Electric upgrade schedule takes shape



January 11, 2018 - 12:00 AM

LAHARPE — LaHarpe is two crucial steps closer to beginning an $830,000 project to transform the city’s electric grid.
City Council members Wednesday gave the go-ahead to seek bids to do much of the work, which should take the rest of the year to complete.
Eric Hethcoat, with BC Consultants, Emporia, laid out the scope of the work. He will seek bids to replace roughly 150 utility poles and all 150 transformers; adding neutral lines; and use the rest for alternative projects, including replacing as much of the primary electric line as possible.
When complete, the city will have what’s described as a “three-phase WYE” system, much less prone to brownouts and electric failures than the existing “delta” system.”
Meanwhile, the Council directed Larry Kleeman of Ranson Financial Group, Wichita, to seek bids for the $430,000 worth of general obligation bonds that will pay for much of the work.
Kleeman will have the bids in hand for the Council’s Feb. 14 meeting. Hethcoat will have bids for contractors a week later, which likely will necessitate a special Council meeting.
The bonds will be supplemented with a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant.
Under terms of the grant, the conversion must be complete by May 2019. Hethcoat said he expected completion by next February.
WITH the electric work about to hit high gear, the Council also discussed a future dredging project for the city’s sewage lagoons.
Since 2010, the city has collected a sewer surcharge for all water customers, with the hopes of having about $291,000 in the bank by 2026.
However, Mayor Mae Crowell noted the sewer fund has only $57,000 in reserve, less than half of what has been collected.
She attributed part of the discrepancy to some recent sewer repair projects, and other funds possibly being transferred to the city’s General Fund.
Council member Danny Ware said he preferred to see the city take steps to save money to make up the lost $70,000 than see another increase in meter fees.
Crowell agreed.
“We can make this up,” she said.

COUNCIL members approved, with a 3-2 vote, a variance request to allow Michael and Tisha Maloney to approach neighboring landowners about placing a mobile home in the 1100 block of South Washington Street.
The home was manufactured in 1999, and thus exceeds a city ordinance banning any such structures from being brought into LaHarpe if they’re more than 10 years old.
Councilman David Lee, who cast one of the two dissenting votes — Sharlyn Thompson was the other — said his opposition centered on maintaining property values in town.
While the Maloney house is structurally sound, he worried other such structures would depress property values if the  city allowed other exceptions.
“Over the past 12 to 18 months, this Council has been very aggressive in cleaning up the city,” Lee said.
Michael Maloney noted a building inspector will be utilized to ensure the home is in tip-top shape before it is placed, and that it would have no adverse effect on property values.
Maloney also pointed to LaHarpe’s dwindling population, 160 fewer residents today than in 2000.
The path to placing the home is not yet cleared. The Maloneys have approached neighboring residents, but they still must reach out to the remaining landowners to get their approval.
The Maloneys said a relative will move into the home if and when it’s ready for occupancy.

COUNCIL members approved a 2-percent cost-of-living raise for all city employees, retroactive to Jan. 1.
They also set a 10-ton weight limit on West Fifth Street, from Main to Monroe Street, a measure to prevent large trucks from using the thoroughfare as a way to get through town now that the road has been rebuilt.

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