City eyes roomier meeting spaces



February 23, 2011 - 12:00 AM

When Iola’s new city council is seated in April, it may be a chore to find a meeting room large enough to handle the meeting crowds.
“This room can get rather small pretty quickly,” noted Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock. The existing commission room, which doubles as a courtroom for Iola Municipal Court sessions each Wednesday, often is filled with standing-room-only crowds.
Schinstock spoke Tuesday evening as part of the regular Iola City Commission meeting.
The topic was brought up as city officials consider what to do with a city-owned building at 2 E. Jackson Ave.
The building has been rented to Thrive Allen County, which is moving to a new location next month.
Schinstock asked commissioners for a bit of direction. Could the vacated building be remodeled to handle large city meeting crowds or weekly Iola Municipal Court sessions?
Commissioners offered no concrete answers, instead agreeing that further investigation was necessary.
When the eight-member council replaces the three-member commission, simply setting up the table to hold the governing body could be difficult in the existing space, Schinstock noted.
They discussed several options, including using one of the community buildings elsewhere for meetings; expanding City Hall; and remodeling the Thrive building.
One benefit to relocating to the Thrive building would be its close proximity to City Hall, while allowing other departments, such as code services or the Iola Police Department to expand into what is the existing commissioners room, Mayor Bill Maness noted.
“But if we already have space available, it would be hard for me to spend money remodeling these buildings,” Commissioner Craig Abbott responded.
Maness appealed to the public for any ideas before commissioners meet again March 7.
City Administrator Judy Brigham also welcomed input from any of the candidates for the new city council. Several were in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
“They have a vested interest in this as well,” Brigham said.

IN A RELATED matter, commissioners agreed to begin the process for finding a replacement for Brigham as city administrator. Brigham plans to retire in September.
Commissioners agreed that beginning the process now would ensure that the city would at least have resumes from candidates on hand when the new council is seated.

COMMISSIONERS approved a pair of change orders totaling $4,026 to the ongoing Iola Public Library. Renovations include removing some floor tiling below new carpeting in one room and a curb adapter for the new rooftop air-conditioning units.
The city has about $10,400 left in a contingency fund for any remaining change orders. Roger Carswell, library director, said the only remaining issue to be resolved is pigeon control.
“We need to figure out a way to keep the pigeons away,” he said.
The renovations are scheduled for completion by April 1.
Commissioners approved a deadline extension for paperwork related to a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant the city received to assist with the renovation project. That extended deadline has no impact on the work, Brigham explained. Rather it ensures the city is not penalized if the final punch-list items are not finished by April 1.
“Anything can happen, and if it’s not done by April 1, then we could be penalized when seeking future grants,” Brigham said.

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