Lehigh Council hears good and bad news

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
Lehigh City Council members Fred Sheridan and Todd Jost were bearers of bad news about the city’s fire truck and sewer ponds at the council’s July 11 meeting.

“We’ll have to table our discussion on water improvements and talk about the latest costly challenges we’re facing,” Mayor Monty Root told the council during the meeting.

A blown engine, rusty truck bed and deteriorated water tank and pump have made Lehigh’s 1965 Chevy fire truck inoperable, Sheridan reported.

“We can’t use what we’ve got,” he said about the oldest of two fire trucks owned by the city, adding that both trucks are suffering from a lack of maintenance.

That news and a letter stating the city’s sewer ponds fall short of meeting Kansas Department of Health and Environment standards took priority on the council’s agenda.

Hillsboro Fire Chief Ben Steketee, who attended the meeting to provide input about the fire truck situation, agreed to explore options to either replace or possibly overhaul the fire truck.

One option is to check with the Kansas Forest Service, which allows municipalities to use its equipment while still maintaining ownership.

Regarding the sewer ponds, Jost said Lehigh has begun having permit violations because KDHE standards have gotten tighter.

“We’re fighting some underlying structural challenges,” Jost said about the ponds. “We need to think about goals and growth.”

The first step, Jost said, will be hiring a state-certified engineer to develop a preliminary report about the sewer ponds. He said he wants to send a letter to KDHE that the city is in the process of hiring an engineer to prepare such a report.

Jost, who estimated it would cost about $3,000 for the paperwork and surveying needed to complete the report, recommended interviewing Jim Kohman of Evans, Bierly & Hutchison Associates as an engineer. Kohman’s crew is working with the city of Hillsboro, Jost said.

The council voted to have a special meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, July 18, to interview Kohman about the sewer-pond situation.

Discussion continued from last month regarding four alpacas owned by Harry Dies, whose property lies on the south edge of town. A city ordinance prohibits having more than two livestock animals per acre within city limits.

City Clerk Rose Funk told the council that municipal and state ordinances on domestic animals don’t apply to alpacas.

“But an exotic-animal ordinance would cover it,” Funk said.

None of the councilors voiced personal objection to Dies keeping his animals, but they expressed concern about implications for the future.

“We need to have a mechanism about dealing with (animals) being a nuisance,” Mayor Monty Root said about adopting an exotic-animal ordinance.

Root instructed Funk to continue research on such ordinances before councilors can act on the issue.

Sheridan distributed keys for the gate that opens the burn pile. Louis Coyle reminded the councilors to be sure to look at the loads that the public are bringing in.

Only clean wood-no metal, no paint or no treatments-is permissible, he said.

In other business, the council:

n scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, July 13, to discuss next year’s budget. In preparation for the meeting, Root asked councilors “stay ahead of issues” by considering three- to five-year goals for their departments and the implications for the current mill levy.

n asked the city clerk to bring examples of municipal ordinances that cover burning tree limbs and brush in the city. The current ordinance only applies to burning garbage and rubble on personal property, Funk said.

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