Kansas Municipal News

Snakes cause two city-wide outages in Holton

Nearly every resident in Holton last month lost power two times in five days, and both outages were caused by the same culprit: Snakes getting into the substation.

Westar Energy reported outages in Holton the evenings of May 20 and May 25. Both lasted nearly an hour and affected 2,100 customers, said spokeswoman Gina Penzig.

Learning the citywide outages were caused by snakes was a first for Holton city manager Bret Bauer.

“I’ve never heard of snakes (causing outages) before,” he said. “Opossums and squirrels, yes. But not snakes.”

(Read more: News)


Derby sees need for countywide yard waste recycling program

[In Derby] .. people are trimming trees, mowing grass, raking up leaves left over from fall and stuffing as much as they can in their curbside garbage cans. That’s because there is not a yard waste recycling program in Sedgwick County.
Derby City Manager Kathy Sexton said she sees it as the next needed step in recycling.
“Yard waste makes up a big portion of the county’s waste stream, which goes to a landfill,” said Sexton.
Sexton’s statement is backed up by a study done by the county. Workers spent a year going through residential and business trash to see exactly what people were throwing away. The dumpster diving analysis showed 31 percent of what people throw in their residential trash is yard waste.

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


Capturing every drop: Russell, Kan., learns to live with drought


Many of the 4,500 people of this central Kansas town are taking showers with buckets at their feet to refresh parched plants outside.

A few are placing trays under air conditioners to collect every drop of condensation.

To do his part to conserve Russell’s drinking water, resident Jim New is happy to wash his car from a hose attached to one of five rain barrels beneath his roof gutters.

Since the end of the crispy summer of 2012, a Russell ordinance has outlawed the “waste of water.” And yes, tapping the public utility to wash your car in the driveway is considered a waste.

Russell has roughly 2,000 residential water meters. To limit the amount of spinning on those meters, more than a third of the households have rain barrels.

Many homes have one or two. Larger spreads have eight, positioned at every downspout.

(Read more: KansasCity.com: Front Page)


Economic group to survey homes in Sedgwick, surrounding counties

Wichita State University will soon send out 30,000 citizen surveys to randomly selected homes in Butler, Harvey, Reno, Sedgwick and Sumner counties. The surveys are part of the Regional Economic Area Partnership’s effort to develop the South Central Kansas Prosperity Plan.

Topics on the survey include questions regarding job creation, business retention, housing needs, access to quality health service, regional cooperation, water quality and supply, and infrastructure maintenance.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle: News Updates)


City, business leaders weigh transparency of jobs fund

A commission independent of City Hall, but including two council members, and a project website are two of the ideas gaining traction as city and business leaders weigh the transparency of a new $80 million jobs development fund – if voters approve a 1-cent sales tax hike this fall.

Transparency in a business not noted for being forthcoming about how it spends public funds – economic development – is one of the big issues before council members, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. The groups are readying for the increasingly inevitable sales tax referendum in November, as the council invests much of the next two months soliciting more public input on the proposal.

The sales tax would generate about $400 million over five years, with a fifth of that going into a war chest to recruit and retain jobs.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle: News Updates)


Andover council oks contract for marketing video

…the Andover City Council approved a contract to produce a marketing video to promote the City of Andover.
First Generation Video will create a Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing video at a cost not to exceed $10,000.
The video production company, based in Wichita, will produce a 10-minute video that can be distributed in a number of ways, including putting the video on the city’s Web site, burning it to a CD and emailing it.
Mayor Ben Lawrence explained the video will be used to promote Andover and its quality of life to prospective business owners and families that are considering a move to Andover.

(Read more: butlercountytimesgazette.com)


Uber could soon offer services in Wichita

While the Uber craze has been seen in bigger cities, Wichita hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon yet.

City Councilwoman Janet Miller says the city is taking a closer look into this mode of transportation.

“I’ve asked our city manager to do some research into it and have staff report to us what they learned about the service,” said Miller.

To get Uber services in Wichita, some hurdles would have to be cleared first.

In 2012, the city put new taxi regulations in place, including the need for a 24-hour dispatch system.

