This month’s city council meeting was well attended as the city wrestled with several issues dealing with dilapidated properties. Before those issues were discussed, Ron Brubaker submitted the 2014 library budget to the council. The budget of $59,534 was a one percent increase from last year. Brubaker also indicated that the budget contained a 2 percent raise in employee wages.
John Kelly, a junior at MinneapolisHigh School discussed his involvement as part of the Patriot Support Unit and requested that city consider officially designating April as Patriot Month. He explained that the program seeks to honor the contributions of military personnel in a variety of ways. John stated that if Minneapolis agreed to officially recognize April as Patriot Month, the city would be the second to do so in the state of Kansas. The motion to publish a proclamation declaring the month of April as Patriot Month carried 6-0.
Brian Spano of Wilson & Company reported on bids for the sewer project. The project consists of three contracts. Mr. Spano recommended that the city accept the lowest bid for each of the three contracts. The motion to accept the low bids from Smoky Hill, LLC of $96,000 for lift station improvements, TWC Inc. of $247,500 for lagoon facility improvements, and Mayer Specialty Services of $31,100 for manhole improvements carried 6-0, contingent on KDHE approval. The bids placed the cost of the project well under the city’s loan application of $526,144 over 20 years at 2.18% interest. City administrator Barry Hodges mentioned that the additional funds remaining might be used for other impending lift station improvements that could offer potential savings.
Mayor Virginia Hoover then opened discussion on the recent collapse of the Parker Hotel and subsequent relocation of the Minneapolis Post Office to Bennington. Troy Rathbun, president of the Rural Restoration Company that owns the Parker Hotel, submitted a structural engineering report indicating that the building had been deemed to be structurally unstable as well as posing a serious threat to public safety. Rathbun also stated he had contacted the Kansas Historical Society to ascertain what mandates existed for demolition and if the $8600 the company currently has could be used towards the demolition. A bid for the demolition procured by the company was between $160,000 and $170,000. City Attorney Rob Walsh said that he would contact the society and felt that the building should be demolished immediately.
Discussion quickly ensued as several residents expressed concern in regard to the burden placed on taxpayers if the city agreed to pay for the demolition of private property. When asked directly who would pay to have the Parker Hotel demolished, City Administrator Hodges stated, “the city will pay for it on the front side.” Nancy Parks worried that a precedent was being set. “I know it is a public safety concern, but aren’t we setting a precedent that owners don’t have any responsibility for their buildings.” Scott Worlock was concerned that action hadn’t been taken by the city previously. “About ten years ago we had a bid for $38,000 to demolish it (Parker Hotel) and it was blocked to give it to the Parker Committee (Rural Restoration Company).” It was pointed out by Leslie Hargis that at the time the bids ranged from $38,000 up to $150,000 for demolition. A motion was made by Dave Sweat to waive the purchasing policy limiting the city administrator to purchases of $10,000. The motion carried 6-0, giving Barry Hodges the ability to begin collecting bids for the demolition of the Parker Hotel.
Other members in attendance were concerned with the uncertainty surrounding the post office and what action the city would take regarding other properties in a dilapidated state. Mayor Hoover stated that she had been in touch with our political representatives and that they had passed those concerns on to Washington. It was also mentioned that several business owners had spoken with an aide from Senator Moran’s office who had visited Minneapolis in regard to the collapse of the Parker Hotel.
A suggestion was made that city investigate and send letters to owners of the properties in disrepair. Of particular concern were properties owned by Chuck Maltbie, which have been deemed unsafe. Administrator Hodges was asked to investigate the properties so that a report could be made to the state in regard to the public safety issues. Attorney Walsh will contact the state in order to see if liens against the properties could be removed to clear the way for possible purchase. Attorney Walsh indicated that if the city were to begin the process of evaluating and potentially demolishing properties there could be a significant cost involved.
Administrator Hodges said that the city had also received a bid of $4500 or less, if city equipment and personnel was used, to demolish the property at 715 E. 8th Street. The city would have to purchase the property for the requested price of $1000 before demolition could begin. David Sweat expressed concern that this would be another case of paying an owner for not maintaining the property. When asked if the city might acquire the property through eminent domain, Attorney Walsh stated that attorney fees would exceed the requested purchase price. Kevin Kline stated that he “understood the concern” but felt that property’s value, due to its location to raw waterlines, would be an asset to the city. The motion by Darrell Brown to pay the $1000 to purchase the lot from John Robins carried 5-1 with David Sweat voting nay.
This began a discussion related to issues regarding sewer service to the East Industrial Area. Three bids were presented, option A was $45,815, option B for $23,000, and option C for $5,000. City Superintendent Brian Bowles stated that if Option C was chosen then future maintenance would have to be the responsibility of the owners as the city only has equipment to work on 8-inch lines and not the 4-inch lines that are part of the Option C bid. Sheldon Daugherty asked if the city had an obligation to hook new properties to existing sewer lines within city limits. Administrator Hodges stated that there was no ordinance requiring the city to do so. Mr. Daugherty then asked who had paid for the G.L. Huyett expansion. Hodges said that he would check on that. Hope Spano motioned to table the discussion on the sewer line until the next council meeting. The motion carried 6-0. Superintendent Bowles was asked to find out how much the engineering service for options A and B would cost.