By J.R. Sparke
Should Herington residents subsidize water production costs for Hope residents in order to give the Hope residents treated water at a lower cost than Herington residents?
Herington City Manager Ron Strickland told Herington City Commission members Tuesday that he didn’t believe Hope residents should benefit at the expense of Herington residents, even though a water supply contract is in effect between the two cities. His comments were made during a regular semi-monthly commission meeting.
The City of Herington is seeking to negotiate terms of a new contract, but Hope City Council members have been unreceptive to offers made by Strickland. He recently met with the governing body in a follow-up action to the Herington City Commission directing him to send a letter outlining a new contract offer and asking for a written response from the Hope group.
“We’re still in negotiations,” the city manager said. “I hope we can resolve this (issue) in the next couple of weeks.”
In another matter, commissioners voted to follow Strickland’s recommendations to apply the $129,247.19 received by the city from an Atrazine class action civil lawsuit to payment of bonds used to help finance construction of the Community Building. The city manager said there is roughly $145,000 remaining to be paid on the bonds. He reported the city has been paying $7,500 per month.
Commission members also were in agreement that monies which would have been used in paying off the bonds should be directed to street repairs after the final payment is made.
Strickland said Herington was one of many cities involved the class action lawsuit which was filed in Illinois in 2004, but which was expanded to other states in 2010. At the time, traces of Atrazine, an agricultural herbicide manufactured by Syngenta Crop Protection, had been detected in the Herington water supply. The city manager decided Herington should become a participating city after learning of the lawsuit, which did not cost the City of Herington any money.
Strickland said he had expected Herington might receive $2,000 or $3,000, and that the sizeable amount, which was part of the $105 million awarded in federal court in Illinois this past October, surprised him.
At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners also approved proceeding with plans to replace a bridge located in the 500 block of North Broadway, which has structural issues and over which heavy-vehicle traffic has been prohibited. The project was delayed for several weeks because of a protest filed by the Kansas State Historical Society. The protest has been dropped.
Todd Anderson, an engineer with SMH Consultants of Manhattan, spoke to commissioners about a proposed design, which will retain a rustic appearance. The City of Herington has contracted with the firm for design and engineering work.
Anderson said a pre-cast structure will serve the city best for a 42-foot clear span bridge.
Bids are expected to be sought in time for a bid-opening in October, he said.
Also approved by the commission was an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation to officially start the project, with the city paying 20 percent of the costs and the KDOT, 80 percent.
Information about the Herington Municipal Hospital’s annual audit and quarterly report for the last three months was presented to commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting.
Eric Otting from the accounting firm of Wendling, Noe, Nelson and Johnson LLC in Wichita, delivered a favorable audit report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. He said the audit was completed last fall and delivered to the HMH Board of Trustees in December.
Pat Moyer, the hospital’s chief financial officer, presented statistical information related to quarterly operations at the hospital. In most cases, improvement was noted. However, the positive side of the ledger is yet to be reached in terms of finances.
In another hospital-related matter, HMH Chief Executive Officer Mike Ryan said a recent visit to Herington by a physician seeking to relocate had went well. The local medical staff had been impressed with the doctor, and the doctor had been impressed with the medical staff, he said.
City commissioners also discussed whether or not to offer for sale a half-acre parcel located behind 424 South Fifth Street. Agreement was that a sale would place the tract on the tax rolls, and the governing body voted to seek bids for the property.
Commissioners met in closed session for 30 minutes to discuss matters related to attorney-client privilege. No action was taken when the meeting was reopened.
Winter weather street conditions were commented on by Commissioners D.J. Neuberger and Mayor Robbin Bell.
Commissioner Neuberger said that after emergency snow routes are cleared and treated, major intersections should be the focus of street department operations. He added that sand needed to be added to the salt, which was being applied to slick streets.
Mayor Bell asked that snow and ice be cleared away from downtown area curbs.
In a written report to the commission, Strickland said a brush-cutting and clearing attachment had been purchased for the city-owned skid loader. Recent use has shown significant savings in terms of manual labor by city employees and the time to complete cutting and clearing tasks, he added.
The city manager also reported city employees have been installing concrete pads and bases for new play equipment to be installed in municipal parks.
The next regularly-scheduled Herington City Commission meeting is slated at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19.