Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

Meeting of minds is Thursday

October 20, 2005

It was short and sweet for the Baldwin City Council at Monday's meeting. It only took 30 minutes to whisk through an agenda that contained little. But, there was some news of note.

The biggest item wasn't even on the agenda. It was an announcement of a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Baker University's Mabee Hall room 100 that will include the Baldwin School District, Baker and city officials regarding community wide needs.

"We'll discuss what needs we have that might be in common," said Council President Amy Cleavinger. "I think it's important to get everyone talking."

Other news items included an improved fire rating that could reduce insurance costs, a glowing audit report and the announcement of Utility Director Terry McKinney's departure. There were only two action items, one to approve a resolution authorizing an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation for the Downtown Enhancement and Women's Bridge projects and replacing McKinney on KMEA board of directors.

The enhancement project to upgrade downtown Baldwin totals roughly $1.2 million and the women's bridge, to refurbish the historic bridge on High Street between 10th and 11th streets, totals under $1 million. KDOT is funding 80 percent of the projects with the city picking up the 20 percent, plus design and other costs.

"I received from the state the contracts for the projects," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "The dollar amounts are in there. The thing I was most interested in seeing was the time frames on it. They aren't specified."

Dingman's concern involves material costs, which are expected to skyrocket as a result of Hurricane Katrina. It's unclear if the projects must be completed in 2006-2007. The projects are slated to begin in the spring of 2006 and be completed before next year's Maple Leaf Festival.

"It's kind of a 'catch 22.'" said Mayor Gary Walbridge. "You can go along with the project, but it may not be done for the budgeted amount."

The agreement was approved unanimously.

The ISO Fire Rating, which comes from the Public Protection Classification Department, shows improvements to the city's fire protection -- new fire trucks, improved water distribution system -- has made a difference. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being best, Baldwin went from a 7 to a 4.

That's especially of note, Dingman said, because of the city's all volunteer fire department. Training and staffing of fire departments are a big part of the rating. He also said the city's rating is good in comparison to Lawrence's rating, which is a 2, based on its full-time fire department. Very few cities have 1 ratings.

"We did receive notification that our ISO rating has improved from a 7 to a 4," he said. "We encourage residents and business owners to ask their insurance carriers about possible fire insurance breaks as a result.

"I does reflect on how the city has invested in its fire protection," said Dingman.

In announcing the resignation of McKinney, who has been utility director since 1999, Dingman said he has been a major factor in the improvements -- especially electrical -- in the city's infrastructure, which was in disrepair. He's taken a job in Arkansas at a much bigger utility.

"Terry's participated in some pretty substantial projects during his tenure," he said.

Among those, Dingman cited, are: installation of electrical substation in 1999; construction of wastewater treatment plant in 2003; construction of two new elevated water tanks in 2004; construction of new power plant in 2004; conversion from 2400 volt distribution in town to 12,470 volt distribution; complete rebuild of electrical distribution system over last several years; measurable added stability to the electrical service in the city; recommended and implemented diversification of the city's energy resources; added stability to the Electric Utility Fund, including emphasizing utility reserve funds; and represented the city with Kansas Municipal Energy Agency, Kansas Municipalities Utilities, and Kansas Municipal. Gas Agency.

"The thing that impresses me most about his tenure was his representation for the city on those various boards," he said. "I appreciate Terry's contributions."

Walbridge agreed.

"Your presence in the community -- I saw you riding around Sunday after the Maple Leaf Festival -- you're a tireless worker," said Walbridge. "Thank you for me and I hope you enjoy your future endeavors."

The council presented McKinney with an engraved pocket watch.

As for the city's audit, Tom Singleton of Lowenthal, Singleton, Webb and Wilson outlined it to the council in glowing terms. He said in the audit's opinion section that the most favorable terms possible were used.

"I just want to acknowledge the tremendous amount of work done by this woman to my right (City Clerk Peggy Nichols) and the entire staff," said Singleton. "This is the highest opinion we can give and is a testament to the city's financial standing."

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