Council prioritizes improvement projects

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October 28, 2014 - 12:00 AM

A list of prioritized capital improvement projects could well change if local voters approve construction of new elementary and high schools at the north edge of town, Iola City Council members said Monday.
The council reviewed Iola’s capital improvement project list at their meeting Monday night.
Council members are mindful of the upcoming election Nov. 4 to decide on the schools.
If the vote passes, the city will likely put the proposed extension of North Cottonwood Street high on its list, Councilman Jon Wells said.
City Administrator Carl Slaugh has pegged the Cottonwood extension at about $600,000, not including design costs or land acquisition.
The city has a stake in the upcoming election as well, because one of the funding mechanisms, a half-cent sales tax increase, would be equally split between USD 257 and the city. Slaugh estimated both entities would earn about $300,000 annually from the hike.
Iola traditionally has used sales tax revenues in the past for street projects.
Slaugh discussed other items on the city’s capital improvement plan.
First on the list is upgrading much of U.S. 54 through town, starting in 2015.
The cost of the project could vary from $800,000 to $3 million, Slaugh said, depending on the extent of the damage. If the former is all that’s needed, for a simply mill and overlay, then 80 percent of the cost will be borne by the state as part of KLINK (City Connecting Link Resurfacing Program).
However, if a full-depth restoration is necessary, all will come directly from the city, Slaugh added. That’s because the KLINK funding is for maintenance only. Full-depth replacement does not count.
Other potential street projects include renovating another portion of Cottonwood, from Lincoln Street to Madison Avenue, a $1.5 million upgrade of North Kentucky Street, perhaps by 2022, upgrading North First Street sometime around 2027, replacing Carpenter Street around 2029, and full-depth restoration of North State Street, including storm sewer modifications, to curb flooding. Slaugh had that project pegged for 2031.
“There are definite challenges,” Slaugh said, not the least of which is the fact that many of the proposed projects would cost more than what is brought in from sales tax revenues.
“Through the years, Iola’s population has declined, but we still have the same number of streets, we still have the same infrastructure, and the same costs for maintenance.”
Other cities have looked at innovative ways to stay on top of those projects, Slaugh said. Iola could, too.
Councilman Steve French noted Community Development Block Grants from the state are available.
Since the city has recently closed participation in a separate CDBG program, Slaugh said Iola would apply for additional grants.

IOLA EMPLOYEES will receive a 1.7 percent cost-of-living raise beginning in January. The raises mirror the 1.7 percent increase set by the Social Security Administration, using the Consumer Price Index.
Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock noted Iola set its 2015 budget in anticipation of 2.5 percent COLA raises.
“That gives us a little flexibility,” Schinstock said.
The COLA raises are independent of the city’s newly revamped pay schedule, which will be incorporated over the next three years, Slaugh added.

THE CITY RECEIVED a letter from the new head of Russell Stover Candies.
Andreas Pfluger, the new president and chief executive officer, said the candy company’s new owners, Lindt & Sprungli, is eager to maintain its relationship with Iola.
“Lindt & Sprungli is quite excited about the opportunity to continue building the brands that had been shepherded by the Ward family since 1960,” Pfluger wrote. The Wards reinforced the iconic status of Russell Stover, Whitman’s and Pangburn brands throughout the United States. They also chose to build a facility in your community.
“Two of our company’s many strengths are the quality of our products and the quality of our workforce,” Pfluger continued. “We are proud to be one of Iola’s leading employers and we look forward to continuing our presence in the community.”

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