Water-front living?

The city is considering selling its old water tower. A couple have proposed buying it and creating an elevated living experience with loft space, a 360-degree view of Iola and a freight elevator on one of the tower's legs.

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June 14, 2022 - 2:23 PM

Iolans Max and Candice Grundy proposed turning Iola’s former water tower into an “elevated living” project. Courtesy photo

For sale: one used water tower.

Iola City Council members embraced Monday the concept of putting the city’s decommissioned Elm Street water tower up for sale.

Exactly how it will be sold, and if the city will put up any sort of restrictions, remains to be decided.

Monday’s discussion was precipitated by a proposal from Iolans Max and Candice Grundy, who envision the old tower’s future as an “elevated living” project.

Max Grundy is the namesake behind Max Grundy Design, a graphic design company whose clients include Disney.

The Grundys are proposing the tank portion of the tower become a split-level living space, including an open-top floor plan and loft space, complete with windows around the perimeter to offer a 360-degree view of Iola and the surrounding landscape.

“This central Iola landmark would become a stopping point and location of interest to draw additional tourism to the area by providing a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience,” the Grundys wrote.

The bottom floor would comprise two bedrooms, a kitchen and full bath. The upper floor will be a loft “in the round” overlooking Iola. A spiral staircase would connect the two levels.

The proposal includes installing a freight elevator on one of the tower’s legs to deliver construction materials, and eventually guests and their belongings to the tower.

A parking garage at the base of the tower also is planned to provide security and a storm shelter.

With the proposal in hand, Council members discussed how to seek bids, including whether it was necessary to open the bidding process to everyone, or work solely with the Grundys.

And if it’s put up for bids, can the city add certain stipulations allowing the Council leeway to pick a lower bid if it’s for the “betterment of the community,” Councilwoman Joelle Shallah asked.

The Council will visit with City Attorney Bob Johnson to discuss their options before deciding how to respond.

City Administrator Matt Rehder noted the Grundys’ proposal likely would need to change because of utility easements regarding water lines below the tower, which would mean building a parking garage directly below the structure would be next to impossible.

That doesn’t mean the Grundys’ proposal should be summarily rejected, Rehder stressed. “But it’s gonna have to meet code,” he added.

“I’d suggest putting it out for bid,” Councilman Nickolas Kinder said. “That proposal is incredibly creative, but I don’t want to establish a precedent by picking and choosing city property for a private user.”

THE CITY will spend roughly $845,000 with Mayer Specialty Services LLC, Goddard, for a “cure in place” liner project covering nearly 6 miles of aging sewer lines throughout the city.

The bulk of the project will be paid for with federal COVID relief funding — the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The city received the second half of its $800,000 allotment Monday, Rehder noted.

The Mayer bid was the lowest of four, and gives the city about $290,000 left in its sewer repair fund. 

Council members agreed with Rehder’s suggestion to use the leftover funds to rehab a lift station at Riverside Park, removing another major item off the city’s “to-do” list.

“There are two (lift stations) that really need to be done,” Rehder said. “We could get one out of the way now, which is a big step in the right direction.”

He will set up a request for proposals for the lift station rehab.

The Mayer bid was approved, 7-0, with Councilman Joel Wicoff absent.

COUNCIL members paid tribute to a pair of outgoing employees.

Deb Troxel is retiring as assistant finance director and Ryan Latta, who also coached Iola High’s baseball team the past two years, is leaving as assistant recreation director to take a job in the Kansas City area.

“Ryan has done a wonderful job with the city,” Councilwoman Kim Peterson said, while also acknowledging Troxel’s contributions.

“We’re losing a lot of institutional knowledge with those two,” Rehder agreed.

WITH Iola about to set its budget for 2023, Council members heard from several department heads about their spending plan requests for the upcoming year.

Presenting their proposals were Jason Bauer for recreation, Jason Ellis for street and alley and sanitation departments, Toby Ross for water production and wastewater treatment, Mitch Phillips for gas, water distribution and wastewater collection, Mike Phillips for electric generation and Jim Baker for electric distribution.

The city’s 2023 budget plan is due in August.

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