Great Plains The Salina Journal Sunday, March 31,1985 Page 37 Hot issues spark interest in several area elections By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING Great Plains Editor In at least three counties — McPherson, Ellsworth and Sherman — the April 2 general election will generate more interest than usual. Voters in those counties will be asked to approve bond issues that have been centered in controversy. Voters in McPherson and Ellsworth counties will decide whether to grant funds for improvements on schools. In Sherman County, the election will determine whether to approve funding for an addition to a hospital. In McPherson County, patrons of the Smoky Valley School District, Lindsborg, will get a second chance to vote on a bond issue to improve several schools in the district. The bond issue — for $2,293,884 — will not include a high school for Marquette, an omission that has stirred unrest. In January, voters narrowly rejected a $2,975,000 bond issue for district repairs and construction. That proposal included a high school at Marquette. Marquette's combination elementary- middle and high school was condemned last summer by the state fire marshal, who said it was structurally unsound. Last fall, classes were moved to community churches and a new wing of the school. The last bond issue includes construction of a kindergarten-through-eighth grade building at Marquette. That has not satis- ified residents there, however. In February, petitions calling for a recall election for three board members who last month voted to establish a district high school at Lindsborg were filed with the McPherson County Clerk's office. Recall targets — Marvin Anderson, Carol Brown and Laurel Patrick — have filed suit against County Clerk Leah Ann Anderson, saying she should not have approved the recall petitions. The April 2 bond issue also includes funding for: • Roofing and other repairs to Lindsborg schools and the Marquette gymnasium. • Construction of an addition at Lindsborg elementary school, including a new multipurpose room for physical education, three new classrooms and an addition to the library. • Construction of an addition at Lindsborg High School, including a new band room, weight room, an addition to the library, and the remodeling of a home economics-science room. "I'd like to have it all finished," said Supt. Irvin Myers. "I know there's opposition. It's really hard to put together a bond issue that satifies everyone and get an agreement over the district on what should be included. "It's important to the school district that this one passes. All items in the bond issues are needed." In the Ellsworth-Kanopolis School District, patrons will have a fifth chance to approve bonds to finance improvements to the high school at Ellsworth. Actually, there will be two questions on the ballot: one for new classrooms and the other for construction of an auditorium. The classroom issue would provide $1.4 million for the construction of a 13-classroom addition and a mechanical-boiler room. The other issue would generate $696,000 for the construction of a shell building. The auditorium would be completed with the use of money from the capital outlay fund and private donations. "We're being low-key as much as we can," Supt. Bert Hitchcock said. He said the two issues, if approved, would increase property taxes by a little more than $12 per $1,000 assessed valuation over 20 years. The last bond issue in November of 1984 would have increased taxes $15 per $1,000 assessed valuation. Hitchcock said the district is in dire need of more classroom space. Many students have been meeting in mobile classrooms since the old Ellsworth High School, built in 1917, was torn down last summer after being declared unsafe by two engineering firms. In Sherman County, voters will be asked to support $1.5 million in general obligation bonds for improvements to the Northwest Kansas Regional Medical Center, Goodland. The money, if approved, would finance construction of a 20,000-square-foot outpatient services wing. The wing would be home for the center's medical consultant program, which brings medical specialists to the Goodland hospital on a regular basis. The bond issue is expected to attract quite a few voters, mainly because of the controversy that has plagued the county- owned hospital for the past year. Last summer, the first-ever grand jury in northwest Kansas was called to investigate the hospital after a petition drive by a group of Sherman County citizens. No indictments were returned. But questions about the hospital and its operation again surfaced when the board voted to revoke the surgical and medical privileges of one of its doctors. About 100 people attended a recent meeting of the Sherman County commissioners to question the board's action. Hospital administrator Bill Wilson said the controversy is sure to have some impact on the election. "We have to have what we have to have," Wilson said. "If it's defeated, we will just have to make some changes and do it again." The Graham County Hospital at Hill City also will be on the April 2 ballot. Officials will ask voters to approve a maximum tax levy of 5 mills ($5 per $l,dOO assessed valuation) to help "operate the facility. At present, the hospital has a maximum levy of two mills. Administrator Dale Martin said his facility, like most rural hospitals, has been hit hard by new reimbursement systems instituted by Medicare and Blue Cross. The patient load at the 32-bed hospital has aver- aged about 15 patients a day, he said. "In 1982, we didn't have any mill levy. In 1982 and 1984, we had a half-mill. Then we went on perspective payments (the reimbursement system) last year and things went to hell in a handbasket," Martin said. This year, the hospital has used one of its two mills. In Graham County, one mill generates about $52,000. Five mills would contribute about $250,000 to the hospital's operating fund, Martin said. In 1984, the facility lost $150,000. Martin said the hospital has cut expenses to the point "the only way left to save money is to lock the doors." "This is the worst time in the world to ask for this (a tax increase), but maybe that's part of our problem. We're feeling it (the poor economy), too," he said. Special questions galore will also spark elections in other counties of northwest and central Kansas. Here's a summary of the issues voters will decide on April 2: Cheyenne County • Bird City voters will decide whether to pay their mayor $50 a month for expenses. "The mayor is like a city manager. He oversees city employees and people go to him if there's a problem. It's not a big salary for him, but I guess there were some comments from people