It’s something Uber wouldn’t be able to provide.

(Read more: ksn.com)


Stockton mayor honored for accomplishments

Kim Thomas has a long list of accomplishments in her 12 years as mayor of this Rooks County town. But there’s still more to do.

“More housing,” she said. “Northwest Kansas, we don’t have the housing.

“People will move back, they like the smaller communities. There’s such a housing shortage. It’s not just this town; it’s all of northwest Kansas.”

Recently, the city received a grant from the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation for the construction of four moderate-income houses.

During her tenure as mayor, the city constructed new water lines and a new water plant; it currently is working on a new sewer lagoon project; and an old city building has been repurposed as the police station.

For her accomplishments, the Kansas Mayors Association named Thomas — the state’s first African-American female mayor — its Mayor of the Year last month.

“That’s quite an honor,” Thomas said of being the first African-American female mayor in the state. “But I did a lot of firsts. I’ve done a little bit of everything. I’ll try anything once.”

(Read more: The Hays Daily News)


Water violations adding up in Hays

As the depth of the drought — and water levels in city wells — deepen, the number of water use violations reported to the Hays Police Department has been soaring.

So far this year, Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler said Friday, officers have written 71 warning notices.

There’s no fine associated with a first-time violation.

But Scheibler said officers also have written four second-incident violations, which carry $50 fines.

One third-time violator has been cited, an infraction that carries a $200 penalty.

In all of 2013, Scheibler said, 109 written citations — covering the range of violations — were issued.

Rules affecting outside water use changed in early April, after Hays City commissioners agreed to move into the second phase of its water conservation plan.

In tandem with that, the Division of Water Resources granted authority to the city of Hays to include private wells in the city’s water conservation plan.

(Read more: The Hays Daily News)


Big plans offered for downtown Dodge City

A new hotel, water park, expansion of Boot Hill Museum and layers of development incentive programs are seen as a potential catalyst to reverse blight downtown and beyond, leading toward a new vision for downtown Dodge.
The goal is to create a triangle of development with a new hotel built by the Leisure group of companies and the Wright Park water park as a point south of Wyatt Earp Boulevard, said Bill Crandall of the CBC Real Estate group, the city’s development consultant.
That axis would be bolstered by an expansion of Boot Hill Museum, potentially by funds diverted from the state’s sales tax, and private reinvestment along Gunsmoke Street and Front Street with the help of property tax rebates, The Dodge City Daily Globe reported.

(Read more: The Hutchinson News – news/local state news,news/local state news/)


Medicine Lodge drive-in goes dim

Another Kansas drive-in has flickered out.
Hollywood rolled the end credits on film, causing Medicine Lodge’s Pageant Drive-In to dim for at least this summer.
“We aren’t opening because we didn’t go digital,” said owner Mike Sill of the family business that has been operational for decades.
Still, he adds, maybe the closing will be temporary.
Movies have entered the digital age. Today, few movies are produced on 35-millimeter film, which is what many small theaters, as well as drive-ins, still use to show movies.

(Read more: The Hutchinson News)


Overland Park, Merriam fire departments merge some functions

For years, a medical emergency call to the Merriam Fire Department meant a big fire truck in front of the house, lights ablaze, with neighbors looking on. It was costly to the city and embarrassing to the caller, said Merriam Fire Chief Bob Pape.

This year, though, things are different thanks to a new partnership between Merriam and Overland Park. Emergency medical personnel arrive on the scene in a Chevy Tahoe, not a full fire rig. The Tahoe, owned by Overland Park, uses Merriam as its home base. The crew comes from both cities.

The 5-month-old arrangement benefits both cities. Merriam saves the expense of bringing out a fire truck when a smaller and cheaper SUV can do the job as well. And in return for Overland Park’s investment, the Tahoe and Merriam Fire Department answer calls in a small northern part of town that didn’t have an Overland Park fire station nearby.

(Read more: Kansas City Star: Breaking News)


Leawood says no to Hy-Vee, but tax break mania still infects the area

…for now, the tony suburb is standing firm: Hy-Vee won’t get $1 million in tax revenue to help upgrade the inside of its grocery at 12200 State Line Road.

