Florence leaders continue talk on old buildings

The Florence City Council held another hearing regarding the condemned 1885 Hill School and the former high school buildings before the Jan. 7 council meeting.

The city?s appointed inspector, Bobbi Strait, had received an e-mail from property owner Karen Hastings saying she was sick and couldn?t make it to the meeting.

Hastings said she had a contractor who could look at the building mid-month to create the list of issues to be addressed as requested by the council at the hearing.

Strait sent a reply asking for authorization to do the report herself, but didn?t receive a reply before the deadline, so the necessary information wasn?t available at the hearing.

The certified letter reminding Hastings of the time of the final condemnation hearing was unclaimed, so it will be hand-delivered.

At the December hearing, Hastings had implied that she refuses to accept certified letters sent by the city because she wasn?t given requested police reports regarding alleged break-ins at her property. She told Strait she hadn?t claimed this last letter because she?d been out of town. She had, however, been notified of the timetable at the December hearing, so the final hearing can be held on schedule at the beginning of the next council meeting Jan. 21.

At this public hearing, the limestone building can and would likely be ordered to be demolished. The property owner can then go to court to request an injunction; if she doesn?t get it, after 30 days the building can be demolished under contract by the city. The city can then put the project up for bids with the costs assessed on the property owner?s taxes.

According to Strait, even if this property is later up for tax auction for less than what is owed the city, the land can revert to city ownership with additional fees possibly assessed on Hastings? other properties.

Strait said she will research whether the city would benefit by taking ownership of the building before demolishing it if it comes to this. Strait thought the red-brick building might be able to be rehabilitated, but she hasn?t seen enough inside it to be able to say.

Another ongoing problem, the city water plant, was another issue discussed in the regular meeting. On Saturday, both filter plants shut down because of a malfunction with one filter. An electrician helped discover that one filter had shut down and the computer controlling them had sent a message to the other filter to shut down rather than power up.

Loss of power was blamed for the shutdown, so battery backup was suggested. The council asked for an estimate on reprogramming the filter computer, a 24-volt battery backup system and some replacement heating units that will help clean the filters. One of two air compressors at the plant will be replaced at a cost of $1,424.44.

The council also thanked everyone who helped get water to the city while the filter plant was inoperable. Water was hauled from Peabody, one pump and hose were furnished by Hillsboro, another pump came from Florence.

Council members gave special mention of those in town who helped conserve water over the weekend including local waitresses who risked their tips by not providing glasses of water unless asked.

In other business, the council:

  • passed Resolution 2008-01 in support of Overland Property Group in developing the former nursing home at 109 E. 9th into affordable housing.

  • announced that the Florence Chamber of Commerce is planning a volunteer appreciation banquet and fair. Organizations that need volunteers will set up tables at the fair to give information to attendees.

  • heard that the fire department had been awarded a grant of $44,232 for protective gear such as boots, coats and helmets. The department must provide matching funds of $2,328 from the fire budget. Current equipment will be used for the cadet program.

  • approved purchase of four used tires for the fire department Hummer at a total cost of $460, and four radio batteries and a charger for $440.25. The fire chief, plus councilors Trayce Warner and Bryan Harper, will set up a meeting with township governments to discuss raising the rural fire budget.

  • heard from Fire Chief Tim Parmley that a disputed bill from Hutchinson Community College had been explained, and that $378 had been charged because the Firefighter 1 courses were incomplete; the classes were free only if completed. In the future, new firefighters will be sent to Lester Kaiser for training through Kansas University.

  • ?heard that two fire trucks were sent to Marion to help check on rural residents during the recent power outage.

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