Property owner appears for condemned-building hearing

The Florence City Council held a special meeting before the regular Dec. 3 meeting for the condemnation hearing of the 1885 Hill School and the former high school buildings.

A few public comments were heard. People said the buildings have been broken into, fires have been started and the Hill School flooring was rotted and had collapsed in some areas.

?I hate to see us lose a landmark, but I don?t see any alternatives,? said Judy Creamer of the Florence Ambulance Depart?ment.

The council decided the buildings should be officially condemned, giving the city legal authority to compel the owner to take responsibility for the repair or demolition.

Property owner Karen Hastings of El Dorado had been served notice of the meeting by law enforcement but did not arrive until after the hearing.

Councilors went into recess in the regular meeting and reopened the public hearing after her arrival to give her a chance to speak.

When asked why she wouldn?t respond to certified mailings, Hastings responded by asking, ?Why wasn?t I given police reports??

She said she?d intended to prosecute anyone entering either building but was denied police reports on the reported break-ins. She insisted she had the windows and doors secured.

However, the property has been an ongoing problem for the city, with city employees having to board up windows, cut grass and remove tree limbs and noxious weeds from the property.

Hastings was told to take responsibility for the condemned buildings and has been required to present a timeline for repairs to the council at the Jan. 7 meeting.

The city?s appointed inspector, Bobbi Strait, offered to walk through the buildings with Hastings to help create the list of needed repairs.

At the regular meeting, the council:

  • voted 3-1 to resume paying the mayor and members of the council, increasing the amount to $600 per year. Councilor Randy Mills said he was against being paid because so many people volunteer so much time without reimbursement. Councilor Bryan Harper countered that the amount they?d each receive was below average in the county. The ordinance giving them that income had been repealed several years ago to help lower the budget.
  • reviewed more employee evaluations and increased the city clerk?s salary to $25,000 per year and increased the city superintendent and water maintenance employee salaries by 4 percent.

    Full-time employees will be given after-tax bonuses of $100 and part-time employees will get $50 bonuses. City employees will also be given the day off on Christmas Eve this year with some employees to be on call in case of emergency.

  • adopted resolution 2007-4, which supports a proposed affordable housing program by the Mid Kansas Community Action Program. If a grant is received, two houses could be built in Florence on land donated by the city.
  • heard Fire Chief Tim Parmley report that issues with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment over a controlled burn had been resolved. The Florence Fire Department had used a house for a training burn and received a warning about not having all the appropriate documentation.
  • asked Creamer to post notice that people using the ambulance building remove all trash and keep the building as clean as it was before it was used. If this doesn?t work, Creamer may need to request registrations and assess a $10 charge to anyone leaving the building in need of cleaning.
  • received an offer from Leonard Ellis to purchase 300-by-300 feet of the former football field to use as logging storage. The council decided to have the plots cleared and surveyed before land is sold because the work is already in progress.
  • announced that Officer Tommy Wilson had been terminated. They then held a 10-minute executive session to discuss personnel matters.
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