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.