New council goes quickly to work
On Monday evening, the out-going Baldwin City Council dealt with old business, hearing a recreation commission report and, without discussion, unanimously approving the minutes of the last regular meeting and an appropriations ordinance for claims against the city.
Council President Marilyn Pearse presented service awards to the out-going mayor, Stan Krysztof, and the three council members leaving office, Joe Salb, Lee Whaley and Gene Nelson.
Before a packed room of city residents and family members of the new city administration, City Clerk Peggy Nichols swore in the new mayor, Ken Hayes, and three new council members, Todd Cohen, Ken Wagner, and George McCrary.
After a 20 minute break for punch and cookies, the new city council was seated. It unanimously approved 11 motions in a row, and then voted 4-1 on the last motion of the evening.
The Hard Part of the Evening
Before approving the engineering agreement for the proposed wastewater treatment plant, the new council had questions for Pat Cox, vice president of BG Consultants.
The cost estimate for engineering services originally was $420,000. The new estimate is $365,470. Council members were concerned that this reduction might be detrimental to the new system.
"For my information and for the taxpayers, I need to know how the bid was lowered," said new council member Ken Wagner, concerned that there be no unexplained cost-cutting on the $3.5 million project. "That's a big project for a city this size."
BG was able to use existing subsurface geological research, which helped lower the estimate.
"This estimate is a maximum fee," Cox said. "We hope by the time the project is over that this new estimate will be lowered even more."
A question from the audience also was answered. Mike Wiseman asked if expansion of the system was allowed in the new design.
As explained in a previous council meeting, the new wastewater treatment plant is being designed to handle a population of 9,000, twice the capacity of the current system and more than two times the current population of the city. State requirements call for the new plant to have a life span of 20 years.
"We've designed the system to meet state requirements but also to meet growth of the city," said Terry McKinney, Director of Utilities. "We'll be able to add to the system easily, and we have enough land to accommodate an expansion."
The only item of business that failed to receive a unanimous vote concerned an amendment to the Employee Policy Manual. This involved the animal control officer.
City Administrator Larry Paine explained that the officer had 32 hours each week scheduled, plus 8 hours of non-scheduled time because animals don't roam during scheduled hours. Although this makes the officer a full-time employee in total hours, the policy manual requires all full-time employees to work 40 scheduled hours.
Unless the manual is changed, the officer is not eligible for health benefits.
Paine suggested that the manual be changed to show 32 hours as the minimum requirement for the full-time designation, which matches industry guidelines. City Attorney Bob Bezek said this change would not cause any problems for the city.
After lengthy discussion, council member Ted Brecheisen Jr. suggested that the council refer the issue to the Safety Committee to look at alternatives.
Finally, the council voted 4-1 to add animal control officer to those city employees, including police officers and firefighters, who are exempt from the 40-hour limitation. Brecheisen cast the dissenting vote.
"This was harder than catching a dog," said Wagner.
The Easy Part of the Evening
Wagner was elected president of the council. Wagner also was appointed the elected official representative on the governing body of the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency; Brecheisen was appointed alternate. Cohen was appointed as alternate on the board of the Kansas Municipal Gas Agency.
Wagner spoke directly to the ample crowd, requesting that they consider getting involved with city government by going to City Hall and applying for open positions on committees and boards.
"You'll be tackling some tough decisions," he said.
Hayes supported this suggestion, indicating involvement in city decisions would be a logical extension of the interest shown in the recent city election. It would be a way to keep giving feedback, he said.
The council quickly approved several requests:
Baker University was given approval to install permanent hardware and then to hang banners on special occasions from six light poles on the west side of campus along Eighth Street. After Sixth Street improvements are completed, the city will install six street lights on the east side of campus; brackets and banners will be attached to these poles as well. Baker invites other organizations to make use of the banner brackets, which won't interfere with the flag brackets the American Legion uses on occasion.
Baldwin High School requested temporary one-way traffic around Liston Stadium for graduation on May 19 between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. First street will be one way north-bound between Fremont and High, and Second Street will be one way south-bound.
As in the past, the Baldwin Community Arts Council received permission to use public sidewalks for the monthly Art Walks throughout the summer on May 18, June 15, July 20, Aug. 17 and Sept. 21 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The council waived restrictions of the Municipal Code 5-207, allowing the Arts Council to use the south side of High Street from Seventh to Eighth Streets and the west side of Eighth Street from High to Grove.
Other unanimously approved motions included financing for a new photocopier and a new pickup truck. Mid-America Bank won the bids for financing these two purchases at 5.75 percent.
An agreement was also approved with Baker to share costs of the Sixth Street improvements. The university will pay costs of constructing new sidewalks on both sides of Sixth Street from Chapel to Grove, plus other elements that will improvement the ambiance of the campus, such as street lights.
In other action, mayoral appointments were approved: John Cochran, City Magistrate; Robert L. Bezek Jr., City Attorney; James Craig, City Treasurer; Peggy Nichols, City Clerk and Municipal Court Administrator; Steve Butell, Chief of Police; Allen Craig, Fire Chief; Terry McKinney, Director of Utilities; Bill Winegar, Assistant Director of Utilities; Jim Tarwater, Building Inspector/Zoning Inspector/Public Officer; John Vesecky, Planning Commission; and Joe Simunac, Library Board.
One position on the Library Board is still vacant. Anyone interested in serving on the board should contact City Hall. The City Engineer position is also vacant.
The council approved appointments to various committees:
Finance Committee Marilyn Pearse, chair; George McCrary, co-chair; Slade Dillon, Dave Hill, and Amy Clevenger.
Public Works Committee Ted Brecheisen Jr., chair; Ken Wagner, co-chair.
Utility Committee Ken Wagner, chair; Ted Brecheisen Jr., co-chair; Richard Wellman and Michael C. Green.
Public Safety Committee George McCrary, chair; Todd Cohen, co-chair; Myra Glover.
Economic Development/Community Development Committee Todd Cohen, chair; Marilyn Pearse and Annette Galluzzi.