Monthly Archives: December 2017

City Approves Budget Amendment, Discusses New Panhandling Ordinance

By REX ZIMMERMAN

Kiowa’s City Council held a public meeting on Monday evening, December 18, to amend the 2017 budget, putting more money in the electric department fund to help cover the enormous expenses caused by three severe wind storms this past year.

All council members were present – Bill Watson, R.L. Simpson, Russ Molz, Brian Hill and Tom Wells – along with Mayor Brandon Farney.

Storms Cause Need for Funds

Mayor Farney opened the public hearing on the budget amendment with City Administrator Lou Leone explaining the need for the extra funds.

The budget, he explained, needs about $110,000 to $120,000 to meet all expenses and bills to the end of the year. The budget amendment calls for $353,000 to be put into the electric fund, with that money coming from city reserves.

Mr. Leone said that the large amount being requested from the reserve fund “may seem like overkill”, but he wanted to make sure there was enough to cover any unforeseen expenses before the end of the budget year on December 31. Also included are the latest electric charges from KMEA.

Any funds not spent, he noted, would go right back into the city’s reserve fund, which totals approximately $784,000.

Kiowa’s electric expenses began last Christmas day when a strong windstorm toppled several utility poles between Kiowa and the Burlington, OK substation. Things only got worse with another severe windstorm on June 30 and an even worse storm on August 5th. Just one of those storms, Mr. Leone said, cost the city $45,000.

Councilman Hill asked if the city’s reserve funds were invested, and was informed that the money is put in certificates of deposit at local banks. Mr. Leone said there are limits as to how city funds can be invested.

With no further discussion, Mayor Farney closed the public meeting and council opened its special session. First items on the agenda was to approve a cereal malt beverage license for the Plum Thickett Inn.

Council next discussed its “panhandling” ordinance it passed at the last council meeting. The city administrator reported that a Topeka panhandling ordinance was deemed in court to be a violation of freedom of speech, and a recent Wichita ordinance against panhandling is currently being watched to see if any legal challenges arise.

Council did not want to ban panhandling entirely as that would keep the ladies from “selling their poppies” or fire departments from “passing the boot” for fund raisers by non-profit groups and other charitable organization. Councilman Simpson suggested that the city administrator keep informed on the issue, but “with no more issues than we have with this” locally that council take a “wait and see” position for now.

While on the subject, Councilman Wells noted that there was “panhandling” occurring on a Facebook page that is used by some in the community for a variety of purposes. He said at least two posts he had seen were of people “begging for money”.

Councilman Simpson added that the South Barber Ministerial Alliance is holding a meeting on January 8 at noon at the Kiowa Senior Center to discuss the issue if helping those in need. He suggested that a council member might want to attend.

With no other items to discuss, council adjourned the meeting.

City Discusses Building Needs, Updates Peddler’s Ordinance

By REX ZIMMERMAN

THE KIOWA City Council discussed building proposals and took care of several year end items at its regular meeting on December 11. Council members present were Bill Watson, R.L. Simpson, Brian Hill, Russ Molz and Tom Wells, along with Mayor Brandon Farney, who was conducting his final full meeting as mayor.

After approval of the agenda and previous minutes, council got a budget update as the end of the year nears. City administrator Lou Leone said that overall the city is under budget for the year, with the exception of the electric fund, which took a hit this year after the two severe wind storms and other issues.

That fund will be brought into compliance on Monday, Dec. 18, when council holds a special meeting for a public hearing on a budget amendment to increase funding for the electric department. The money will come from the city’s reserve fund, and any money not used will go back into that fund.

Building Options Discussed

Council next heard a presentation by Kirk Jurgensen and Michael Frimel from WDM Architects of Wichita, who had been asked by the city to present options on remodeling the present city building, remodeling another building for the city office, or building a new city office facility.

Options included remodeling the present City Hall at an estimated cost of $142,000-$210,000, or add an addition onto the City Hall at a cost of $213,150-$274,050.

The next option was to build a new City Hall on vacant downtown property at an estimated cost of $990,000-$1,350,000. The third option was to remodel the former John Deere building (now Thurman Harvesting) at an estimated cost of $1,872,635-$2,753,875, which would allow for the consolidation of all city functions in one building.

Mr. Jurgensen noted that the prices are a “worst case scenario” and the city could “tweak” the proposals as needed. Council noted that all of the remodeling work wouldn’t have to be done all at once. The building issue came to the forefront after an inspection of the city office building found a leaking roof that had led to mold problems and issues with insulation. The city roof has now been repaired to hopefully solve the leaking problem for the time being.

