Archive for Thursday, November 9, 2006

Leaf burning at issue with city council

November 9, 2006

Baldwin City Council members dealt with a variety of items at Monday's meeting, but deferred on the "burning issue" of possible regulations on leaf disposal.

At the last council meeting, Baldwin resident Dennis Waymire proposed that the council restrict leaf burning to just one day a month or some other regulated system. Waymire has researched leaf burning and says it affects air quality. The agenda didn't include the topic and Waymire asked about it during the public comment portion at the first of the meeting.

"I was wondering what's going on with leaf burning?" said Waymire.

"There has been no action taken," said Mayor Gary Walbridge.

Council member Nancy Brown did address the issue during her safety committee report minutes later.

"We did discuss a couple of things, including leaf burning," said Brown. "We are not ignoring it. We are looking at the long-term effect. Unfortunately, this is something that takes some study. Hopefully, by the next meeting, we should have something.

"In the meantime, I'd like to talk to you more about it," she said to Waymire. "I want to get a better idea of what it's like."

Brown also said concerns were raised at the committee meeting regarding enforcement of a leaf burning ban or regulation.

"If you get it down to one day a week, that would be easy to enforce," said Waymire.

Another resident, Phyllis Booth, spoke in favor of a ban or regulation.

"I have respiratory problems and it really bothers me," said Booth. "I think it's a health problem. We've never lived anywhere else that allows leaf burning."

Brown said the safety committee had also discussed another recent problem.

"We followed up on the dog bite incident that took place at Maple Leaf," she said of the Oct. 22 incident where a young Lawrence girl was bitten by a dog and had to have stitches in her face. "We are looking at whether dogs will be allowed at Maple Leaf and other events."

Council members also heard a short report from Paula Phillips, Douglas County Emergency Management director. She updated the council on the emergency management plan, which the council approved in a resolution.

"It's an ongoing process," said Phillips. "We just want to be responsive to what Baldwin needs."

Council members also approved a contract with the Kansas Department of Transportation related to the Midland Railroad and Santa Fe Trail Historical Society's TEA-21 grant project for repairs at the depot and some track work. The groups had secured a grant with KDOT in 2000 for $179,636 worth of work. However, they were unable to come up with the match money and the cost of those repairs today would be $421,000. So, the project was scaled back and will be for $200,057.

"For a number of reasons, mostly financial, we were unable to get this done," Mike Fox, president of Midland, said about the first grant. "We have match money now."

Track work was mostly scaled back, but improvements to the depot, most notably the platform. No city dollars are involved in the project, it is only a sponsor of the grant.

The council also approved another agreement on a contract with KDOT. It is for the Safe Routes to School Program which the city recently was awarded $14,780 for Phase One work. That money will be used to study how children are getting to schools and what can be done to encourage them to walk or ride their bikes, such as additional side walks.

"Phase One is information gathering," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman.

The council also approved a resolution that moves the retirement program for police and firefighting personnel from KPERS to KP&F. Council member Doyle Jardon asked Police Chief Mike McKenna if the move was a good one.

"Personally, I feel like it's a good benefit for Baldwin," said McKenna. "You've got a retirement package that would make them want to commit to staying here."

Council member Ted Brecheisen Jr. raised concerns that it provided something that other city employees wouldn't get. Brown and Dingman told him that was being worked on, but the change for the police and firemen had to be done before Jan. 1.

Council member Tony Brown also brought up the improvements that have been made at the Baldwin City Municipal Swimming Pool recently. City crews have added additional parking places, which was a hot topic all summer, and more are on the way. Playground equipment has also arrived for the area. The Signal will be doing a story on the efforts in an upcoming issue.

"I just want to comment (utility director) Bill Winegar and his crew for the terrific job they're doing at the pool," said T. Brown. "That place is going to look significantly different next year."

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