Marion’s water meters will be brought into the digital age if a $220,000 loan application authorized Monday by the Marion City Council is approved.
In a public hearing conducted immediately prior to the regular city council meeting, Rose Mary Saunders presented information regarding a proposed application to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for a low-interest loan to finance the upgrade of city water meters to electric units capable of being read automatically by handheld units.
Saunders noted the actual amount of principal the city would be required to pay would be significantly less than the $220,000 amount the city is requesting.
“When we finish the project there will be a 40 percent reduction in loan forgiveness. $142,000 is basically what the principal would be for the city to pay back on this project if we use the entire amount,” Saunders said.
The automated system would allow the city to track water purchases and losses with more accuracy and detail, identify water leaks faster, and level out the revenue stream, according to Saunders.
City administrator Doug Kjellin said the system would drastically reduce the time needed to read meters, which he said currently takes 10 days to two weeks.
“I’m anticipating less than two hours to read every meter in town once the system is installed,” Kjellin said.
One comment was received during the public comment period from Bill Keith, who posed a question about the longevity of the software used by the system.
“I can leave Best Buy and by the time I get home my stuff is outdated already, so I’m just curious about the software issues,” Keith said.
Kjellin responded he did not anticipate any problems as software upgrades are distributed regularly by the manufacturer, and added the handheld units used to read the meters are covered under a service contract.
Kjellin said the installation of new meters would be done by city crews, and would take approximately one year to complete.
In regular session, the council voted 5-0 to proceed with the application to KDHE. Saunders said she expected, if KDHE is agreeable, the loan could be ready for the council’s final approval as early as mid-October.
A dilapidated, abandoned house at 311 E. Santa Fe was a discussion item for the council, supplemented by two documents provided to the Marion County Record prior to the meeting.
The property owner, Larry Glover, was notified by mail in an Aug. 31 letter from Fredrickson indicating Fredrickson would be “bringing the facts that I have gathered to the City Council at its regularly scheduled meeting on September 19, 2011, to begin the process of condemnation.”
Fredrickson’s letter indicated Glover would be assessed the cost of demolition should the city prevail in the condemnation action.
The letter went on to offer Glover the option of selling the property to the city.
“I am authorized to tell you that the City is willing to purchase the real property for the sum of $500. The City would then be responsible for demolition costs, but you would lose ownership of the lot thereafter,” Fredrickson’s note concluded.
A Sept. 15 memorandum prepared for the city council by Kjellin referenced Fredrickson’s letter and indicated Glover had agreed to sell the property to the city.
“To speed the process and eliminate costs associated with public hearings and newspaper notification charges, an offer for $500 was extended by the city to purchase the property. Mr. Glover came into the city offices today and agreed to the sale of the property for $500,” Kjellin said in the memo. “I would like permission to draft a simple sales agreement with Mr. Glover with an expected closing date in late October.
In addition to the purchase price, Kjellin’s memo summarized estimated demolition costs at $5,000, which he noted was the same amount in the city budget for home demolition and property cleanup for 2011. Kjellin proposed the remaining lot be split in halves to be marketed to the adjacent homeowners at a price equal to the costs of demolition.
Fredrickson opened the discussion of the property by referring to the documentation provided to the city council and asking if they had any questions.
Mayor Mary Olson indicated she had a question for city attorney Keith Collett.
“Are we not to vote before he offers $500 for property?” Olson asked.
Collett deferred an answer to Olson’s question to an executive session already scheduled for the meeting for matters of attorney-client privilege for discussion of property acquisition.
Fredrickson proceeded with a description of the condition of the property based on his inspection.
“The foundation is poor, the electrical is hazardous, the plumbing system is nonfunctional, the roof is collapsing, and the windows and doors are nonfunctional,” Fredrickson said.
Fredrickson’s presentation provided the information necessary to initiate the process described in the city ordinance “pertaining to the abatement of dangerous structures.” Following the executive session later in the meeting, the city council took no further action relative to the ordinance.
Contacted following the meeting, Olson elaborated on the concern which prompted her question during the meeting.
“Whenever there is an acquisition of any property the council should be the first to know what should be offered and what should be paid for it, before anyone goes out and makes an offer,” Olson said. “I don’t care if they talk to people about acquisition of property, but if they don’t come to the council first that’s a problem.”
“That’s just me. The other members might not feel the same,” Olson said. “If they come to us first, and say this is what we plan to do, and as long as we are informed, then I’m OK with that.”
Also contacted following the meeting, Collett declined to comment on specific actions relative to the 311 E. Santa Fe property, but did provide clarification of the city’s intent to do something to resolve the situation.
“Whether it is involuntary under the ordinance or whether there is an agreement for the purchase of that property, the goal is for the 311 E. Santa Fe house to come down,” Collett said.
The council approved a $340,000 bid from Middlecreek Corporation to dredge the city’s three sewer ponds. Middlecreek will subcontract with Hodges Farms and Dredging of Lebo to perform the dredging. Kjellin said the bid came in $90,000 less than what the city had anticipated based on prior research.
Kjellin and the council discussed the question of how the work will be monitored to ensure the contracted volume of sludge is actually removed.
“The verification of how the work is done is the biggest sticking point – how do you verify you’ve gotten everything out,” Kjellin said.
“When they get one pond done we can go back with the sludge test we’ve got and double check the depths and see if we do in fact have no sediment at that point. If that’s the case, then obviously we’re pretty clear that they got the job done,” Kjellin said. “With some supervision, I’m sure they’ll do the job correctly.”
Warren Kreutziger, representing VFW Post 6958, discussed with the council future plans the club would like to see happen regarding the property immediately north and east of the post facility at 420 W. Santa Fe.
Kreutziger said the club would eventually like to acquire the property, which is overgrown with trees and filled with litter, and turn it into a campground and activity area for the Boy Scouts.
“We at the VFW would be willing to try to get it if it ever came up on a tax sale, but we can’t afford to have all the trees pushed out. We’re wondering whether if we ever get it acquired whether the city could come in and remove the little trees,” Kreutziger said.
The council took no action on Kreutziger’s request since the VFW post does not currently own the property, but council member Steve Smith offered support and encouragement for the project.
“It sounds like a good community project,” Smith said. “If you acquire the property and you have a good function for it, I would be more than willing to bet that somebody would want to step up and help the Boy Scouts to clean it out.”
In other business, the council:
- Approved warrants in the amount of $238,743.88.
- Approved payroll in the amount of $27,922.68
- Received without comment a written report from Fredrickson detailing work orders completed by city crews from Sept. 6 to 16.
- Approved general financial and budgetary policies.
- Approved a contractor license for Loyd Builders, Inc.
- Heard a report from Kjellin about vendor feedback for Art in the Park.
- Heard a request from Kjellin to remind the public lumber and painted materials are not allowed in the city tree dump.
- Heard a report from Kjellin regarding the status of shad that were clogging the city water intake at Marion Reservoir.
The next meeting of the Marion City Council will be Monday, Oct. 3 at 4:30 p.m. in the council room of the city building.