already budgeted for 2012,” Kjellin said. “I have two companies that specialize in bucket trucks. We’re being picky. We’ve told them what we want, and they’ve got to have it all or nothing.”

No action by the council was necessary as a result of the discussion.

Tree dump burn ban

Kjellin informed the council that the tree dump will not be able to burn anything in April.

“If anybody has some tree limbs and they’re thinking about getting them down to the tree dump, let’s get it done before the end of the month, because we won’t be able to burn in April as a municipality,” Kjellin said.

The April ban on municipal burning is a component of the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan administered by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Kjellin reported city workers were successful in an attempt to increase the flow of water in Luta Creek.

“We tried to open up the inlet that allows water to come through on Luta Creek downtown,” Kjellin said.

“We seem to have water going over both the spillways at Sugar Mill and at the outlet. I anticipate getting a little more fresh water through here, and we’ll continue to try to make it as clean and recreational as possible,” Kjellin said.

In other business:

  • Diana Holub was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board of zoning appeals.
  • Olson signed a proclamation designating April as Fair Housing Month, intended to promote equal housing opportunity.
  • Council members gave final approval to changes to the Marion Police Department manual presented at a prior council meeting.
  • Kjellin reviewed a letter from Darin Neufeld of EBH & Associates clarifying a clause in the proposed contract with the Kansas Department of Transportation for the Main Street resurfacing project. After assurance the agreement specified a two-inch mill and overlay, council members unanimously approved the agreement.

The next meeting of the council is scheduled for April 2.

Last modified March 21, 2012

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