By J.R. SPARKE
Contributor to Reflector-Chronicle
HERINGTON — A conditional use request by a church congregation in Herington to move to a building in the downtown area, which is zoned for commercial use, has been denied by the Herington City Commission. Action on the matter was taken during a regular semi-monthly meeting last Tuesday.
On 4-0 vote, the commissioners decided not to follow the recommendation of the city’s Planning Commission which voted, 4-1, on July 3 to support the conditional use request made by the Rock Island Church, which is currently located at 101 East Main St. Commissioner Chuck Miller was absent from last Tuesday’s meeting of the governing body.
The congregation had sought to relocate to 9 South Broadway. The building at that location was constructed in the 1970s for a Ben Franklin store. It also has housed a Duckwall Variety Store. RHV was the most recent tenant before closing last year.
Deb Wiles, church pastor, said the current building used by the congregation has no kitchen and has small restrooms. She added that church wanted to expanded life skills classes and other community-oriented activities, but was unable to do so at the present site.
Commissioner D.J. Neuberger asked if there were other buildings in the city which could meet the needs of the Rock Island Church congregation, noting that it was his opinion that churches in the downtown area are a sign of a dying town. Faith Covenant Fellowship is located at 8 North Broadway, which is in the downtown area.
He added the city also would lose tax revenue if the Rock Island Church relocated to South Broadway site.
Commissioner Neuberger also expressed concerns about parking, which were echoed by Herington resident Heather Felpel.
Mayor Robbin Bell said he wasn’t in favor of losing a potential downtown business site.
Commissioner Fred Olsen agreed, adding he had received telephone calls from several citizens expressing similar sentiments.
Commissioner Neuberger moved to deny the conditional use request. Commissioner Olsen seconded the motion, which then passed, 4-0, with those commissioners and Commissioner Beth Wade and Mayor Robbin Bell casting “yes” votes.
Condemnation hearings also were conducted during last Tuesday’s meeting.
Larry Lawrenz, who owns a building at 109 West Walnut St., told commissioners he did not have the $30,000 needed to make roof repairs. He also presented photos of several of other buildings which are in poor condition, but which are not on the abatement list.
Lawrenz additionally asked who made the decision to place structures on the abatement list.
Fire Chief Ken Staatz said it was his responsibility, and that he uses several criteria in the process.
Chief Staatz also stressed that the goal of the city in the abatement process is not necessarily to have buildings torn down, but to restore them to a safe and structurally sound status.
Commissioners followed the chief’s recommendation to continue with abatement proceedings.
Leon Baronda, who owns a building at 114 North Second St., alleged Chief Staatz had not spoken to him prior to place the structure on the abatement list. He said he was upset with the way the city does business, adding he had donated “stuff” to the city in the past.
It was noted that letters notifying property owners of abatement proceedings are sent out prior to hearings.
Baronda’s property remains on the abatement list.
Dawn Engle said she regularly uses a garage at 310 South Second St., adding the structure is sound in her opinion, but does need to be painted. No action was taken by the commission to remove the garage from the abatement list.
Mary Ann Epperson Nilson told commissioners she had sold property at 204 South 11th St. in 2001. However, the Dickinson County Treasurer’s office continues to show her as the owner.
The property remains on the abatement list.
No one spoke at the hearings for 8 South Seventh St., 18 North 12th St., 210 South 10th St., 801 West Walnut St., 812 West Day St. All five properties remained on the abatement list.
Commissioners approved new contracts for fire-fighting services outside the city limits. The following is the list of townships and amounts: Dickinson County-Lyons Township, $16,893.49, and Union Township, $2050.57; Morris County-Fire District No. 11, $4,270.24, and Fire District No. 7, $9,0006.37.
Yvette Ebright, representing the Roadhouse Youth Center in Herington, asked commissioners to consider a $6,000 donation to the facility this year. Commissioners said they will look at the request at budget time.
It was reported the city’s contribution to KPERS will be .084 for 2014, which compares to .0794 this year.
The death and disability rate will decrease to .085 from .01.
Kansas Police and Fire rate will increase to .2065, u,p from .1800.
The Herington City Commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting is slated at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6.