Meeting goes long into the night; more money woes


News editor

In a meeting Monday evening that didn't end until nearly midnight, Peabody City Council members struggled with more bad financial news.

Al Reiss, project engineer for the new sewer, presented the mayor and council with "balance due" statements to close out the sewer project.

The city will need to pay $1,477 for a valve to replace one that was incorrectly installed even though it was placed where project blueprints indicated it should go. There was considerable discussion about who might be responsible for the error, but no resolution was reached.

Middlecreek Inc. halted demolition of the former sewer plant two years ago when mercury was discovered and Kansas Department of Health and Environment instructed the city to take the necessary steps to get rid of the contamination.

At that time the balance due for completion of the demolition was about $8,500. That amount is still outstanding because the work was not completed, but owner Frank Oursler was at the meeting and informed the council the tab would include an additional $20,000 to compensate his company for moving its equipment off-site and then moving it back to finish the job.

Reiss himself will need an additional $3,000 to "engineer" the completion of Middlecreek's part of the demolition.

In addition, the city is holding about $3,500 of Reiss' money from the original engineering contract.

The total for winding up the project will top $36,000. The city is already $160,000 over budget because of the mercury removal.

Additional conversation with public works director Darren Pickens and city administrator Jeff Benbrook indicated the project deficiencies never have been corrected or even addressed. Those issues will have to be covered to the city's satisfaction before the project can end.

In addition the city has asked Reiss several times for the "as built" plans, but has never received them.

The lift station at the east edge of town is only two years old, but already the pumps have required extensive service and repair. The city has paid $7,200 for a new one, $4,700 to repair one, and currently has one in the shop, with repairs estimated at $3,700.

No decisions were reached in regard to the final steps to close out the project. Councilman Larry Larsen finally moved to continue the issue until the April 14 meeting. He admonished Reiss to get the "as built" plans to the city before that meeting. The four attending council members agreed to look into the issue again at that time.

Council members were asked for their suggestions of topics of discussion for the initial budget workshop April 10. Councilman Leslie LaFoy presented a list of information she felt would aid a decision about the coming budget talks.

Her list included: a copy of the city employee handbook, full year-end spreadsheets for 2005 through 2007, job descriptions for all employees, and payroll expense spreadsheets (for 2005 through 2007) broken down by department with overtime, salaries, insurance, etc. Also requested were copies of the "cash basis law" and "budget authority," vendor costs, and a detailed inventory of city equipment, supplies, and tools.

Councilman Larsen requested information on services that are out-sourced to Wichita, Topeka, or other cities.

Mayor Ed Slocombe asked for information from department heads on ways to reduce department expense and increase department revenues.

He also requested information about the "bottom line" for the 2008 spreadsheet, with information about the numbers at which the city needs to aim to get spending back under control.

In a final cost-cutting measure before adjourning late in the night, the council voted unanimously to rescind a previously accepted plan for putting the city on a three-year rotation for sewer cleaning.

After consideration it was decided that, while the plan seemed prudent, there simply is not money available at this time to start the project.

In other business, the council:

— approved the permit application for a private well at 204 N. Maple.

— approved a request by Larsen to have a clarification entered into the minutes. Larsen said when he made a motion to approve hiring Shane Marler as interim director of Peabody Main Street he included a phrase indicating Marler would get two weeks of vacation during the month of June.

Larsen requested the statement be re-worded to indicate that Marler will be taking two weeks away from the job for a pre-planned trip, but that he will not be getting a two-week paid vacation. He will be taking the time off with no compensation from the city or Peabody Main Street.

— heard that the chief of police is ready to sell the 2003 police car. Council voted to offer the car by sealed bid with a minimum bid of $3,500.

— also heard from Burke that his department has signed up for a state program to assist in recovering past due fines from people who may have left the area. Burke said his records show about $11,000 outstanding on unpaid fines and tickets.

— approved a proposal by Jon Richstatter for a brief fireworks display at the end of play July18. The Cal Ripkin state tournament for 11-year-olds will be hosted at July 17-22 at Peabody City Park.

— postponed, due to the absence of health and safety officer Tammy Whiteside, a decision on abating the nuisance at 509 Locust.

— heard from Pickens that a new slide at the municipal pool would cost between $6,800 and $10,900. Council members agreed there is no money for a slide and postponed the purchase indefinitely.

— also postponed for a year hiring divers to do cleaning and maintenance checks on the inside of the clear well and the water tower. The work will be coordinated with Hillsboro next summer to take advantage of community discounts for neighboring cities that schedule the work together.

— approved payment of a bill for $3,700 to repair a pump at the east lift station and the purchase of a surge protector for the Olive Street lift station.

— discussed, but took no action on installing a rest room and maintenance office at the new city shop, illegal dumping at the city burn pit, a request by David Beckner for "screenings" on the west alley approach at 6th and Olive, and a request by Sharon Kessler to have a ditch on the north edge of her property cleaned out.

— heard Westar has installed a street light at the south end of the alley behind Cameo Rose Antiques.

— heard that Kansas Department of Transportation has approved a $200,000 feasibility study to be made this summer considering the expansion of rail passenger service from Kansas City to Oklahoma City, and traveling through Peabody.

— heard a vendor for street repairs will be in Peabody soon and will review needed attention to city streets with councilman Steve Rose.

— agreed to review summer maintenance contracts for Dennis Pickens and Bob Kyle at the April 10 special meeting.

— heard from Benbrook that completed surveys for the comprehensive plan have been sent to Dr. Keller and his group at Kansas State University. The results will be shared with the community at a future date.

— postponed until April 10 any decision on a maintenance agreement with USD #398 for shared property and leasing part of the grounds near the sewer ponds for an FFA farm.

— heard the city has received a permit from KDHE to discharge into Doyle Creek. The permit detailed testing and reporting requirements for the city.