Good for Leawood and tough-minded City Administrator Scott Lambers, and bully for its City Council and Mayor Peggy Dunn.

Here’s one consequence for daring to say “no” to this kind of corporate welfare deal: Hy-Vee says it will close the grocery at 6 p.m. Sunday, though its pharmacy will continue operating there.

The decision to shutter the grocery has aggravated many Leawood residents as well as customers from nearby Kansas City neighborhoods.

Some blame the city for being so hard-headed. Others blame Hy-Vee for being so greedy.

(Read more: Kansas City Star Editorial)


Chanute hears options for secondary water sources

Options for secondary water sources were presented to the Chanute City Commission by engineering and architectural firm Wilson and Company at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Three alternatives were presented to the commission for secondary water sources in case of drought or contamination.
Alternative 1 includes building a pond near the Chanute Water Treatment facility….
Alternative 2 includes installing a water distribution system from Santa Fe Lake to the Chanute Water Treatment Facility. …
Alternative 3 includes utilizing water from the Ash Grove Cement Company’s quarry on 21st Street west of U.S. 169 Highway. This option would need approval from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment because of an old Paraffin Wax dump in the vicinity of the quarry.

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


Federal designation could mean economic, manufacturing development money to Wichita, south Kansas

Significant federal money might come to Wichita and south Kansas in the next two years for economic and manufacturing development, according to an announcement Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The federal government is designating south Kansas as a “manufacturing community” in a program called “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership,” said John Tomblin, a vice president at Wichita State University. In plainer language, Tomblin said, the federal government might invest in south Kansas to help factories and workers.

The federal decision makes Wichita and 27 counties in south-central and southeast Kansas eligible to receive a portion of $1.3 billion in new federal economic development dollars. Nationally, 11 other universities or government entities received a similar designation Wednesday.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle: News)


Missing Independence man found dead in sewer line

A set of human remains found in a southeast Kansas sewer line have been identified as those of a man missing since mid-January.

KOAM-TV reports a crew from the city of Independence discovered the remains May 19 while working on the line near the Verdigris (VUR’-dih-grihs) River).

Independence Police Chief Harry Smith said Wednesday a medical examiner identified them as those of 29-year-old Dustan James Roberts. More tests will be needed to determine the cause of death.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle: News Updates)


Firm announces $120M expansion of McPherson plant

A major pharmaceutical company says it will invest $120 million in improvements at its McPherson plant over the next five years, likely resulting in 150 new jobs.

Illinois-based Hospira Inc. announced the project Wednesday.

Hospira makes injectable drugs and infusion technologies. The Kansas plant opened in 1977 and currently has about 1,400 employees who produce medications in glass vials, cartridges, syringes and other delivery systems.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle: Business Updates)


Bike cops keep ‘rolling’

The course, attended by officers from around the state, was led by Emporia Police Department Sgt. Rob Turner. In addition to Dunn, Turner was assisted by part-time Lyon County Deputy Jeff Eubank, and Lyon County Deputy Sheriff John Koelsch. All three assistants formerly were EPD bike officers.
Koelsch was marking his 20th anniversary of bike patrolling. He and EPD Officer Ed Owens — now deputy chief — were the first bike officers with the Emporia department, which was the first in the state to institute a bike unit.
Koelsch credited former Chief Bob Rodriguez for creating the unit.
“He was the one who saw the vision that this could be a success,” Koelsch said. Others in the department were skeptical or openly against the start-up, but Rodriguez followed through and added a new dimension to law enforcement capabilities here and subsequently throughout the state.

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


REAP survey coming soon

Randomly selected residents in Reno and Harvey counties will receive surveys in their mailboxes next week seeking their opinions on about a half dozen regional development issues, including job creation, housing needs and infrastructure maintenance.

The survey, conducted by Wichita State University on behalf of the Regional Economic Area Partnership, will go out to 30,000 households in five counties who are partners in REAP. Other counties involved are Butler, Sedgwick and Sumner counties.

“The questions are about the planning process, and look at six topics: workforce and business development, water, natural resources, health community, build environment and transportation,” [Paula Downs, project director at WSU] said. “We’re asking for citizen input about how we’re doing and should we be investing in certain areas?”