in the city, which weren't too favorable," said Floyd Jensen, Bird City attorney. • St. Francis voters will decide the fate of the city's intangibles tax. Dickinson County • A petition drive put a requested .5 of a mill levy for recreation on the ballot in USD435, Abilene. • Herington voters will be asked to approve a two percent increase in the franchise tax Greeley Gas Co. pays to the city. Ellsworth County • A one-cent sales tax is on the ballot at Kanopolis. Gave County • At Grinnell, organizers of a city library have asked for funds maintain the facility. Adeline Bechard, a member of the PRIDE committee and the Friends of Grinnell, said the library was the product of volunteer work. Graham County • The fate of a one-cent sales tax will be decided. Jewell County • Voters in the city of Jewell will be asked whether they want to legalize the sale of packaged liquor within the city. Marion County • Peabody officials want $378,000 in general obligation bonds to pay for construction of an underground water storage facility. McPherson County ^ • USD418, McPherson, wants to renew its capital outlay levy of four mills ($4 per $1,000 assessed evulation) for another five years. The question was put on the ballot by petition. Phillips County • The city of Logan has two issues for voters: whether to eliminate the intangibles tax and the $200,000 in general obligation bonds to finance a new water well and pump house. Republic County • Voters in Republic County will be asked to support a one-mill levy to finance programs for the elderly. The issue was defeated last August by a few more than 200 votes. Rooks County • Plainville voters will decide the fate of the city's intangibles tax. • The Sandyland Therapeutic Horsemanship Program at Stockton will be on the Rooks County ballot for a half-mill tax levy. The program, one of 250 in the United States, England and Canada, attempts to strengthen and rehabilitate people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities through the teaching of horsemanship and riding therapy. Students range in age from 2 to 50. Russell County • In 1983, Gorham eliminated its intangibles tax. On April 2, voters will decide whether they want to reinstate it. Sherman County • USD352, Goodland, wants to continue its capital outlay levy of four mills over the next five years. The issue was put on the ballot by petition. Thomas County • Voters in Rexford and Brewster will vote on the fate of the intangibles tax in those towns. Washington County • Elimination of the intangibles tax will be on the ballots in the cities of Washington, Barnes. Haddam and Mahaska. Mayor ends 20-year reign By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING Great Plains Editor RUSSELL — Roger Williams often hears jokes about his short speeches. A favorite story his friends tell involves the talk he gave at a regional meeting of postmasters. "Welcome to 67665," Williams said and sat down. "Roger has always been involved in the community, but always in a very quiet, unassuming manner. He does everything on a low-key basis, but he was always there when you needed him," said Everett Dumler, who was manager of the Russell Area Chamber of Commerce for 35 years. Williams, mayor of Russell for nearly two decades, plans to step down when his term expires. Williams is only the second mayor this town of 5,500 has had since it adopted a mayor-city council-manager form of government in 1959. He was elected to the council in 1963 and two years later became mayor. Williams will have completed his llth two-year term in city government when he adjourns his final council meeting on April'16. "We liked Russell and if there was anything we could do to help ... There was only one time I've ever had opposition, which makes a person feel good, like maybe he's doing a good job. Of course, there's the possibility no one wanted the job, either," Williams said. The mayor was 24 when he came to Russell in 1935. The oil boom in Kansas had headed west through Russell and Ellis counties and Williams moved with it. He came here from Madison to continue the trucking company his father founded in 1914. At the time, he wasn't sure how long he would stay. Williams started his public career by becoming active in local service clubs. Then it was the city council and the mayor's job. "He never attempted to pressure or push his point. He always let the council members make up their own minds and you were never afraid to express an opinion," said Neal Farmer, council president. Williams also did his best to see the council never went into executive session. He lost the battle only once. Another time, Williams called an executive session and then told everyone at Roger Williams will adjourn his last Russell City Council meeting on April 16. the council meeting they were invited to attend. "I always tried to keep everyone informed of what was going on. I don't believe in executive sessions," Williams said. He also traveled for the city. Williams was often in Washington or Topeka or elsewhere to promote the interests of his adopted city. His mayor's salary was never more than $200 a year, so many of Williams' efforts were financed from his own pocket. "The city didn't pay for those trips; Roger Williams paid for those trips. I think Roger is the kind of fellow who has donated more time to the job than most people would," said Sterling Smith, owner of Russell Tire and a candidate for the mayor's job. His opponent in the April 2 general election, Loren Dinkel, general manager of Agco Inc., agrees. "Mayor Williams just had a geniune interest regarding the people of the city and he was willing to spend a 'whole lot of his personel time," he said. Williams said he is proudest of the advancements Russell has made in the past 20 years. He points to improvements in the municipal power plant, recruitment of three industries and acquisition of additional water supplies. Water has been an especially severe problem for Russell. With the city's new pipeline to the Scott Wllllomi Pfeifer wellfield in Ellis County, however, the town should get all the water it pumps, thus bringing to an end the need for rationing. Williams' retirement from city hall will give him a chance to spend more time with his wife, Libby, and their son, Peter, a Russell attorney. But the soon-to-be former mayor leaves his job with a touch of sadness. "I thought I should retire and let somebody else have the privilege of the office. That doesn't mean I'm not going to miss it, because I've really enjoyed all the years. And to his successor, Williams says: "I'm available if there are any questions, but in no way am I going to interfere."
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