Florence City Council: School district prefers to transfer building ownership


News editor

A project long on the drawing board for the city of Florence took a big jump forward Monday evening when USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker addressed the mayor and council about finalizing the transfer of two school buildings to the city.

Currently the gymnasium and Life Skills building are owned by the Marion-Florence school district and leased to Marion County Special Education Cooperative.

The district has a lease agreement with MCSEC until July of 2008. MCSEC also has committed to a yearlong lease for the 2008-09 school year, but the city will be the owner of the property for that year, not the Marion-Florence school district.

Leiker passed out copies of the current lease agreement and the deed. The district is ready to sign over the property to the city as soon as both parties agree on issues such as liability when used by the district for school functions, repair and maintenance, and a financial agreement for major improvements if the city would need to relinquish the building in the future.

After discussion, Leiker agreed to take the deed back to the district's legal counsel and the city will confer with its own attorney on wording for an agreement.

The city eventually will need to negotiate its own agreement with MCSEC for the 2008-09 school district.

"We want to be sure we do this right," said Mayor Greg Winn.

Leiker will return to a March meeting.

Gayle Abney of Mayer Specialty Services of Goddard was present to address the council about a sewer maintenance and cleaning contract. Abney explained the services his company can offer that included cleaning roots and debris out of sewer lines to running a TV camera into the lines to document crumbling pipes, clogged lines, and problem joints or seals.

Abney said his company will place the city on a three-year contract. The first order of business would be to map out a three-part grid of the sewer system and then tackle one grid area a year. He did remind council members that his company's bid does not include repair work, only cleaning and maintenance.

"Any repair work would be extra," Abney said, "but by getting rid of some of your big problems with overgrown root systems and such, you should have less trouble in the future."

"This has probably never been done," said Councilman Bryan Harper. "I would like to see us get started on a plan like this. The sewer problems aren't going to go away if we just ignore them."

Council members were in agreement that the sewer system was badly in need of attention, but tabled a decision until they could review the budget and see where the funds would come to put the maintenance plan in place.

In other business, the council:

— hear from Bill Hendricks, representing the city's insurance carrier, Insurance Planning Center of Emporia. The city's policy will renew April 1 and Hendricks told council members the premiums would remain about where they were last year. He will add information about the acquisition of the two school buildings from USD 408 and bring back quotes to a March meeting.

— heard from Westar Energy representative Suzanne Coin the city's franchise fee agreement will end soon. Florence currently receives three percent of customer electricity charges. Council opted to raise that amount to four percent. The franchise agreement is for 20 years, but cities may revisit issues every five years.

— heard from fire chief Tim Parmley that Marion County fire departments have received free bottled water from Fort Riley. Lincolnville Fire Chief Lester Kaiser picked up the water and distributed it to the various communities.

— instructed Parmley to attend a meeting with township officials in March to discuss charges for services by Florence firemen.

— approved a $50 donation to Marion County Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Mayor Winn also announced the city would participate in the BB/BS bowling tournament.

— approved payment for Winn and councilman Trayce Warner to attend a one-half-day Advanced Municipal Finance workshop and for city clerk Janet Robinson to attend a three-day city clerk conference in Wichita.

— heard from city superintendent Phil Baldwin that most pot holes on Fifth Street have been filled. He noted the asphalt surface on Fifth Street is shifting into the gutter along the north side. Baldwin's opinion is the shift is caused by the number of large delivery and livestock trucks using the street. No action was taken.

— tabled until a future meeting discussion on painting and cleaning the water tower. They also tabled approving an agreement with the state about who will maintain the roundabout and aprons of the streets connecting to U.S.-50 and U.S.-77 highways. Both issues needed additional information.

— agreed to establish a resolution with Kansas Department of Commerce that funds will continually be provided for upkeep of Veteran's Park. The resolution is required for PRIDE to receive grant funding from KDOC for park renovation.

— instructed Winn to also sign the Small Community Grant Agreement promising that PRIDE, not the city, will provide matching funds for the Veteran's Park grant. No tax money is to be used.

— approved a third official proclamation declaring the city's support of fair housing practices and naming April as Fair Housing Month in Florence.