LAHARPE — Traffic safety and monitoring usage of playground equipment near City Hall took center stage Wednesday at the monthly LaHarpe City Council meeting.
Police Chief Jason Prock addressed both issues with council members.
He suggested the speed limit surrounding City Hall be pushed back to 20 mph, as it was when the building was home to LaHarpe Elementary School.
After the school closed, the building was no longer considered within a school zone, and the speed limit was reverted back to 30 mph, as it is in other residential neighborhoods.
“But we still have quite a few young children who walk up here to play on the playground,” Prock said.
City Attorney Chuck Apt noted that as police chief, Prock has the authority to set speed limits and order stop signs erected as he sees fit within LaHarpe’s city limits. Some stop signs also had been ordered removed, and speed bumps cleared from the street, after the school closed.
Prock said he would consider replacing some of the stop signs.
Prock also spoke about recent conflicts regarding the playground’s usage, particularly the basketball court.
A fight broke out Sunday after an older group of children tried to muscle younger children from one end of the court.
Prock also said vandalism to nearby soda vending machines and ceiling tiles near the building’s covered patio area has been noticed in recent weeks.
Council members noted that one of the two goals on the basketball court is loose and without a net, making the other one more appealing to the children. They ordered city staff to repair the goal, to give the children two areas in which they can play.
Prock urged the council to either consider the playground near City Hall as a park “and treat it as such” or make the area off limits.
Council members favored the former, adding that the area should be open to children of all ages. And with a police presence once again in the community, playground users may be less inclined to cause trouble, council member Harry Lee Jr. said.
Prock also noted that the gymnasium inside City Hall should be made more accessible.
Council members agreed, but noted that adult supervision is necessary.
“And we have trouble finding volunteers,” Mayor Cynthia Carr said.
THE CITY received a clean bill of health from its annual financial audit, although the city must address its water utility fund, said Meta Titel of the accounting firm Jarred, Gilmore & Phillips, which has offices in Iola and Chanute.
LaHarpe has lost about $10,000 over each of the past two years because expenses have outpaced revenues, to the point that the fund “is just about empty.”
Council members have acknowledged that higher water rates are necessary. They are awaiting information from Rural Water District No. 5, who provides the city’s water, and will address the issue in May.
COUNCIL members approved hiring a part-time employee to help provide traffic control one day a week while city crews upgrade LaHarpe’s electric service.
City Superintendent Carol Buzbee noted pulling lines necessary for the upgrades is difficult because of passing traffic.
Council members will decide later Buzbee’s request to allow city staff to report to work one hour earlier in the summer, at 7 a.m., “to partly beat the heat.”