Kansas Municipal News

Kansas school districts looking at earthquake insurance

You’ve seen and read about the shaking, earthquakes now causing a scene in south central Kansas.

Now, two school districts are looking to expand their insurance to cover earthquakes.

In Wellington, the school district began talking about earthquakes back in 2011.

“It’s unbelievable isn’t it? Would have never thought,” said USD 353 Assistant Superintendent Larry Roth.

He’s now working to gather earthquake insurance information for the school board.

“I never thought we’d be talking about earthquakes here in Kansas,” said Roth.

The only problem is the insurance company can’t give them a quote. Not won’t give them a quote, can’t.

The insurance company requires seven days without earthquakes before it can provide a quote. Roth believes they now have a window between quakes.

(Read more: KWCH)


Heartland Park suit: Judge authorizes questioning of some city employees

A judge directed Topeka’s city government Thursday to make some city employees available Oct. 30 for questioning by the attorney representing the organizer of a petition drive the city is contesting.

Shawnee County District Judge Evelyn Z. Wilson ordered attorney Tuck Duncan, representing petition drive organizer Chris Imming, to submit the list by 9 a.m. Friday of city employees from whom he wishes to take depositions. Duncan said those include city manager Jim Colson.

Imming initiated the petition drive after Topeka’s governing body voted Aug. 12 to purchase the financially troubled Heartland Park racing facility and expand its redevelopment district. The purchase was among steps required to carry out the city’s plan to buy Heartland Park and solve a problem regarding Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) bond debt.

Shawnee County counselor Rich Eckert concluded Aug. 21 that the petition “substantially complied” with state law.

The petition drive gained 3,587 verifiably valid signatures, more than the 2,132 required to put the matter on the ballot, but Lathrop & Gage [law firm] last week provided the city government a legal opinion indicating the petition isn’t valid.

(Read more: News)


Emporia to create contract for animal shelter takeover

The issue of giving Emporia Animal Shelter control to the Humane Society was tabled Wednesday during the Emporia City Commission meeting. City Attorney Blaise Plummer will write a contract between the Humane Society and the city. The shift will probably take until April 2015 to complete, Plummer said.
“They just basically wanted more information,” he said.
Emporia Police would still be in charge of animal control. The Humane Society would be in charge of fundraising, staffing, management and daily operations.
The police department offered the Humane Society $80,000 to operate the shelter. The Humane Society is asking for an additional $15,000 from the city…

(Read more: Emporia Gazette – news,government/)


Insurance company sues city of Wichita over water main break

Citizens Insurance Company of America in Howell, Mich., has filed a lawsuit against the city of Wichita over a water main break that it says caused $829,195.45 in damage at the Courtyard by Marriott in Old Town.

The Wichita attorney who filed the suit refused to comment on it, as did the city.

In October 2012, the suit says, “an over-pressurization event at the local Wichita water facility caused a twelve-inch water main in close proximity to the Marriott building to rupture and explode,” which “caused substantial damage to the interior and exterior of the Marriott building.”

(Read more: Wichita Eagle)


Dodge City Mayor wants more ‘good faith’ from college board on merger 

When the Dodge City Commission approved using its statutory powers to provide access to funding for the upcoming student activities dome in June, it only did so assuming the Dodge City Community College board also agreed to see the merger process through in good faith.
While the city’s request, and one from the Kansas Board of Regents, led to a second vote affirming the planning process would continue, recent developments have convinced Dodge City Mayor Brian Delzeit that the board is not living up to its side of the agreement.
In an email to the members of the college’s board, Delzeit quoted a section of a Globe article outlining the city’s caveat before approving access to $5.5 million in special bonds.
“The City Commission performed their end of the agreement,” he concluded. “Now it’s your turn to perform your end of the agreement.”

(Read more: dodgeglobe.com)


Kanstarter, a crowdsourcing site for Kansas communities, launches

It’s Kansas towns’ very own version of Kickstarter, but with a few special twists.
Kanstarter.com, a website where Kansas communities can post projects that need help, launched Thursday morning.

