City OKs water for community garden

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February 24, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Owners of the Elm Creek Community Garden will pay much less for water service than they’ve done in years past.
Iola City Council members approved Monday wiping the first $1,000 off the garden’s water bill this year, following a request from Val McLean, who owns the property.
The Elm Creek Community Garden is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles and healthy eating. Since its inception, the garden has served as a model for other communities across the state, McLean noted.
McLean, who also serves as the garden’s president and volunteer coordinator, told council members how the community garden relied upon grant funds as it was established eight years ago.
Those grants have since expired, McLean said.
“We are now a pure volunteer-based garden,” McLean said.
The garden has 123 plots available. While regular tenants pay an annual fee of $25 per plot, those unable to pay or living below poverty level get theirs free. The garden also features several elevated plots for disabled gardeners.
According to McLean, 60 percent of the gardeners who use ECCG are below the poverty line and receive free plots. Each plot is provided free water, seeds, gardening education materials and hand tools or other machinery.
Water bills for the garden cost about $1,200 in 2014, according to city records.
To help save on utility charges, the garden has the meters turned off during the winter months.
“One of the things that gets us is we have five (water meters),” McLean said, in which the minimum bill is about $20 monthly for each meter, regardless of how much water is used.
Council members agreed the garden provides a valuable service for the community.
Councilman Steve French noted the Iola garden was used as a model in Osawatomie, where his brother, David French, works on various programs with schoolchildren on healthy living.
“My recommendation, if this is something the council wants to support, it should be capped,” City Administrator Carl Slaugh said.
The council voted, 5-0, to cap the utility fee waiver at $1,000. The vote was approved, 5-0. Council members Beverly Franklin and Nancy Ford were absent; Councilman Gene Myrick abstained from voting because he uses the garden.
McLean and other organizers are planning for the upcoming planting season. The community garden will open on March 17 and applications are being accepted. Forms may be mailed to McLean at 702 S. First St., Iola, KS 66749. He also may be reached at 365-5577.

WHILE THE CITY has a policy restricting how long campaign signs can be displayed around town, it’s unlikely any will be removed, unless they’re on public property.
Virginia Crossland-Macha, a candidate for the USD 257 Board of Education, asked council members about a letter she received regarding campaign sign restrictions.
The city’s policy limits campaign sign postings to 21 days prior to and 30 days after an election.
Because the April 7 city and school board elections are still 42 days away, several signs — Macha’s included — technically are in violation.
State laws allow for campaign signs 45 days prior to an election, Macha said.
While it’s too late to change anything about the city’s policy this year — Macha asked the city to change its rules to align with the state — Slaugh said the council could look at the matter in the future.
Macha also recommended the city make such rules known to candidates as soon as they file because she and others didn’t receive letters about the restrictions until after their signs had been posted.
Slaugh said city crews weren’t going to go around the city to retrieve the signs, however, unless some are found on public property.
In a related matter, council members agreed to join a growing number of communities voicing opposition to proposed state legislation changing when city and school board elections are held.
A bill in front of state legislators proposes moving all city and school elections to the fall.

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