Commissioners cool to quarry


Local News

September 5, 2018 - 11:31 AM

Larry Barnett, Humboldt, told Allen County commissioners Tuesday morning the idea of buying the old Lehigh quarry for a recreation venue, “would be a mistake.”
“I’ve gotten a lot of the same comments,” Chairman Jerry Daniels, also a Humboldt-area resident, responded.
On the uptake, Commissioner Bill King wondered if the county might reverse course on agreeing to pay half the cost of an appraisal of the property, which commissioners agreed to before King came aboard. “You’ve already voted on it,” County Counselor Alan Weber said, and should honor the decision.
The appraisal is expected to cost as much as $10,000, and will be sought after a legal description of the property, about 250 acres including the 100-acre quarry-lake, is prepared.
Daniels said he’d like to have the appraisal broken into parts, including property other than the lake. “Depending on cost, I might like to move ahead on some of the real property,” meaning that outside of the lake.
A piece he is most interested in is in the area near the county maintenance yard. Commissioners have considered increasing that facility’s footprint. They also have mentioned building near the airport.
Daniels said his fear is the lake might entail “too much liability.”
Barnett pointed out maintenance, patrol obligations for the sheriff’s department and other costs might make the quarry a financial encumbrance.
Weber countered that whatever the county were to pay for all or a portion of the land would lead to improvements to benefit the county. Principals of Iola Industries, which owns the property, have said that whatever comes from sale of the property would be plowed back into development opportunities for area communities.
Though commissioners’ initial enthusiasm has since cooled, they indicated they would not make a decision — the appraisal won’t be in hand for several weeks — until after the new commission is seated in January. King, appointed to fill Williams’ position until the November 2020 election, is the commissioner assured of remaining on the board. Daniels will face Mike Bruner, a Democrat, and Bruce Symes, who defeated Brocker in the August Republican primary, will face Democrat Steven Henderson in the Nov. 6 general election.
IN OTHER NEWS, commissioners:
 — Told Iola Fire Chief Tim Thyer to prepare a request for proposals for purchase of a new rescue unit. The current truck is nearly 20 years old and although it has only a touch over 12,000 miles, should be replaced, Thyer said. Cost is expected to be in the $300,000 range, perhaps more, for a more powerful and up-to-date unit. Commissioners said they would consider substantial participation in a purchase. Although owned and operated by Iola firefighters, it is used extensively throughout the county. An estimate puts its dispatch as high as 90 percent outside of Iola. Volunteer departments in Humboldt and elsewhere may be given an opportunity to take on the current unit, which would give quicker response in some cases.
— Gave their approval to Humanity House’s participation in Iola’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which appreciably will lower its tax responsibility to next to nothing for five years and then a percentage until the advantage evaporates after the the 10th year.
— Approved a contract with Dry Creek Enterprises (Ann Donaldson) to paint the assembly room for $800. A lower bid was retracted because of illness.
— Talked briefly about erection of a 500-foot communication tower somewhere near the center of the county, to improve dispatches and relays of information to and from emergency responders.
— Spent 40 minutes in executive sessions, interviewing, one at time, Iola attorneys Bob Johnson and Chuck Apt for the county counselor’s position. Weber has given notice he will retire before many more months. Commissioners also interviewed a candidate from Erie last week. They gave no indication when they might come to a decision.


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