Commission wants to settle CKC trail issue once and for all

Staff reporter

Marion County Commission wants the Central Kansas Conservancy and Rails to Trails controversy settled.

The commission instructed Marion County Attorney Susan Robson Monday to send a letter to the Kansas Surface Transportation Board, asking the entity to settle the matter.

Robson commented that the county really had done everything possible but does not have the authority to give the former railroad property to the adjoining landowners or back to the railroad.

Complaints have been expressed about the CKC failing to maintain the easement as required, leaving adjoining landowners paying the taxes but unable to control the land.

"Legal fees are ridiculous that people are having to pay to find a judge to say what they want to hear," commissioner Dan Holub said.

Commission chairman Bob Hein commented there are only four people on the CKC board, making these decisions.

"They (the CKC board) lied to us at (a recent) meeting about paying for noxious weed spraying," commissioner Randy Dallke said. At that meeting, the county noxious weed director Rollin Schmidt informed the CKC attorney, Michael Mills, that there were unpaid bills regarding the easement being sprayed as required by law. Mills said at that meeting that the bill had been paid but it later was determined that the bill had not been paid.

Holub said he also was concerned about the ethics of the CKC board because members had stated they wanted public support and would not do a trail unless there was support but were not in favor of a referendum ballot to determine if there was sufficient support for a trail.

Robson said that she and members of McPherson County had petitioned the state board of tax appeals when the CKC easement issue first came to light.

"Both us and McPherson County thought the railroad should pay the taxes," Robson said.

Holub said he was taking this issue to the Kansas Association of Counties because it may require legislative action to be resolved.

"Other counties have the same problems and issues with the CKC," Holub said. "There's no point in fighting this ourselves."

Robson suggested that property owners pay their taxes and then appeal it.

Hein said he recently viewed the easements and agreed, "They are a mess."

In other business:

— The county treasurer reported at the close of business April 30, the county had a balance of $9,180,889 with $2,391,807 in the general fund and $1,292,606 in the road and bridge fund.

— The commission approved a $3,000 annual payment to Kansas Legal Services, the same amount as last year.

— Documents were signed by Hein to give Sorb Computers, LLC, of Hillsboro, a $15,000 micro-loan through the Marion County micro-loan program.

— A hearing for a minimum maintenance resolution will be at 11:40 a.m. Monday at the courthouse, during the regular weekly commission meeting.

— County clerk Carol Maggard requested and received a 15-minute executive session to discuss personnel. Another five minutes was added to the executive session for the same purpose. When the meeting reconvened, the commission approved a salary change for Debbie Shahan who will transfer from the appraiser's office to the clerk's office as a tax clerk. Her salary will change from $1,741 per month to $1,683, effective May 21.

The next commission meeting is at 9 a.m. Monday at the courthouse.