No money in city coffers


Gazette-Bulletin Editor

The problem of no money raised its ugly head again Monday night for Peabody's mayor and city council members. The sewer replacement fund has a balance of $14,000, but a bill for the latest block of sewer repair has not been submitted to the city yet.

"When the bill comes in, it will likely be around $17,000," said city administrator Jeff Benbrook. "You will then be $3,000 in the red in that account. There are no reserves in the sewer fund. Budgeting $5,000 a year for sewer replacement (as has been done in the past) is not going to keep up with the repair and replacement costs that are probably going to get worse."

Council members reviewed expenditures and department budgets and discussed some options. Benbrook reminded that no additional state or federal funds are available until current projects are paid off. "We would not be able to handle more debt at this time, because we don't have the revenue to pay it back," he said.

After lengthy discussion, council members were able to "find" about $15,000, buying themselves some time as long as another block of sewer pipe doesn't collapse.

A group from Peabody Quilt Project was on hand to address the council about the purchase of playground equipment for the park. The women have been quilting for about three years and in October had a successful quilt auction that raised $8,000 for the park playground.

Chairman Susie Schmidt told the mayor and council the group is committed to continue raising funds, but they were interested in getting a firm plan in place, finding out which items need to be removed and which are still serviceable. Councilman Tim Peterson who, with Councilman Larry Larsen, is in charge of parks said they would be happy to sit down with the group, review the city's findings on the equipment, and begin the process of selecting appropriate equipment.

A memorial tree area also was discussed and Schmidt said she had had another person contact her about purchasing a tree in memory of family members. Peterson agreed they could move forward on that project as well. The councilmen and quilters agreed to begin the process soon in hopes of having something in place by summer.

Council entered a 30-minute executive session for the purpose of discussing personnel. Councilman Leslie LaFoy who disputed an entry in the minutes of the Jan. 28 meeting requested the session. On return to open session Larsen moved and LaFoy seconded a motion to amend the minutes to include corrections submitted by LaFoy. The motion carried 5-0.

A second motion was made by LaFoy "to have the council instruct the city clerk to physically publish, sign to attest accuracy, and bind in an appropriate fashion, all electronically stored Peabody city council minutes to date and to have them available for council and public inspection no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb.15, 2008." Councilman Peggy Phillips seconded the motion and it carried, 4-1 with Councilman Steve Rose opposed.

In other business, the council:

— granted an extension to Marvin Schmidt to abate nuisance conditions at his property at 509 Locust. The extension was made with the provision that if the nuisance is not abated, council will move to have the city abate the nuisance at that time.

— heard that Kansas Department of Commerce extended the deadline for completion of the sewer project for another six months.

— voted to renew the franchise agreement with Westar Energy for 20 years at 5 percent. The agreement can be revisited every five years and the franchise fee changed at that time. Funds collected by Westar for the fee are returned to the city.

— heard that restitution has not been made for the damage to the steam plant. Benbrook said he turned the information over to the city's insurance company to pursue.

— heard the taser use policy has been approved by legal council, equipment will be purchased by the police chief, and officers will be trained to use the equipment.

— approved a training request for court clerk Cindy Harms to attend an April 4 session in Hutchinson. Tabled for more information a request by city treasurer Stephanie Ax to attend a municipal finance workshop in Newton.

— tabled for more discussion with USD 398 a decision to release property at the city sewer plant to the district for an FFA farm.

— learned that Marion County Surface Water Advisory Board has not been able to attract a quorum to a meeting in nine months. Benbrook represents the city of Peabody as a voting delegate to the board, which is in place to review issues at the reservoir affecting the life span of the city's water supply. He expressed his frustration at the lack of action by the committee.

— reviewed progress on the city's water conservation plan, which will go into effect in the event of a water usage crisis. Benbrook also will begin updating the city emergency preparedness plan.

— heard from Peabody Main Street director Kristen Hooper that Kansas Main Street communities have been selected to participate in a series of web seminars to assist businesses with information to help them become destination businesses. The eight programs are available online only to Main Street cities and are free to businesses and their employees in the Main Street district.

Hooper also noted the Peabody Bucks promotion has generated more than $2,000 spent in local businesses in the past year.

— instructed street committee chairmen Rose and Phillips to bring to the next meeting a list of streets in need of repair. Council also asked for some preliminary price quotes.