Council took the proposals under advisement.

Ordinances Passed

Council next passed Ordinance No. 447 which rezones a property in the northeast portion of town from half commercial and half residential to all residential. The propane business that had been located on the property is no longer there and the home is in the process of being purchased by a local resident, who requested the zoning change.

Council also passed Ordinance No. 448, which updates the Peddler Permit ordinance. The new ordinance extends background checks for peddler permits and makes other modifications. Non-profit and certain other groups will still be exempt from the ordinance. The permit forms can be downloaded from the city’s website. The entire ordinance is published elsewhere in this issue.

Public Sale of Property

City attorney Laurel McClellan informed council that a Sheriff’s Sale has been scheduled for January 11, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. at the County Courthouse in Medicine Lodge for the old bowling alley property. The city has a lien against the property for approx. $39,000 to cover expenses of tearing the building down a few years ago.

CMB Licenses Approved

Council voted to renew cereal malt beverage licenses for Dovie’s Bar, Homer’s Wine and Spirits, The Sideline and The Corner Stop. An application from the Plum Thickett Inn and Bar was expected to be acted on at the Dec. 18 special meeting.

Other Issues Discussed

Council was informed by the city administrator that the electric crew is putting insulation on bare wires at the top of transformers throughout the city in an effort to keep birds and squirrels from coming into contact with the wires and shorting out the transformers. The fix is just a few dollars per transformers and could help eliminate some of the power outages.

The city still needs 170 LMI (low to moderate income) surveys to be filled out and returned so the city can proceed with grant applications for replacing the water line from Hazelton to the city wells near Sharon. The first round of grants has already passed, with Councilman Wells noting that the city most likely lost $1.2 million in funding for the project because the surveys have not been returned by residents.

Mr. Leone said that there is still funding available in the next round of applications, and council is asking all residents to please help your community by filling out a survey. No names are associated with the surveys and they are completely confidential and used only for grant application purposes.

If you have questions or need a survey form or help filling it out, please contact the City Office. It only takes a couple of minutes but could make a big impact on the future of the city’s water system.

Councilman Simpson next brought up a proposal to do away with term limits for council and mayor positions. Many, if not most, small communities don’t have term limits due in part to the difficulty of finding qualified individuals to run for office. Presently, Kiowa limits council and mayor offices to just two consecutive terms. The city administrator said he will bring a draft term limit ordinance to council at a future meeting for further discussion.

Councilman Wells next suggested that council consider having more than one meeting a month as there are several issues he felt didn’t get enough discussion with just one meeting.

Council also voted to give employees the day after Christmas (Dec. 26) and the day after New Year’s (Jan. 2) off with pay. The City Office will be closed those days.

In final action, council held two executive sessions for employee evaluations. After the first session, council voted to approve employee pay raises as proposed by the city administrator. After the second session, council voted to approved a pay increase for the city administrator as proposed by the mayor.

Update on “Big Kansas Road Trip” May 3-6 in Barber, Surround Counties

The Kansas Sampler Foundation has been offering folks a taste of what there is to see, do, hear, taste, buy, and learn in Kansas. The Kansas Sampler Festival first started in 1991 and became a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation in 1993. They started to take the Festival on the Road in 1998 and it has done so until now. However, 2017 will be the last year of the Sampler Festival.

Replacing the Kansas Sampler Festival will be the Big Kansas Road Trip. The Road Trip will be held the first full weekend in May in 2018. The showcase counties will be Barber, Comanche, and Kiowa. The goal is to get people hooked on exploring Kansas in a way that will help sustain communities, find out what the showcase counties are about, and see what they have to offer.

There has already been quite a bit of planning that has happened with individuals involved in this venture. It has been estimated that there will be 1000 – 2000 people participating in this event. This will allow for very substantial foot traffic through our county and our businesses. While it isn’t a necessity to plan something on a large scale during this time, the ball is firmly in the community’s court as to how they want to proceed with the event. With so much foot traffic, it will definitely allow for these days to be big ticket days for local businesses. Allowing individuals to experience small town life at it’s finest is the first priority however, it can be very beneficial to businesses within these counties in terms of sales and revenue. There will likely be many more organization meeting within counties to prepare for this event and any such meetings will be publicized for public involvement. You can also keep updated through their Facebook page: Barber County Big Kansas Road Trip. Let’s give these travelers something to talk about and a reason to come back to visit our wonderful county!