The purpose of the survey, Downs said, is to help inform drafters of the plan “if they’re on the right path or if other priorities or things need to be considered in planning to move forward. It’s really to inform future decisions around the project.”

(Read more: The Hutchinson News – news/local state news,news/local state news/)


Kansas officials discuss signage for new gun law

Now that Kansas has expanded the right to carry guns both openly and concealed, officials are huddling to come up with signs that let people know what is allowed and where.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Wednesday convened a meeting of representatives of state and local governments, business interests and gun rights advocates who successfully pushed for firearms legislation.
…businesses, churches, schools and others still will be able to ban concealed and unconcealed guns from their premises if they post signs. The attorney general’s office must say what goes on the signs.

(Read more: LJWorld.com stories)


Treasurer Problems In Barton County

It’s a problem that Barton County leaders call serious.
“The commissioners cannot legally put together a budget, you know that’s a serious problem,” says Richard Boeckman, Barton County Administrator.
It’s a financial problem more than a year in the making.
It was first brought to light in January, when auditors found that Barton county’s tax rolls and bank accounts hadn’t been reconciled in January. They looked further and found the work hadn’t been done since last May.
They say it’s a little like someone not balancing their checkbook, in a year.

The county commissioners can’t do their annual budget until all of the treasurer’s work is completed and an audit is done, and because that work hasn’t been finished yet the commissioners have hired an outside firm to complete the work.

(Read more: ksn.com)


Police Union, Wichita settle body camera fight, contract violations

Wichita Police officers say the city has violated contracts, including the use of body cameras.

Nearly three years ago, the Axon body cameras were introduced to the force. Policies were set, but never approved by the union — a requirement for the city, said Steve Bukaty, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of the Police.

The cameras were a part of a negotiating point between the union and the City of Wichita. After three days in arbitration, the two struck a deal and now are developing plans to move forward and developing plans together on future policies, Bukaty said. Wednesday morning, paperwork was signed.

(Read more: KAKE – HomePage – Headlines)


City endorsed insurance pitch

Many Marion residents received letters last week that appeared to be from the city. They arrived in envelopes with the city’s return address, were printed on what appeared to be city letterhead, and had Mayor Todd Heitschmidt’s signature, endorsing Sewer Line Warranties of America to sell insurance for sewer lines running from homes to the public utility connection.
Despite appearing to be from the city, the letters were in fact mailed by the company, with the city’s blessing. Marion City Council approved endorsing Sewer Line Warranties of America and providing a list of utility customers to the company on Oct. 14.
The city will receive a payment of 50 cents per policy, per month, for policies signed up via the letter, city administrator Roger Holter said Tuesday.

(Read more: Marion County RECORD)


U.S. Commerce Department designates South Kansas a manufacturing community led by Wichita State

Initiative aims to revitalize manufacturing through public-private partnerships and coordinated federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Commerce today announced that South Kansas is among the first 12 communities that will be designated Manufacturing Communities as part of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative. The program is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing nationwide by supporting long-term economic development strategies that help communities attract and expand private investment in the manufacturing sector and increase international trade and exports.

“Kansas is blessed with outstanding universities that are a great asset to businesses in our state,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “Wichita State has a strong history of partnering with advanced manufacturers in research and education of the workforce. Being named to Phase Two of the IMCP is a tremendous accomplishment that will enhance the university’s efforts and support our growing economy and manufacturing sector.”

“The 12 Manufacturing Communities announced today represent a diverse group of communities with the most comprehensive economic development plans to attract business investment that will increase their competitiveness,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “IMCP is a critical part of our ‘Open for Business Agenda’ to strengthen the American manufacturing sector and attract more investment to the United States. Innovative programs like IMCP encourage American communities to work together to craft strong, clear, strategic plans to attract manufacturing investment and jobs to transform themselves into globally competitive commercial hubs.”

In Wichita, the program will allow for the accelerated insertion of advanced materials and automation into the production process and will bring together large and small business, defense contractors, research entities, university researchers, students, support organizations and government agencies to accelerate innovation by investing in industrially relevant advanced manufacturing technologies.

