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Seldom-used crisis items set to become homeless

Staff writer

Wanted: Evicted tenant seeks secure storage space for generous handful of seldom-used items.

Among them: a couple of industrial generators and a set of trailers, including a 60-footer that transforms into a 200-foot-tall radio relay tower and another that could replace the sheriff’s dispatch office as a mobile command post.

Marion County is being asked to leave storage space it rents for $250 a month from Country Side Feeds in Hillsboro.

The feed company needs the space, along with other space it rents to other concerns, for expanded operations. It has given the county until mid-January to clean out its possessions.

Most are emergency preparedness items, including a large number of items supplied by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emergency manager Randy Frank described the situation for county commissioners Monday.

“We’re in a bit of a pickle,” he said.

Some of the items previously were housed in a shed in Pilsen and at the county shops on N. Coble St. in Marion, but the number of items in storage has grown since then with the addition of such things as three shelves of files from the county assessor’s office.

Commissioner Dave Crofoot wondered Monday whether all the items — especially the 200-foot-tall repeater tower — still worked and were needed.

The tower is designed to replace or augment any of the network of state-owned Kansas Statewide Interoperability Communications System towers that are used by virtually all public safety and government agencies, including Marion County law enforcement, ambulance, and fire services.

The mobile unit could fill in for the 800-megahertz radio repeater in Aulne that covers most of Marion County or for any of the other repeater in the region.

Nearby towers in virtually every surrounding county have a range that reached into portions of Marion County and could provide limited service here, much as grids of cell phone towers do, if the Aulne tower were out of commission or overloaded.

The state stationed the tower in Marion County to serve as a backup for a larger region than just the county.

“Can we give this tower trailer to someone else,” Crofoot asked Frank.

“That’s up to the sheriff,” Frank replied, “because he signed for all that stuff.”

Lest a dispute erupt among department heads, commission chairman Randy Dallke quickly added: “The commission signed off on it.”

Later, however, he suggested regarding other material stored at Countryside Feeds: “We could ask Homeland Security if another county would take it.”

Crofoot suggested that the city of Marion might be willing to let the county rent a former auto body shop the city owns at 828 N. Roosevelt St. in the city’s industrial park.

The city thought it had sold the building to the developer of Marion County’s southern wind farm, but new owners of the wind farm have allowed a purchase option to lapse and shown little interest in the building.

The building currently is rented to Pilsen Packrats on a month-to-month basis as a site for its estate sales. Unconfirmed rumors of a potential long-term buyer have swirled in recent weeks.

Commissioner David Mueller noted that the city owes something like $200,000 on the building.

County clerk Tina Spencer added: “They probably want to sell it to someone who’s going to pay taxes.”

The county, as a government agency, would not pay property taxes if it owned the building.

Dallke agreed that the city might want to avoid selling to the county, adding: “I’ve sat through a disturbing meeting on that issue.”

In the end, commissioners decided to look first at whether the county’s road and bridge department could house some or all of the material at its shops on N. Coble St.

A second option would be to temporarily store some or all of the items at the county fairgrounds in Hillsboro.

Inquiring about Marion’s 828 N. Roosevelt St. building was listed as a third option.

Crofoot was instructed to confer with city officials and report back in a week on whether the city might be interested in renting or selling the building.

Last modified Dec. 9, 2021

 

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