City council members sank their teeth into discussions about removal of dilapidated structures Monday night during budget-preparation reviews by department heads.
Shonda Jefferis, code services officer, said 153 structures — houses, garages and sheds — were on a demolition list, but that only a handful could be done each year with $12,000 set aside. Cost is $3,000 to $3,500 by private contractors, depending on size and complexity. City crews are too busy to add house demolition to their chores, said Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock.
Councilman Don Becker said he would like to accelerate removal. He proposed $50,000 be budgeted for demolition. Eventually, the motion died for lack of a second, but it did spark more discussion.
Nancy Ford wondered where increased funding might originate, and said she would be reluctant to short another city department. She mentioned National Guard assistance, suggesting that would be cost-free and would increase removal from the four structure demolitions proposed for 2014.
“We’re never going to get them all done at that rate,” Becker said.
Beverly Franklin said razing properties for free on the provision that the owner would rebuild on the property could add to Iola’s housing stock. Owners are charged demolition costs, but, Schinstock said they aren’t always recovered.
Bob Shaughnessy had his doubts.
“You can’t build a new house where it won’t appraise out,” he said, in regard to neighboring properties that would depress value.
City Administrator Carl Slaugh said city staff would look at options and bring more information to the council’s July 8 meeting.
Turning to infrastructure, Dan Leslie, Street and Alley Department supervisor, said his crew maintained 132 lane miles of streets and 14 bridges, seven of which need attention. Discussion also centered on the chip-and-seal program, which in the past has been on a four-year rotation — a quadrant of the city had streets improved each year — and may go to a five-year rotation.
In a precursor to concealed carry of guns into city buildings, Municipal Court Judge Tom Saxton said his court in City Hall would be off limits by virtue of a District Court order.
A provision of the law that made public buildings open to concealed weapons effective July 1 included opportunity for courts to be exempted. District Judge Dan Creitz exercised that exemption and, in Saxton’s opinion, it affected Municipal Court, an auxiliary court.
“There could be a lawsuit challenging” the exemption, Saxton said, “but I wouldn’t anticipate it.”
Later council members, with minimal discussion, voted unanimously to ask for a six-month exemption to the law so city staff could consider how to deal with concealed carry. The understanding is, if a plan is developed during those six months, the law may be set aside an additional four years while the plan is implemented.
The city’s options are to permit guns to be carried into public buildings, including by employees, or put metal detectors and guards at each entrance, with detected guns held in a safe while the person is in a building.
Cost of controlling weapons would be prohibitive, Slaugh said.
COUNCIL MEMBERS approved increasing the transient guest tax, paid by people renting rooms in Iola motels, from 4 to 6 percent, with additional income going to promote local tourism.
They accepted a plan to distribute tax proceeds for the past year.
Recipients are Veterans Day Parade/Committee, $700; Buster Keaton Celebration, $2,000; Farm City Days, $900; Iola Area Chamber of Commerce, $20,600; Iola Community Theatre, $500; Charlie Melvin Mad Bomber event, $500; Allen County Fair, $800; Southwind Rail-Trail, $500; City Involvement Task Force/Pride, $500. Distribution totaled $27,000.
A special use permit was given to the Pregnancy Resource Center to hold group therapy sessions at an old church at 329 S. First St. Rhoda Schwindt asked for the exemption; the church is in a two-family residential zone.
Also, rezoning of four lots in the 300 block of North Cottonwood from industrial and multi-family to commercial was approved for David Toland’s Quincy Ventures, LLC. Planning Commission members recommended the rezoning to allow for development of the lots and to create consistent zoning within the area. The lots are south of the old F&S Supply office building, now occupied by TFI foster care services and Resource Center for Independent Living. The lots include one holding the old F&S warehouse.
Toland told the Register this morning the warehouse would be sold by the end of the month to John Shores, who will operate a business similar to F&S from it, selling lighting and cleaning supplies. The other three lots also are scheduled for sale, Toland said, with the anticipation that offices will be constructed for a company that will be named after the sale is negotiated.
Council members, on Slaugh’s recommendation, approved expenditure of up to $3,500 for a city employees picnic Aug. 13. A drawing will give five employees an extra day of vacation.
Two executive sessions were held, one with city attorney Robert Johnson II at the start of the meeting and a second to deal with a fire department personnel issue to conclude the meeting. No action was taken after either.