The Abilene City Commission discussed at a study session the hiring of an interim city manager and the upcoming election in which only one candidate has filed.
City Attorney Aaron Martin said that Finance Director Marcus Rothchild and City Clerk Penny Soukup are currently co-acting city managers after City Manager Austin Gilley was removed at a special meeting n May 6.
“But in our form of government, we do require a city manager,” Martin said. “As far as the timing of that, there is no statutory or code requirement when that has to be filled. It is completely in your discretion how to go about filling that role.”
Commissioner Dee Marshall wanted to have an executive session to discuss a specific person that might serve as interim city manager.
Martin said an executive session could be called to discuss individual candidates.
“In my mind we need to work with an interim for several months to let everything cool down and take our time finding an excellent candidate for Abilene, Kansas,” Marshall said.
“We need to be progressive. We can’t wait,” Commissioner Chris Ostermann said.
Soukup said that Dennis Kissinger, a senior advisor with the City/County Management in Kansas, has agreed to visit with the commission during a June 3 study session.
“He cannot fulfill an interim duty, but he can provide guidance on the steps to take,” she said.
“We’re not ready to hire but need to proceed,” Ostermann said.
Ostermann reported that the deadline for filing to run for a city commission seat is noon June 3.
So far only Mayor Tim Shafer has filed.
In the Nov. 5 election, two candidates willt be elected to four-year terms by receiving the most votes and a third will be elected to a two-year term by receiving the third most votes.
Those with terms ending in 2020 are Shafer, Marshall and Sharon Petersen.
Persons interested in serving as city commissioner must meet
• Must be a citizen of the United States;
• Must be at least 18 years old and a registered voter in Abilene;
• Must be an Abilene resident and reside within the corporate limits at the time of filing, and if elected, for the duration of the term.
There is a $20 non-refundable filing fee.
Commissioners are paid $200 a month and the mayor receives $250.
Voters will be able to write in commissioners on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The city of Abilene receives a tax on the sale of liquor at stores, drinking establishments and caterers which the commission is responsible for dispersing.
The city commission is directed to control the funds which are to be used for services and programs for the purpose of alcoholism and drug abuse education, alcohol and drug detoxification, intervention in alcohol and drug abuse or treatment or those in danger of becoming alcoholics and drug users.
Four organizations have requested funds:
• Cedar House — $13,000;
• Quality of Life Coalition — $22,500;
• Central Kansas Foundation — $10,000.
Rothchild said there is $42,727 in the fund, short of the requested $45,500. However, he said, the city should receive two more payments.
“I would like to see a plan on how they are going to use the funds,” Marshall said. “We want to help them all but I would like to see a plan.”
State Rep. John Barker, R-Kan., representing the Quality of Life Coalition, agreed.
“You are using public money and it has to be accountable,” he said. “We can account for every penny.”
Holiday Inn Express
A proposal for a new Holiday Inn Express presented to the city commission in 2017 is still on the table.
Manager Chad Rufner said owners of the Holiday Inn are still looking at a 70-room, $8 million hotel.
However, he said, the convention center proposed in 2017 is on hold.
“We are still happy to go forward with it,” Rufner said of the new hotel.
Although no official vote was taken, the three commissioners present at the study session — Ostermann, Marshall and Trevor Witt — felt it was best not to continue with an economic development agreement with Red Hills Group. The $7,500 agreement was to provide an analysis of the community’s existing economic development policies, infrastructure and amenities.
The three also agreed to continue looking into recording and broadcasting city commission meetings in the Abilene Public Library.
Doug Smart, with Smart Insurance, presented the city commission a check for $40,356 as part of the insurance dividend. Abilene participated in the EMC Insurance company’s Kansas Municipality Safety Group Program. Premiums and losses are combined for the entire safety group and then a dividend is calculated based on the groups losses as a hole.
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.