For now, the site is only showcasing four pilot projects at cities with populations of 1,500 or less.
In three cases, only funds are requested — for the purchase of land for grocery store and nutrition education center in downtown Plains; for the transformation of a Burdett miniature golf course into a tribute to the town’s Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto; and for restoration of a historic marquee sign at the Wilson Czech Opera House.
The platform also allows towns to request volunteer labor. Yates Center is trying to raise $7,630 and find volunteers for the creation of an entryway to the town’s South Owl Lake Trail.

(Read more: Wichita Business Journal)


Grandview Plaza settles bill with Geary County Sheriff’s Department

What could have been a $23,000 burden for Grandview Plaza now will be significantly less.

City officials were faced with $23,000 in invoices following an incident at the Geary County Detention Center a few months ago, when a man arrested for public intoxication was taken to the jail, where he tried to commit suicide using his shoelaces.

Last month, city councilmembers were briefed on the situation, and they voted to try fight the bills.

But councilmembers learned Tuesday that after being filtered through insurance companies, that $23,000 bill now will be a $4,000 responsibility.
They also reached an agreement with Geary County, in which each will pay half of the $4,000 bill.

Read more: The Daily Union.


Chapman’s new city administrator adjusting well

Chapman introduced its new city administrator in July of this year, welcoming a young man just a few years out of college.

But three months in, that man — Austin St. John — seems to be adjusting pretty well.

“So far, I’ve been welcomed into the community. I’ve been treated well by the citizens that have come to see me, whether they have problems they want to discuss, or projects they would like to see done,” he said.

Read more: The Daily Union.


Commission holds off on permitting tofu producer to operate in rural Douglas County

The issue of whether Central Soyfoods will be permitted to operate out of a rural Douglas County home was left undecided at Wednesday’s County Commission meeting, but it looks as if the small food production company is facing an uphill battle.

Douglas County commissioners postponed their decision to grant Central Soyfoods a conditional use permit by four weeks to seek a clarification of zoning regulations from the county’s legal counsel.

But regardless of what comes of that clarification, the permit does not appear likely to receive the commission’s blessing. Neighbors of the proposed production site — along the 1100 block of East 1500 Road — collected enough petition signatures to force a unanimous approval by the three-person commission.

(Read more: LJWorld.com stories)


Three City Manager Candidates to be Invited for Junction City Job Interviews

The Junction City Commission will schedule interviews and public visits November 12 and 13 with three candidates for the City Manager’s post.

During a discussion with Flentje the elected officials determined the candidates would each participate in a public community forum, take tours of City facilities and the community, meet with City department heads, have lunch, and do panel interviews in the evenings with the Commission.

Mayor Mike Ryan confirmed all three of the candidates are from outside of Junction City.

(Read more: JC Post)


Junction City cites dozens for cellphone use

Despite months of advance notice, dozens of drivers in Junction City were cited for improper use of cellphones during the initial week of enforcement of a new law.

KJCK Radio reports police issued 51 citations from Monday through Friday of last week for talking on hand-held cellphones while driving. One person was also cited for texting while driving.

Junction City adopted an ordinance in June banning motorists from talking or listening on a cellphone unless it’s a hand-held device.

(Read more: KAKE – HomePage – Headlines)


Kiowa County files suit for hospital records

Kiowa County Attorney Scott James announced he filed suit against Great Plains of Kiowa County, Inc., the agency handling administration of Kiowa County Memorial Hospital, at the County Commission meeting on Monday.
The suit comes after the County Commission directed James to file an open records request to the organization seeking the working budget for the hospital for years 2014 and 2015, itemization of professional fees and management fees under operating expenses…
“After that, their attorney sent us a letter denying access,” James said. “The main exception he’s relying on is that since they are providing a service, they are not subject to the Kansas Open Records Act. That’s not an exception an entity that’s performing a governmental function and takes a mill levy of a million dollars a year can claim.”

