Status of Florence school buildings under scrutiny

The Florence City Council received inspection reports for the 1885 Hill School and the former high school building at the Nov. 5 meeting.

Bobbi Strait, director of the Marion County Planning & Zoning Department, had been appointed to continue inspection of the two buildings after a preliminary visit discussed at the Sept. 4 council meeting.

Strait said adoption of the city building code hadn?t included a section referring to dangerous buildings, so an unsafe structure code was used for her report.

While the brick school building will be condemned and could be brought back into compliance, the older limestone school building was recommended for demolition.

In cases like this one, Strait said, state statutes don?t allow the value of repairs to exceed 50 percent of the fair market value of the building. She said the limestone building could cost an estimated $710,000 to be brought into compliance as an educational building, or close to $500,000 to be used as a home.

Strait also referenced a recent case in Marion, saying limestone structures that haven?t been maintained can be susceptible to collapse. She recommended the condemnation process move quickly because of the building?s status as an ?attractive nuisance.?

Both buildings were in violation of ordinances by being unsecured at the time of the first inspection and have been kept secured since. Neither may be entered without accompaniment by the proper authorities.

The property owner will be notified and will be able to appear at a public hearing to show just cause why the limestone building shouldn?t be demolished.

Other certified letters have not been accepted by the property owner so notice of the date of the public hearing will be served by law enforcement.

The council also heard that the PRIDE committee would be presenting more information on its Veterans Park landscaping project at some upcoming events.

The committee?s request to disassemble the park equipment was turned down by the council at the Oct. 1 meeting because there was no timeline for the project.

Councilors didn?t want the heavily used park left unfinished for several years, but the grass had already been poisoned before PRIDE addressed the council.

The city would also need to purchase new posts before the playground equipment could be reassembled at another park because the posts were set in cement and can?t be reused.

Sprinklers, sod and new playground equipment will reportedly be installed at Veterans Park in the future.

Fire Chief Tim Parmley explained to the council a program being developed to assist in mutual aid among counties.

The program divides Kansas into three regions with information about area resources distributed among participating responders.

Locally, fire departments in a 19-county area could be asked to respond to large emergencies in that area at their option.

The Florence Fire Depart?ment would offer to travel up to 60 miles and would offer to send one brush truck and the Mack.

The council allowed the department to join the program when Parmley assured members the department wouldn?t have to respond if there weren?t enough people available to also cover the city of Florence.

Parmley also said he purchased two helmets for $75 to replace some substandard equipment. He plans to look into purchasing two radios for the fire cadets at about $260 apiece.

The radios would only pick up the Florence fire department frequency, unlike current fire department radios that receive other local department and police communications.

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