City mulls projects

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September 15, 2010 - 12:00 AM

A change in how Iola’s sales tax revenues are dispensed led to a discussion among city commissioners Tuesday about what projects the city should consider in coming years.
The city levies a 1-cent sales tax, which is expected to bring in $1.2 million.
Of that, $600,000 is dedicated to the general fund.
For 20 years, city commissioners have directed the other $600,000 for road improvements. Starting this year — after voters approved in 2009 the sales tax’s extension — the sales tax can be used for capital improvements, including roads.
Commissioners have agreed to use up to $350,000 annually — if the city generates enough in sales tax revenue; Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock said a more conservative figure would be $300,000 — to help secure financing for a new hospital, if Allen County voters approve the issue on Nov. 2.
That leaves the other quarter-cent, or $300,000 to $350,000 annually, for other capital projects over the next 10 years.
Commissioners noted that the city already has agreed to upgrade its storm sirens and repair a portion of the roof at the Recreation Community Building. The city also could use those funds to extend the Prairie Spirit Trail from Cofachique Park to the north end of Riverside Park. Schwab-Eaton of Manhattan, landscape architects and civil engineers, were approved to design the rail extension for $46,600. The bulk of the $500,000 project — $400,000 — will come from the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Other projects mentioned were building a dog park in south Iola and developing empty land along South Washington Avenue into a camping and fishing area near Elm Creek.
Commissioners referred to the recent Vision Iola planning process, which recommended upgrading signage around town as well. City Administrator Judy Brigham said grant funds would be sought as well.
Iola also has received preliminary approval from the Kansas Department of Transportation to replace the Sycamore Street bridge over Coon Creek perhaps in 2012 or 2013, which would require about $170,000 of local monies, Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock said.

IOLA WILL spend about $85,000, this year or in 2011, to upgrade energy systems at a number of city buildings, including City Hall and the Iola Public Library.
The local expenditure will be matched by an additional $137,000 in federal stimulus monies to make the buildings more energy efficient.
The project will include replacing outdated climate control units at City Hall, the city warehouse and the library and install more efficient lighting systems in those buldings plus the North Community Building.
In addition, the work would include an Internet-based automation control system, enabling programmers to set a building’s thermostat remotely.
The cost figures are only estimates for now, said Joe Hurla of 360 Energy Solutions, Lawrence, which is administering the program.
The city would recoup its funds through utility savings in about 6 1/2 years, Hurla said.
Commissioners were leery of the savings claim, noting that Allen County Community College underwent a more expansive energy efficiency program three years ago with “guaranteed” savings unrealized.
Hurla noted that the cost savings is a component of the city’s program, “but only a minor component. Instead, we’re looking at this as a chance to replace energy systems that needed to be replaced, anyway.”
Commissioner Craig Abbott, meanwhile, asked about the necessity for Internet-based controls. With so few buildings, thermostats could be set individually.
Still, Abbott voted for pursuing the program, along with Mayor Bill Maness. Commissioner Bill Shirley was opposed.
The city will receive $137,920 from the Kansas Energy Office, which is administering the energy efficiency effort statewide. That money is coming from the federal government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the federal stimulus).
Iola’s estimated $85,000 toward the project is equivalent to 40 percent. The city’s contribution will come from the aforementioned capital improvement fund.

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