Council Votes to Hold Special Election July 10 on Term Limits, Pool to Open on Schedule

By REX ZIMMERMAN

Kiowa voters will head to the polls Tuesday, July 10, to decide whether or not the city should have term limits for the mayor and city council elected positions.

A petition presented in April to the council was determined to have enough valid signatures to bring the issue to a vote, and council agreed at its May 7 meeting to call a special election on July 10 to allow voters to determine the issue.

Kiowa had operated for several years with a limit of two terms for elected officials, but earlier this year the city council passed Charter Ordinance 18-018 eliminating the term limits, citing among other things the difficulty finding candidates to run for vacancies when they became open.

The question voters will be asked on the July 10 ballot is whether the charter ordinance eliminating term limits should go into effect or not. Registered voters in the City of Kiowa will cast ballots at the Kiowa Community Building. Estimated cost of the special election is $3,500 – $4,500.

Council president Bill Watson conducted the monthly meeting as Mayor Ron Rohr was under the weather. Other council members present were R.L. Simpson (by speakerphone), Tom Wells, Brian Hill and Russ Molz.

Accusations on Social Media

After approval of the agenda, previous minutes and bills for payment, council heard from William Wilburn, owner of Kiowa Construction, who informed the group of false accusations going around town and on Facebook that he felt were trying to destroy he and his family. At first, he said, he thought it was a member of the council that had spread the rumors, but after talking with that member he realized it was not him and apologized. He said he has acquired an attorney and is “going after” the person or persons he feels are responsible for the false statements.

Also under public comments, Christina Duvall asked about the sidewalk around the corner of 7th and Main, which are in bad shape due to the settling of the ground where the former bowling alley building was located. Council confirmed that the city now has control of the property and a plan is being devised for the sidewalks when the ground becomes more stable.

Annual Appointments

Mayor Rohr had prepared a list of annual appointments that were presented to council for approval, and all passed unanimously. Those appointments are: Municipal Judge, Rich Befort; City Attorney, Laurel McClellan, City Treasurer, Rex Zimmerman; City Clerk, Trish Brewer; Fire Chief, Bill Duvall; Asst. Fire Chief, Roger Robison. No Chief of Police was appointed as the city is still accepting applications for review.

Barber County United

Council next heard from Donna Williams, Aimee Williams and Judy Schrock from Barber County United, which is a new organization designed to help county residents with such things as mental health issues, drug addiction and abuse, and other issues to help improve the quality of life for citizens.

The group has received a $254,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation over a two-year period and is now working on setting up a non-profit organization. It hopes to set up offices in both Kiowa and Medicine Lodge. The group evolved from a survey by the Barber County Health Coalition that found a need for these services in the county.

Donna Williams said the group wants to give people a “real hand up, not a hand out” to improve the quality of living and health for county residents, and she encouraged a member of the city council to attend their next meeting, June 7, 10:30 a.m. at Grace Bible Fellowship. Council expressed its support for the organization and its goals.

Building Committee Plans

The Building Committee appointed by council to develop plans for remodeling of the new and current city offices presented their overall plans for council’s review. Most members felt the plans were well thought out with City Clerk Trish Brewer answering questions from the group.

The Building Committee and Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, May 15, at 8:00 a.m. to review final plans and get them ready to put out for bids.

Power Purchase Agreement

Council next approved Ordinance No. 18-287 for future purchases of electricity from the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency (KMEA). The city currently purchases electricity through KMEA and when its current agreement expires at the end of 2020, it plans to purchase power with NextEra Energy Marketing, LLC, also through KMEA. This agreement will begin in 2021 and will lock in the city energy prices for six years at a very good rate for both regular usage and peak usage. This will allow the city to budget expenses knowing what its electric costs will be for those years, and will also help city electric users by helping keep rates and property taxes stable. It could also help the city attract new residents and businesses, as the city’s rates are already some of the lowest in the region.

Council unanimously voted to pass the agreement.

Third Grade Request

For the second year, the city administrator has been helping teach Becky Buckle’s third grade class about the workings of city government. Mr. Leone told students that there are five ways citizens can participate- by voting, organizing petitions, calling their elected representatives, going to meetings, and talking with professional staff members to help resolve questions.

He said he wanted even third graders to know that “everybody has a voice” and to that end, the third graders made a special request of the council. They asked that council consider installing a trampoline park, and council respectfully took their request under consideration.

Administrator’s Report

City Administrator Lou Leone noted in his report that the Library roof is now fixed and looks great, and a crew from Caterpillar was scheduled to come last week and find and fix the problems with the new generator, which had water in the fuel that did damage. It is all covered by warranty.

He also received permission to hire temporary summer help, subject to recommendation by Street Supt. Gary Johnson, and also received approval from council to put the old police cars out for auction on Purple Wave, a website where police and other vehicles are bought and sold.

Pool To Open On Schedule

Mr. Leone also said the Kiowa Swimming Pool will open on schedule on Memorial Day, May 28, even though the new pool house may not be completed by then. Negotiations with the city’s insurance company delayed progress this winter but the new pool house will be brought up to ADA standards and be better then ever, all paid for by insurance. The foundation for the new shade area on the northwest corner of the pool will also be poured at the same time the pool house foundation is poured.

Also during the meeting, the city administrator showed videos and pictures to council from recent meetings he has attended, and also a video of the poor shape the Police Dept. building was in following the dismissal of the former Police Chief.

In other action, council:

  • Voted to sign a contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for health and dental insurance coverage for city employees for another year with no changes in coverage. The premiums are going up 12.6%, the city administrator said, but the city had budged for up to a 20% increase.
  • Designated May 20-26 as Public Works Week and approved a proclamation for the mayor to sign.
  • Discussed check signing procedures with City Attorney Laurel McClellan.
  • Were told that Bob Hays has reimbursed the city for $6,352 for 18 new aluminum tables and carrier for the Community Building. Council thanked Mr. Hays for his generosity.
  • Discussed the recent passage by the Kansas Legislature of a bill to create a Task Force to review the internet grid in Kansas and find area that need improvement in quality and availability, especially in rural areas like Kiowa. The city administrator was one of several persons who had testified before the legislature on the need for such action.
  • Were informed that the city has received a reimbursement from EMC insurance company, which covers the city, for over $9,000 which will be put into the General Fund.

After an executive session, council voted to temporarily expand city employee Ronnie McKitrick’s duties to include animal control, with financial compensation based on the city administrator’s recommendation.