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City will give HUB a temporary break on utilities

Staff writer

Peabody City Council and half a dozen interested citizens listened Monday night to a plea for financial consideration from HUB founder Dale Hague.

“I have thought about this a lot,” Hague said. “My argument for your support would be that if the City Council won’t support the HUB, how can I ask the rest of the city to support it?”

The HUB, a youth center in downtown Peabody, was notified several weeks ago that the third annual renewal of a five-year grant for nearly $100,000 had been denied. The grant provided the salary for a director and a portion of the operating budget for the center. Board members scrambled to find funding to keep the doors open.

At an earlier City Council meeting, Hague’s wife, Doe Ann, was present to ask for financial assistance from the city. In the course of that discussion, she asked if the city would consider free utilities for the non-profit youth center.

City administrator Mac Manning provided council members with information about the refuse, water, and sewer charges incurred by the HUB during the past year. The total was more than $900.

While most of the council members were not opposed to helping the HUB, some expressed concern about open-ended financial assistance when a city policy is not in place to assist non-profit groups.

“How long would you foresee the need for the city to drop the utility charges?” Councilman Tom Schmidt asked Hague.

Hague said he hoped they could count on the city’s assistance forever unless the HUB received a large sum of money that would make the donation unnecessary.

Schmidt then addressed the rest of the council and asked, “How do we handle other non-profits like churches, the museum, or the library? Does everyone get break on city utilities?”

Hague said that with the grant and smaller fundraising efforts, the HUB had been able to maintain a five-day-a-week director to keep it open after school and on Saturdays. They have found someone willing to work for a lower salary.

“That will help, but we still are facing a funding gap that we didn’t expect,” he said.

Schmidt asked if the board held regular meetings to address this type of issue and Hague responded that he contacted them personally by phone when something came up that needed their attention, but that they didn’t meet.

After further discussion, the council agreed to suspend utility charges until the first of the year.

“I don’t think we should drag this out,” Steve Rose said. “They need to know what they can count on. Let’s OK this tonight and then review it later.”

The council approved removing utility charges until January and turning over the issue of donating utility service to non-profits to Peabody Economic Development Committee to review as they develop an incentive package for the business community.

“I also would like to see the HUB board of directors take a more proactive approach to fundraising,” Schmidt said. “You know where you are now. You should be conducting regular meetings to take care of the needs of the non-profit. Get your board together and bring us a plan in January.

“I am not against the HUB, but it needs an active organization behind it. It needs an active board to address the problems as well as the successes.”

In other business:

  • Ed Slocombe addressed the council concerning the aesthetic look of the entrances to the city. He would like county mowing crews and property owners to work together better and not leave wide swaths of uncut grass at the Ninth Street entrances to Peabody. No action was taken.
  • Greg Jones and Beth Peter, representing Peabody-Burns Recreation Commission, reviewed progress at the new volleyball pit west of City Park. Shrubs will be planted along the east border to create a barrier for the homes adjacent to the park area. Eventually a cement slab will be installed south of the volleyball pit with basketball goals and some skateboard fixtures. Some problems with foul language and car lights shining into area homes late at night were discussed. Jones said a cable will be installed to keep cars 25 feet away from the pit and the commission is willing to put up a sign with some basic rules for use of the property.
  • Council members discussed creating a part-time contract position to read water meters. The position would free-up the three full-time public works employees, allowing them to work on other projects. After discussion, the council instructed public works director Darren Pickens to bring a list of the pros and cons for the plan to the November 30 meeting. Manning was directed to prepare a “request for quote” to include a job description and requirements for the person making application.
  • Pickens reported plumbing had been installed in the police department in the new city shop. Fixtures will be hooked up as soon as the Sheetrock and painting are finished.
  • Pickens also reported the concrete box for the Fifth Street bridge is complete and on its way to Peabody. Pickens contacted the county and a crew can be on-hand to help set the concrete culvert in a couple of weeks.
  • The council heard that City Park has been winterized and the new pool cover is in place.
  • Pickens will check into getting additional trash containers for the east side of Walnut in the downtown area.
  • Police Chief Bruce Burke presented bids for a new police car. After discussion, the council voted 4 to 1, with Janice Woodruff opposed, to purchase a Ford Crown Victoria for $19,516 from Midway Motors in McPherson. The car will be delivered in 2010, but the first payment of a two-year lease agreement will not be due until February 2011.
  • Burke also presented the department’s regular monthly activity reports and informed the council that Officer Brad Cady will finish training Friday.
  • Health and Safety officer Tammy Whiteside presented a report on nuisance properties and animal control. At the request of Ed Slocombe, she and Manning agreed to review the ordinance concerning proper care, shelter, and feeding of pets in bad weather.
  • City Administrator Mac Manning reported that Whiteside has a signed contract with the city indicating that she will receive a $15 stipend for each trip to Spur Ridge Veterinarian Clinic in Marion. This stipend was in question at the previous meeting, but council was not aware of the contract.
  • Manning reviewed his work with the staff of Gilmore and Bell, the city’s bond counsel, to issue general obligation bonds for the sewer project.
  • After contacting Kansas Rural Water office, Manning received an application for a grant program to help map out the water distribution system and sewer system. The grant will pay 85 percent of the cost of the locating project.

Last modified Oct. 29, 2009

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