(Read more: kiowacountysignal.com)


Lawrence $75 million apartment complex in jeopardy after city rejects plan to reduce parking

The future of a $75 million apartment/retail project near Kansas University’s Memorial Stadium is again in doubt after the project failed to win a key parking exemption from City Hall.

City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting said they were worried a 100-space reduction in the proposed project would create serious problems for the adjacent Oread neighborhood.

Now commissioners will have to wait and see whether the Chicago-based development group will proceed with the project…

(Read more: Lawrence Journal-World)


Western KS state Board of Education rep worried about future of schools

The vice chairwoman of the Kansas State Board of Education is touring central and western Kansas this week and said she is worried about the future of education in the Fifth District she represents.

[Sally] Cauble was in Hays on Monday to meet with principals and school board members. She said Hays’ lack of diversity in enrollment negatively affects state funding, as is the case for many schools in western Kansas.

(Read more: Hays Post)


Derby fees will increase, grass gets most attention

Almost two months after extensive discussion on the subject, policies on tall grass in Derby came under fire again during the annual work to update all city fees.
After looking at the fees paid by other cities, city staff recommended the council increase administrative fees on cases in which the city must have tall grass mowed or debris removed from local properties. The administrative fees will be $75 for the first abatement in a calendar year, $100 for the second abatement, $125 for the third abatement, and $150 for the fourth and all subsequent abatements. Those fees are charged on top of all charges by the contractor hired to mow or remove debris.

(Read more: DerbyInformer.com – news,news/)


Sedgwick County delays action on plan to create Intrust Bank Arena promotion fund

Sedgwick County leaders will get more time to consider a proposal aimed at attracting a wider variety of acts to Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita.

County commissioners voted 3-2 Wednesday to table the proposal, citing a desire to better understand the proposed contract extension and changes. They later decided to hold a special session in coming weeks to discuss the issue.

County staff has proposed amending the agreement with SMG, the company that manages the arena, to establish a $200,000 annual promotion fund to attract events “that might not otherwise appear (at Intrust) without additional financial inducement.”

(Read more: The Wichita Eagle & Kansas.com)


Marion County denies ‘being cheap’ in EMS hiring

Despite saving $30,000 a year by rejecting more experienced applicants, county commissioners say they weren’t trying to “get by on the cheap” by instead picking a local EMT with two years’ experience as a volunteer.
By restructuring the department, commissioners say, the new ambulance director won’t be setting policy or leading training but rather tending to the logistics of keeping ambulances staffed and ready.

“I can see the headline, ‘Commission decides to get by on the cheap,’ and people are going to assume that whether it’s in the paper or not,” Holub said after [Brandy] McCarty accepted an annual salary of $39,264 for two years. “That was not the thing.”
The only candidates who matched the commissioners’ desired qualifications required “no less than $70,000,” former interim director JoAnn Knak said.
By hiring McCarty, the commissioners effectively changed the purpose of the position.

(Read more: PEABODY Gazette-Bulletin)


Ford County to hear case for liquor law change

The owner of a private club in Dodge City has submitted information to the Ford County Commission in preparation for making a case for changing the liquor laws in the county which prevents the existence of traditional public houses.
Ford County is one of 63 of the state’s 105 counties to allow the sale of liquor by the drink only in establishments that make at least 30 percent of revenue from food sales, like a restaurant or casual sports bar and grill. Of the other counties, 29 waive the 30 percent requirement and 13 allow no sale of liquor by the drink.

In counties like Ford, Kiowa, Hodgeman and Finney, bar owners can skirt the 30 percent requirement by becoming a “private club,” which comes with a waiting period and the obligation to check incoming patrons for cards lest the state alcohol authorities lay down a fine that could lead to loss of licensure.

(Read more: dodgeglobe.com)


Reno County tripped up over parking

An effort by the state to enforce who may use handicap placards for vehicles led to Reno County public transportation officials recently shelling out more than $1,000 for new bus tags.

