City Commission discusses what to do about "utility cuts"

By Brian Sanders
Once Holton city employees have made “utility cuts” in the city’s streets to repair curbs and gutters or infrastructure lines underneath the streets, the city’s street crew may not be able to put that part of the street back to its original appearance immediately, but they will eventually, Holton City Manager Bret Bauer assured the Holton City Commission on Monday.

During the commission’s regular meeting that evening, Bauer answered concerns from Commissioner Erich Campbell and Holton resident Willy Wilson about “utility cuts” and how streets are filled in once infrastructure work is done. The city’s street department is “finishing off the end of the year” of its street maintenance program for 2014, Bauer said.

Wilson said that at one time in recent years, he had driven “every street in town” and counted “more than 300 utility cuts,” and there were still some places where the street’s original appearance was restored after the work was done. Instead, he said, holes where the work was done was filled in with gravel or concrete.

“Put the bricks back into it and make it look nice,” Wilson told commissioners.

Campbell raised a similar concern about a brick street in his neighborhood where work on a concrete gutter that “was really deteriorating” had recently been completed, but rather than immediately restoring the street’s appearance, the street was chipped and sealed. As a result, he said, that part of the street “looks like a patch.”

Bauer responded by saying that Street Superintendent Rex Cameron and his crew has “a plan in place to put the bricks back in” where utility work had been done and that the city has an adequate supply of bricks for that purpose. City Clerk Teresa Riley added that the chip-and-seal Campbell spoke of was “probably just a temporary repair until they actually replace that curb and gutter.”

Commissioner Dan Brenner concurred with Riley’s statement, noting that following a repair of a broken water main in his neighborhood, city crews made a temporary “patch” repair, then “went back and fixed it later on.”

In other business on Monday, commissioners approved the $26,665 purchase of a Ford Ex¬plorer SUV from Foster Ford in Holton for the Holton Police Department after reviewing bids submitted by Police Chief Gale Gakle. Bids were also submitted for a regular police patrol vehicle and a pickup truck to replace a 2006 Chevrolet Impala that Gakle said had become too costly to maintain.
So far this year, Gakle told commissioners, the Impala has racked up $4,572.21 in maintenance costs, including the replacement of a transmission, and that total was more than two-thirds of the $6,714.98 spent on police vehicle maintenance this year. Gakle also reminded commissioners that his goal in keeping the police patrol fleet up to date involved replacing one vehicle a year.

The Impala will likely be sold at auction, although Mayor Robert Dieckmann recommended holding on to it and having it available as “a backup vehicle” or letting another city department use it. Campbell also said that after pouring as much money as the city did into repairing it, he did not want to put it up for auction and “lose our shorts” by not getting back the city’s investment on the repair.

Concerning the patrol car bids, Gakle said he wanted to replace the Impala with a vehicle that had considerably more space — a comment that was affirmed by Comissioner Twila White, who said “it’s harder to get in and out” of smaller police vehicles. Only Commissioner Tim Morris voted against the purchase of the SUV, saying he preferred the smaller police vehicles.

As far as the bids for a pickup truck were concerned, Gakle said he was no longer interested in them because pickups did not have as much storage capacity and were more suited to state agencies, such as the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, that had more offroad terrain to cover.

Gakle also told commissioners that completely new police equipment would be installed on and inside the new vehicle at an estimated cost of $5,000, which, with the bid amount for the Explorer, would put the total above the $30,000 that he had budgeted for it. But with the recent sale of a 2000 Chevrolet Blazer at auction at a net amount of $1,305 for the city, commissioners noted that amount could be applied to the cost of the new vehicle’s equipment.

Bids were also received from Foster Ford in amounts of $23,920 and $24,885 for police patrol cars and $29,535 and $30,135 for pickups; from Clark Chevrolet-Buick of Holton in amounts of $31,955 for an SUV, $21,292 for a police patrol car and $31,326 for a pickup; and from the Kansas Highway Patrol Partners Program in amounts of $27,821.46 for an SUV, $21,500.88, $24,443.01 and $28,206.27 for a police patrol car and $26,842.77 and $26,462 for a pickup.

Gakle said if the vehicle bids from KHP’s Partners Program were accepted, the city would not be able to take possession of the vehicle until March or April of next year.
Commissioners also:
■ Approved minutes from the commission’s Oct. 6 meeting and a list of budget appropriations made since that meeting.
■ Heard a question from Campbell about whether an increase in health insurance premiums has been budgeted due to costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” Bauer replied that no increases were made for the current budget year or for next year, the latter because it will not be known until early 2015 what those increases may or may not be.
■ Noted that the city received a total of $6,978 after commissions and title fees from the sale of five city-owned vehicles at auction by Harris Consignment. In addition to the 2000 Chevrolet Blazer formerly owned by the police department, the city had placed a 1995 Ford F150 pickup, a 1998 Ford F150 pickup, a 1980 Chevrolet 3500 dump truck and a 1990 Chevrolet pickup with a utility bed up for sale.
■ Heard a comment from Brenner on police doing “a very good job” of patrolling the city.
■ Noted that painting of Holton’s municipal swimming pool was not yet complete.
■ Heard a comment from Dieckmann about a sign recently installed in the city honoring the achievements of Holton High School’s sports teams and asked whether an electric line could be run to the sign for lighting purposes.
■ Heard a comment from Morris about electrical “flickers,” or short power outages, in the southern part of the city that are “getting more frequent.” He asked citizens who have concerns to call City Hall rather than him with their concerns, and he directed Bauer to meet with Electrical Distribution Superintendent Scott Frederickson about what is being done to fix the “flickers.”
■ Heard a comment from Campbell about whether the city had enough sand and salt to handle snowfall this coming winter. Bauer replied that one city sand and salt bin was not full but would be filled in time for winter.
■ Met in executive session with Bauer and Riley present for six minutes to discuss a personnel matter. No action resulted from the session.
■ Adjourned the meeting at 8 p.m. All commissioners were present.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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