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Legal issues may block blasting at quarry

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

There won't be any blasting at one of Bourbon County's leased quarries until the county attorney can determine liability issues involving a company that may be drilling for oil on the property at the same time.

Commissioners said during their regular meeting Monday they have discovered that Running Foxes Petroleum is planning to drill for oil on property owned by the George Family Trust, which also is the site of the George Quarry. Commissioners had scheduled to blast rock at the quarry within the next couple of weeks, but expressed concerns over county liability if any of Running Foxes' equipment was damaged by the blasting of about 40,000 tons of rock and an additional 40,000 tons at a later date.

Commission Chairman Allen Warren requested that County Attorney Terri Johnson draft a letter giving formal notice to Running Foxes to make them aware of the county's intent. Both parties - the county and the petroleum company - have leases with the George Family Trust. The county signed its lease on Oct. 5, 2011, and Running Foxes entered into its lease on Oct. 27, 2011.

Warren expressed concern that crushing equipment was sitting idle at the quarry.

"Clearly I need to do some research," Johnson said. "Let me do some research before you do anything."

She said she hoped to give an update to commissioners on Friday.

"You know there is potential for a major conflict," Johnson told commissioners.

Warren also suggested drafting a Hold Harmless agreement to be signed by the George Family Trust.

In a separate issue with Running Foxes, commissioners addressed an outstanding bill for a little more than $4,000 they say the company owes the county for damage done to roads last time the company worked in the area. Commissioners also said the company is responsible for the repair of several culverts in the county.

The quarry lease was just one issue that stretched the commissioners' meeting into the early afternoon.

County Treasurer Susan Quick addressed ongoing conflicts with commissioners and offered to leave her post effective immediately on the condition she could still receive her full salary and benefits until Oct. 8, when newly-elected treasurer Rhonda Dunn takes office.

Warren said Quick is needed by the county and he has no desire for her to resign. He also said he did not believe it was in the commissioners' power to offer pay if she vacated her post.

"I don't know if we have the power to do that or want to do it," Warren said.

There will be a more detailed report on the discussion in Wednesday's Tribune.

Undersheriff Bill Martin visited with commissioners to lobby for a new jail for the county. He said last year, the county spent $42,880 in Allen County and $72,000 in Cherokee County to house the overflow of prisoners from the Southeast Kansas Regional Correctional Center in Fort Scott. Those figures do not include costs to transport prisoners to and from court.

Martin said a new, 23,500 square foot, 110-bed jail with few amenities would cost about $3.6 million, but would also serve as a revenue producer for the county by housing other counties' overflow inmates. He said the SEKRCC was constructed to house about 25 prisoners, but currently houses about 45.

He also told commissioners that bonds are at a low rate of 3.5 percent, making this an optimum time to consider a new facility. He offered a list of options for usage of the current SEKRCC should a new jail be built. Those options included storage space for evidence and moving the motor vehicle office there.

Commissioners will tour the current jail on Friday during their regular commission meeting.

In other business:

* Commissioners decided to keep in accordance with the Bourbon County employee manual and not pay overtime for hours worked over 32 in a week during which there is a paid holiday.

* Public Works Director Marty Pearson reported that while road clearing efforts went well this weekend, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done on east-west roads in the county. He said the worst area is west of Uniontown and the northern part of the county. He reported drifts as high as four feet and one-half to one mile long in those areas. He said some crews worked 13 to 14 hours Sunday to help clear roads.

*Warren expressed concern over fencing around the George Quarry. The four-wire fence does not adhere to a legal fence, which consists of five wires and Warren presented photographic evidence of the sub-par posts in the fence.

"A fence we put up should be a legal fence," Warren said.

* Commissioners approved a bid of $4,078.68 for chemicals from CPS for the Noxious Weed Department.

Agent Larry Sharp, of KCamp, the county's liability, casualty and property insurer, presented commissioners with several cost-saving ideas including tuition reimbursement and available $2,000 risk awareness grants through the company. He said the grants can be used for items such as brush guards for county vehicles or extra surveillance cameras.

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