Turns out, though, they may not have had to.

Reno County Area Transit officials recently learned the familiar blue and white placards, which hang from a vehicle’s rear-view mirror to authorize parking in a handicap parking stall – and which the county had been using in its buses for free for nearly three years – aren’t legal for the buses to use.

The plates, $61 per year per vehicle, must be renewed annually. The agency’s cost this year was about $1,060.

Turns out, though, that city and county vehicles can obtain a sticker for their tag to make it a handicap tag – for free.

“For government entities, like cities or schools, we can provide a decal that will make it a handicap tag at no cost,” Koranda said. “What they need to do is fill out a form on our website, form TR-159-D. It has all the instructions on it. They need to fill out the VIN number for each vehicle and all the tag info, and fax it back to the state, and we’ll process it. The cost of their tags shouldn’t go up.”

After learning of the option, County Treasurer Jan Hull late Tuesday advised Lilyhorn the county would refund the cost of disabled plates and reissue county plates…

(Read more: The Hutchinson News)


Riley County police to test body cameras

Riley County police are moving forward with a pilot program to place body cameras on some officers.

… Capt. Tim Hegarty announced this week that police will start testing the 11 cameras on Nov. 5. He says Aggieville police officers will wear the cameras on their heads and will activate them manually. …

The department has paid nearly $6,000 to use the cameras for five years.

(Read more: The Wichita Eagle & Kansas.com)


Crunching the numbers for Chanute’s fiber network

The existing fiber infrastructure in Chanute currently … [consists] of approximately 40 miles of fiber delivering high-speed internet around the city of Chanute. Planners called this network the “backbone,” aiming for it to encompass the core of the city.

Financial information about this existing fiber network was released by the city this week, revealing that $4,108,729 has been spent over the last nine years. Fiber revenues have totaled $3,436,903 in that time, meaning that the fiber network has so far lost an average of $74,647 a year. Critics of the city’s proposed $15.2 million Fiber To The Home plan are using these numbers to question the potential profitability of the project as a whole.
[Chanute Interim City Manager Sam] Budreau answers such criticisms by pointing out that the existing fiber project falls under the electric utility.
“What we’ve been trying to do is build to the businesses,” Budreau said. “There is some turnaround time, after you build it, but we are still generating revenue also at the same time.”
Budreau also released numbers this week showing that the city would have had to pay an outside company $800,700 for nine years of this kind of service, if not for this fiber infrastructure. This would cost taxpayers approximately $94,200 a year.

(Read more: The Chanute Tribune – news,news/)


Wichita Fire Fighters Union says City violating member rights

Conflicts between the Wichita Fire Fighters Union and the department’s administration are heating up again with new allegations of harrassment and intimidation. The union took its concerns to the Wichita City Council meeting Tuesday.

The President of the International Association of Fire Fighters out of Washington D.C. sent a letter to every city council member last week. On Tuesday, the district vice president came to town to speak to the board. Both feel Wichita Fire Chief Ron Blackwell and his administration are violating union rights.

City Manager Bob Layton disagrees.

“During the last two years, it’s my belief that fire management has worked hard to improve relationships with fire fighters,” Layton told the council.

(Read more: Top Stories)


Bourbon County clerk facing up to 29 months behind bars for theft

Sentencing has been rescheduled for a former Bourbon County Clerk’s office employee who pleaded guilty last month to three counts she faced stemming from a 2012 incident involving theft from the county.

… [Angela] Timi was arrested Feb. 27 on multiple charges of criminal use of a financial card, forgery, making false information, misuse of public funds and theft by deception.

As part of a plea agreement, the state has agreed to dismiss the remaining charges on Timi, who originally faced 59 counts.

With the guilty pleas, Timi must pay the full restitution amount of $23,773 and faces a minimum of seven months and maximum of 17 months, as well as a maximum $100,000 fine for the count of misuse of public funds. She also faced up to 12 months in the county jail and a maximum $2,500 fine for the charges involving criminal use of a financial card.

