Lehigh OKs plans for new Web site, renovated sewer system

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
Lehigh postmaster Ruth Coyle will soon be the city’s webmaster as well, the council heard last Monday night.

Thanks to the Marion County Economic Development Council, the city of Lehigh can have its own Web site, Coyle informed the council at the start of its regular monthly meeting.

Coyle gave the councilors printed copies of the template for Lehigh’s future homepage, emphasizing the menu bar on the left that will allow the city to promote its various features-including businesses, events, real estate, items for sale and even historical and genealogical information.

“It can be quite complex, or it can be as simple as we want to make it,” Coyle said.

Coyle said she would be looking for a few individuals to serve on a committee to develop, launch and maintain the site.

City Clerk Rose Funk said she would serve on the committee.

Coyle emphasized that taking advantage of this free service could do nothing but help Lehigh’s economic development.

“This is the world wide web,” Coyle said. “We can get some events posted on here, show off our community a little (and) offer incentives to developers or businesses.”

The site’s address will be www.marioncountyks.org/lehigh.

Sewer pond improvement

After much discussion, the council approved the third of four alternatives given by the city’s engineer for improving its sewer ponds to comply with Kansas Department of Health and Environment standards.

The council had met Jan. 23 to discuss the four alternatives with engineer Jim Kohman of EBH and Assoc., Michelle Black of Midwest Assistance Program and Ted Johnson and Rod Geisler of KHDE.

While KDHE recommended the fourth option, which would enlarge the ponds at a cost of at least $450,000, the council agreed that the third option-cheaper by about $110,000-of merely cleaning out, replumbing and reshaping the ponds was as much debt load as the city should commit to at this point.

Councilor Todd Jost said Kohman could prepare the plan to allow for the pond to be later augmented by purchasing adjacent land and adding an additional cell.

KDHE had rejected the city’s second option of installing solar circulators as inadequate to reduce pollution produced by the ponds.

The next step is to schedule a March or April meeting with Keystone Agricultural Innovation Center, Jost said.

“But that can’t even be scheduled until we’ve decided what we’re going to do,” he said.

“They will shepherd you through the process, but they want you to be pretty much ready.”

Then begins the process of securing funds, likely some combination of a revolving-fund loan from the state and a Community Development Block Grant.

“There will be additional engineering that needs to be done, but as I understand it at this point, we can roll that into the cost of the plan,” he said. “We’ve got enough engineering to at least begin the process.”

And while Jost said KDHE had encouraged the city to apply for as much loan and grant money as it could get-which could be up to $800,000-the council agreed that less is more in establishing a debt load for one major project, especially because the city’s water systems will need similar levels of improvement in the near future.

The council will soon need to find a grant administrator to begin the process of securing grants.

Jost said he is just waiting for Black to provide a sample packet of the materials to be sent to potential grant administrators.

Fire and water issues

Councilor Fred Sheridan shared with the council that his goals for the Lehigh fire department this year are very specific-to help it achieve lower ratings from the International Organization for Standardization.

“Right now I am using ISO standards as a benchmark to work toward for our department,” he said.

“They’re telling us what we need to have in order to get (lower ratings),” he added. “They say this is what we need-that’s what I’m going to get.

“As a result, our department will be improved,” he said. “And we’ll be able to lower our ISO and get a better deal on our insurance.”

Sheridan explained that because Lehigh is about 5.6 road miles from the Hillsboro fire department, ISO does not recognize their contract for shared fire services.

“ISO recognizes within 5 road miles-we’re too far away,” he said. “So whatever we do, this department has to do it.”

Sheridan identified three measurable goals for this year-improve at least one fire truck to meet certification standards, appoint a fire department chief and install three or four new fire hydrants to connect to a new main off of the water tower.

Sheridan said the new water loop could help the department.

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