Burns mayor proposes partnership with Florence
A partnership between Florence and Burns would provide an opportunity to offer water and maintenance employees better pay, Burns mayor Ryan Johnson said at Monday’s Florence city council meeting.
“I’m not up here to steal from you guys and I’m not up here to bum off you guys,” he said. “I want to make it a partnership to make it beneficial for both of us.”
While there is an opportunity to be explored, there are logistical concerns over when workers are viewed as Florence employees and when they work for Burns, councilman Matt Williams said.
“The nuts and bolts I’m scared of is the insurance,” councilman Matt Williams said. “Who does that employee work for when they get here?”
Similar to payroll, insurance could be handled according to which city employees are working for at the time, Johnson said.
“With the two towns splitting the cost of employees we could afford to pay them a bit more once they’re certified,” he said. “Then they’re not running off to a bigger town because they have their certifications and can be making more money.”
“We might be able to start a trend because I know there are a lot of other towns like ours having the same issues.”
Cooperating would lessen the burden of finding certified employees to handle the cities’ water, Johnson said.
“It’s expensive to get them water certified and expensive to keep them going,” he said. “Then when they quit us, we’re stuck sitting on our hands and wondering what we’re going to do. It costs a lot of money to bring people in from out of town to take care of the water and keep it up to certification.”
Burns’ water system is simpler than Florence’s, so anyone registered for Florence would meet certification requirements for Burns as well, he said.
If the partnership works then it might be advantageous to share other resources, Johnson said.
“I know we don’t have nearly as much stuff as you guys, but we’d be willing to purchase things,” Johnson said. “We never had the manpower to run any more equipment.”
Other Kansas communities have been in similar situations, said Heather Thiel, who is hired as clerk for each city.
“It was a little comforting and a little concerning when I looked into it and saw other cities going through the same thing,” she said.
A 3% increase in water, sewer, and trash tax rates was approved. The change raises bills for basic water, sewer, and trash by $1.59 combined.
“You have problems with the water plant, water tower, and city mains,” Ken Hoffman said. “Three percent is nothing.”
Increasing the rates to match inflation’s rate of 2.5% is the minimum necessity, councilman Matt Williams said.
“Eventually we’re going to have to replace the water plant,” We’re still paying for a water plant from two plants ago. I think we at least need to make sure we’re keeping up with inflation.”
Florence Fire Department will be pursuing its own tax identification number once tax season passes. Doing so will make applying for grants easier because the department is a nonprofit. Using the city tax I.D. number lists the fire department as a for-profit organization, fire chief Mark Slater said.
“It cuts a lot of chances out at getting some of these grants,” he said. “The tax I.D. number holds us up at the fire department.”