(Read more: Fort Scott Tribune)


Little Free Libraries continue to draw discussion in Leawood

Debate hinges on First Amendment rights, zoning regulations and the role of homeowners associations. …
The Leawood City Council on Monday night unanimously approved extending until May 4 its moratorium that exempts “Little Free Libraries” from a city ordinance that prohibits front-yard structures.

The council on July 7 had unanimously approved a moratorium exempting the structures until Monday, which enabled 9-year-old Spencer Collins to put his library back in his front yard.

During the citizen comments period of Monday’s council meeting, Spencer’s father, Brian Collins, spoke in favor of the libraries.

Little free libraries are “a form of protected free speech,” Collins said.

In a work session Monday night before the council meeting, Ward 2 Councilman Louis Rasmussen said he opposed allowing the structures.

“Radio talk show hosts, TV channels, media, TV personalities out of Rockefeller Center all deciding what a streetscape in a city of 30,000-plus in Kansas should have is sort of amazing to me,” Rasmussen said. “My homeowners association has a contract with every person in this area. …

(Read more: The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com)


Augusta Council approves CID for Comfort Inn

The Augusta City Council set a public hearing to consider a Community Improvement District on the parcel that is expected to become the home of the new Comfort Inn and Suites.
Property owner Dilap Patel has requested the CID for the property. The CID would allow a business inside the district – in this case only the hotel – to charge an additional 2 percent sales tax on their own property. The proceeds from that additional tax may then be reimbursed to the property developers to help reimburse certain construction costs.
Over the 22-year span of the CID, the additional tax is expected to yield about $638,000. The total project cost is expected to be around $4.2 million.

(Read more: butlercountytimesgazette.com)


McPherson County officials prep for Ebola; ‘not a major concern’

County officials recently had a meeting to discuss procedures and preparations in the event of a case of Ebola in McPherson County.
The group included representatives from emergency management, 911 dispatch, the county health department and emergency medical responders, as well as local physicians. They discussed what each agency will do to investigate and contain any suspected cases of Ebola.
County hospitals have also been making preparations if a case of Ebola is found in the county, and local health officials are listening to weekly conference calls from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

(Read more: mcphersonsentinel.com)


El Dorado to begin allowing pit bulls in city limits

Residents will soon be able to have pit bulls within the city limits of El Dorado with changes to the dangerous animal ordinance, which the El Dorado City Commission approved Monday evening.
Public Works Director Brad Meyer updated the commission on the proposed ordinance changes, which included several articles in that section.
Some of the highlights of the changes included the definitions, with several changes and things added.
One of the changes was a tethering ordinance, which will not allow an animal to be tethered a long time.

(Read more: butlercountytimesgazette.com)


Bees, chickens, pit bulls still on the banned list as Prairie Village talks about changes to animal control ordinance

Beekeeping, pit bulls and chickens fall among the prohibited animals and insects in Prairie Village and remain prohibited at least in the first draft of a new animal control ordinance for the city.

The main point of the ordinance rewrite, according to Prairie Village Police Chief Wes Jordan, was to move the appeal process on a decision about a dangerous animal to the governing body rather than an animal control committee. The discussion with the city council, though, touched on several other areas. “This is a chapter that does get used,” Jordan said. Almost 10 percent of the department’s call load last year related to animal control, according to the chief. Prairie Village runs its own animal control department with two civilian officers.

(Read more: Prairie Village Post)


Wichita city officials talk about winter salt supply

Joe Pajor is the City’s Deputy Director for Public Works and Utilities and says preparing for winter is a year round job.

“Last year there was some difficulty for getting some re-supply of salt and that was true for everybody but this year we think we are in a better position,”said Pajor.

Pajor says they are trying to stay on top of the unpredictable weather by storing extra salt.

The old abandoned Michaels on Kellogg currently holds 4,000 tons of the 6,000 they have in total.

(Read more: KWCH)