Marion city seeking grant for water-line project

Marion City Council is moving forward on a federal grant application for a water-line replacement project. If approved it would mean a grant of $1.177 million, according to information at the July 3 meeting.

Darin Neufeld, city engineer with EBH & Associates, described the USDA Rural Development grant and the scope of the project.

The line replacement proposal would address 43 blocks, including the Valley area, North Hill and South Hill.

City Administrator Roger Holter said if the city doesn’t receive the grant, the engineering cost of up to $2,500 could be used for KDHE funding, but it would be in segmented projects.

Holter said the city can afford repaying the loan.

“The earliest payment is 2020 (with the USDA loan) and it would be about $55,000 to $60,000 annually,” he said. “We have gone from total debt service requirements of $505,000 to $396,000 in 2018, and we are already $110,000 down.”

Based on those numbers, Holter said the city would not have to bond the project.

“As long as we get (the payments) down, it allows long-term funding, and currently we have no high interest bonds out there,” he said.

“(The city) can make it work, and particularly if it benefits from $1.177 million of grants being given back,” he said.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said the water-line replacement project is huge in terms of the cost.

“It’s similar to a street project,” he said.

Thorp Street

The council instructed Holter to proceed with changes in platting and widening Thorp Street.

Holter said when the city platted North Hill, Thorp and Crane streets went from Main to Lawrence, and both streets were abandoned.

“When the Sports and Aquatic Center went in, Thorp Street was reopened for the first six blocks from Main headed north, which was done by ordinance,” Holter said.

The result of the ordinance was a 66-foot right-of-way, full street designation, he said. But, the area between East Park and the SAC is still listed on the plat as an alleyway and not through traffic.

The city has done platting and modifications when necessary, Holter said, and he asked if he could proceed with changes on Thorp.

Councilor Chris Costello asked Holter what is gained by widening Thorp Street.

“The only thing we would gain is if improvements were ever made, and federal and state were involved (in projects), the street would be excluded,” Holter replied.

Real estate issues

Heitschmidt said it was unsettling to learn that in 2003 city leaders didn’t catch errors relating to some real estate projects.

“It appears some projects dealing with real estate did not always get handled correctly or properly completed,” he said.

Heitschmidt cited water, sewer, street and electric easements not being completed or filed with the Marion County Register of Deeds.

“There is a proper way to deal with real estate transactions, and it appears the proper way was not always followed,” he said.

The procedure for addressing these errors, Heit­­schmidt said, is to deal with the issue when it’s brought to the city’s attention.

“We fix the issues as they come up, and we don’t actually search for them,” he said. “The responsibility for proper completion of these types of issues is that of the council.”

Relying on city staff, legal counsel and others, the council is advised and then carries out the details of those transactions.

“Somewhere along the way, things get missed and it may take years or decades before the situation creates a problem,” Heitschmidt said.

“We are trying to leave the city in a better position for future councils and mayors then when we started, and that includes correcting these types of real estate issues.”

Other business

In other business, the council:

• scheduled a public hearing for 4:30 p.m. July 17 regarding the 2018 city budget. The hearing will precede the regular council meeting.

The proposed budget has no mill-levy increases.

• approved a conditional-use permit allowing Marion County EMS to house personnel on-site at 1242 Com­mercial Drive, formerly Auto House. The city planning commis­sion had recommended approval.

The current zoning for the property is limited commercial, which doesn’t allow the land to be used by a government entity.

• modified its seat belt ordinance after Kansas Senate Bill 89 increased the fine for a seat-belt violation from $10 to $30, effective July 1.

Heitschmidt inquired if the city receives any of that money. City Clerk Tiffany Jeffrey said it does not.

• learned the Sports and Aquatic Center slide is temporarily closed.

“The new legislation went into effect for amusement ride operators regarding permitting and in­­spect­ion July 1,” Holter said. “The Kansas League of Municipalities has provided guidance to cities via email leading up to the July 1 effective date; however, there are many questions still left to be answered.”