Threatening storm pushes issues off city council agenda


Gazette-Bulletin Editor

Peabody City Council members braved rain, sleet, and tumbling temperatures Monday to attend a regularly scheduled meeting at the city building. The storm prevented several people from appearing to address the council and the meeting ended shortly after 10 p.m., a much earlier time than usual.

John Keller from Kansas State University was scheduled to address the mayor and council about the comprehensive plan he and some graduate students will be creating for Peabody during the second semester. He was unable to make the trip from Manhattan to speak to the group.

A property owner whose home ha been cited as a nuisance property was on the agenda, but health problems and the weather kept him at home as well.

David Oursler also was not in attendance to present a request for help from the city. City administrator Jeff Benbrook presented Oursler's case. Oursler is protesting the property tax on the land adjacent to Ninth Street on which the former Dairy Creme and IGA store once stood.

Oursler bought the property and razed both structures last spring, expanding the parking area for heavy equipment and vehicles he uses in his construction work. The county has taxed the property as it stood during the first part of 2007, with two buildings on it, rather than figuring a lower tax amount for that portion of the year when it was just a graveled lot. Oursler is protesting the higher tax and wanted the city to write a letter of support. After discussion it was decided the council was not the entity to protest on Oursler's behalf and denied his request for a letter of support.

Weather also played a part in the cancellation of the Christmas parade Saturday at the Peabody Main Street Christmas event. Ice and cold prevented the mounted color guard from Fort Riley, the buggy rides, and some of the entertainment groups from getting to Peabody as scheduled, according to Main Street director Kristen Hooper in her report to the council. Hooper said the parade would not be rescheduled.

She announced dates for training sessions offered by Kansas Main Street after the first of the year. It also was noted that Peabody would host the August meeting of Marion County Economic Development Council. Council members were invited to attend both events.

Health and safety officer Tammy Whiteside reported two property owners had abated nuisance conditions and had been removed from the nuisance property list.

She told council members she had discussed the alleys behind the downtown business district with some of the business owners and said she felt several were not going to appreciate being told to clean up the trash, weeds, and overgrowth. After discussion, council told her to proceed with notification and it was agreed that the initial contact letter would be the same as those sent to residential property owners.

The property owner at 405 Vine was given an extension until Jan. 14 to address nuisance conditions on the property due to health problems.

Whiteside and the council also discussed the prevalent use of scrap tin on fences in the city and agreed to review the situation and any ordinances relating to the construction of a fence.

In other business, the council:

— rescinded its decision from the previous meeting to require court fines and fees be paid in cash or by certified bank check. Benbrook informed council members that a Kansas statute allows for the payment of traffic violations by personal check. Council unanimously voted to rescind the recent motion that required cash or certified checks.

— heard from city administrator Benbrook that workman's compensation premiums will be reduced by a total of 16 percent in 2008, due to lack of claims and the city's standing as a gold account community.

— reviewed the November 2007, financial report with an eye toward year-end transfers which will have to be made at the final meeting in December.

— discussed a request by public works director Darren Pickens to rent a chipper for a month when the city crew begins the job of making sure alleyways are clear of overgrown trees and shrubs. After reviewing the budget, council members agreed there is not enough money allotted to pay the rent on a chipper.

— agreed, after lengthy discussion, to change the salary for the animal control officer to an hourly wage instead of a salary. The motion passed 3-1 with councilman Mitch Cunningham opposed.

— heard that police chief Bruce Burke is reviewing municipal court costs and will likely come to the next meeting with a proposal to increase the charges.

— heard the electrical contractor is working on the new city shop.

— opened a bid to repair the former team plant building that was damaged when a motorist backed a vehicle into it. No action was taken on the bid, but council members asked Benbrook to seek bids on demolishing the structure so they could compare the amounts and decide if repairing it was in the city's best interest.

— heard from Mayor Ed Slocombe about the city's emergency plans in light of the weather forecast for this week. Slocombe had visited with Legacy Park and Westview officials as well as other entities about their individual emergency preparedness issues.