“Our goal through the IMCP is to secure south central Kansas as a global leader in advanced materials, ensuring increased high-wage employment opportunities for Kansans,” said Wichita State University President John Bardo.

“This designation will strengthen Kansas’ vibrant manufacturing sector,” Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said. “Wichita State has research and educational capabilities that have long supported area manufacturers. The enhanced collaboration between the university, businesses and other organizations promises to support the continued growth of manufacturing in Wichita and Kansas.”

From the 70 communities that applied, 12 were selected by an interagency panel, based on the strength of their economic development plans, the potential for impact in their communities and the depths of their partnerships across the public and private sector to carry out their plans. The designated communities will receive coordinated support for their strategies from eleven federal agencies with $1.3 billion available in federal economic development assistance.

These communities will also receive a dedicated federal liaison at each of these agencies that will help them navigate available federal resources. They will also be recognized on a government website, accessible to prospective private foreign and domestic investors, looking for information on communities’ competitive attributes.

In order to earn the designation, communities had to demonstrate the significance of manufacturing already present in their region and develop strategies to make investments in six areas: 1) workforce and training, 2) advanced research, 3) infrastructure and site development, 4) supply chain support, 5) trade and international investment, 6) operational improvement and capital access.

For more information on IMCP, please visit: http://www.eda.gov/challenges/imcp/index.htm.

(Read more: Kansas Department of Commerce, KS – News Flash)


Face to Face: Baldwin City Clerk Collin Bielser

Career: Bielser interned a year with Douglas County and had a stint with the Mid-America Regional Council. He started his professional career two years ago in Eudora, where his job included planning and economic development, as well as some duties with the Eudora Chamber of Commerce. He took his job with Baldwin City in February 2013, working as city clerk with additional duties in community development.

Digging deeper: Bielser is still listed as city clerk, but he won’t be for long. With the reorganization of City Hall staff the Baldwin City Council recently approved, Bielser will be shedding his city clerk duties when someone is hired to fill that position. Biesler will be asked to take a larger role in community development.

(Read more: BaldwinCity.com stories)


Osage City hires new city manager

Osage City hired a new city manager Tuesday evening, with the city council authorizing the mayor to offer a contract to Rodney D. Willis, of Sterling.

After the meeting, Robert and Willis reviewed the contract together and Willis accepted it. Willis’ first day as Osage City manager is to be June 10.

Willis will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Linda Jones, who retired in March after serving as city manager for two years.

Willis was the city manager of Sterling until January of this year, a position he had held for eight years.

(Read more: Osage County Online | Osage County News)


Pete stands signless in city hall

The past few years Pete the chain saw carved rhino has called city hall home. He was decorated with a sign that said, “Hello, my name is Pete.” A few months ago that sign went missing.
A few city employees noted Pete’s missing sign for a few months but thought that perhaps it had been broken and was being repaired. In fact it has been swiped.

This is the second time Pete’s sign has gone missing, but before it was returned.
“I hate to replace the sign if it’s going to keep going missing,” [Margo] Yates said.
There has been some talk about replacing the sign and permanently affixing it to Pete, but nothing has been settled yet.

(Read more: Marion County RECORD)


Franklin County waives fee for family whose rural home was destroyed by fire

A family who lost their rural Princeton home in an April fire got a helping hand Wednesday from the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners waived the building permit fee for Robert and Kathy Sheldon. Though not a formal policy, the county typically approves such waivers when dealing with rebuilding after a fire, Steve Harris, commission chair, said.

(Read more: The Ottawa Herald)


Derby to look at electronic cigarettes, roof pitches and unwanted newspapers


Three new subjects have been added to the priority list which directs the Derby city staff on its work. … regulating e-cigarette lounges, changing regulations on roof pitches on new structures and potentially outlawing the throwing of newspapers which are not subscriber purchased.
…At the start of the year, McPherson established a licensing process for e-cigarette lounges and Salina set a moratorium on the licensing of similar businesses while that city looks at the issue.

(Read more: DerbyInformer.com)