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Utility shutoff ban doesn't apply to Marion

Staff writer

A Kansas Corporation Commission rule that would prohibit turning utilities off when forecasts are below 35 degrees doesn’t apply to Marion, so the city will likely choose not to follow it.

Administrator Roger Holter informed Marion City Council members at Monday’s meeting of the KCC’s “Cold Weather Rule,” a policy that would add extra measures — including notifying residents over-the-phone or in-person the day before disconnection — before turning off residents’ utilities during cold-weather months.

Current city policy includes two letters sent in advance of the disconnection date that notify the resident of the impending disconnection. The resident then has the opportunity to arrange a payment plan to keep the power on. Phone calls or house calls are not required by the policy.

Holter pointed out the rule does not apply to municipal government.

“Unfortunately, a percentage of the people whose utilities are cut off have evolved into a lifestyle that involves this as a normal process of their lives,” Holter said.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said the rule was not likely to be adopted by the city.

“We’ve never had it,” he said. “We have adequate measures in place to get these types of issues addressed.”

Holter said the city had six cases in December of cutting off residents’ electricity, whereas that number averages “12 to 14” during the summer months.

Heitschmidt said he and other members of the council had been approached by residents struggling to keep electricity on.

“Residents who get nowhere with the city staff try to get around them and talk to councilmen about their utilities,” he said. “We try to support our city employees, and I think the city has done a good job.”

The Cold Weather Rule allows residents to make payment plan arrangements with utility companies to pay the balance of their overdue bill in 12 months.

Heitschmidt said the city already has guidelines in place for arranging payment plans.

Current city policy does not require phone calls because not enough people have updated phone information or other viable personal contact information to make such a policy equitable, Holter said.

McCarty is new policeman

Marion Police Chief Tyler Mermis announced Duane McCarty as a new Marion police officer.

“We’re very excited, he’s very excited,” Mermis said. “He brings a lot of years of experience to our police department.”

McCarty worked previously with the Marion police department, and had most recently been working part-time as a sheriff’s deputy.

“Patrolman McCarty will be heading up our community policing efforts specifically in the areas of school resource officer and educational training for our community,” Mermis said in a press release.

McCarty will start for the police department Jan. 21.

In other business:

  • Mark Chesney of the Kansas Power Pool answered councilors’ questions regarding energy costs for the upcoming year.
  • Council approved a change to the city uniform policy, allowing municipal employees to spend $150 on pants, boots, jackets, and gloves. The previous policy allowed for $100 for pants and boots.
  • Economic Development Director Terry Jones created a uniform business license application for the city to use, saying it will help the city keep better track of its businesses.
  • Heitschmidt discussed a memo he wrote encouraging councilors to set three main goals for 2015.
  • Jones showed that Marion had higher percent change last year in its sales tax than the state, the county, Hillsboro, Peabody, and Florence.

Last modified Jan. 8, 2015

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