The city of Parsons will make it easier for plumbers to get licensed to do local work.

City commissioners on Monday approved a charter ordinance that will lower the score on standardized testing required to get a permit for plumbing work within city limits. The city, based on a state statute, now requires plumbers to score at least a 75% on the test to be licensed. The charter ordinance will lower the minimum score to 70%.

The charter ordinance will take effect in 60 days if no one files a qualified petition with sufficient signatures to force an election on the issue. The charter ordinance is needed because the city will stray from the state statute. City Attorney Ross Albertini said the city is allowed to do that because the rules regarding local plumbing licenses do not apply equally throughout the state. Besides the rule regarding the public’s right to force an election, a charter ordinance differs from regular ordinances in that it requires at least a two-thirds commission majority to pass. All five of the commissioners voted in favor of the charter ordinance Monday.

Also on Monday the commissioners approved a resolution that will allow the city to pay for people to take a state plumbing test up to three times and a practice test up to three times as well as mileage and a meal per diem for one trip to a testing facility.

The changes came about after three men asked the commission to consider an alternative licensing procedure that would allow them to get a city license without passing the state’s plumbing test. The city’s building trades board didn’t want to waive the testing requirement.

“Every one of them was very vocal on that issue,” City Manager Debbie Lamb said in a Thursday work session.

The board did agree to recommend that the qualifying score be lowered.

Rick Donnelly, the city’s building inspector, said Monday that he doesn’t think the quality of plumbing work will decrease with the lower testing standard. It will just make it easier for those who have trouble passing tests but know how to do the work hands-on. 

There is a dearth of plumbers in the Parsons area, so the commission wanted to make it a little easier for workers to get licensed and to encourage more people to become eligible for plumbing work within the city. Albertini explained that anyone receiving funding to take a test will have to buy a city plumbing license for three years.

Testing sites are located in Manhattan, Topeka, Wichita, Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri. The tests cost $100, and the practice tests are $30. The city will pay for a meal and 54 cents per mile. Plumbers need to live within a 30-mile radius from Parsons and have at least two years of experience to qualify for the funding.

The commissioners approved another ordinance regarding plumbing licenses on Monday. The ordinance adds a new category for licensing: residential journeyman plumbing certification. Previously the city only had a residential plumbing certification for master plumbers. Journeymen can work alone on projects, but they must be employed by a master plumber. The ordinance also adds gas line certification to the licensing categories. Albertini said the changes bring the city in line with the testing available.

There was some earlier discussion about a license for outside plumbing work only, but the building trades board disagreed with that proposal.

“I think the board is right. Some don’t want to do the inside work needed around here, and I’m reluctant to help them to do just easy stuff,” Commissioner Leland Crooks said on Thursday.

In other business Monday the commissioners:

— Approved the use of Glenwood Park from 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday for an annual Juneteenth celebration. Juneteenth is a celebration that marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were free. One of the organizers, Marcus Webb, said there will be a cookout on both days, with food being sold to help support the celebration. There also will be games for children, basketball, inflatables and a talent show.

— Approved the purchase of playground equipment from Playscape Recreation LLC, Yates Center, to replace the equipment at Winway Park. The city will buy a playground structure that can accommodate 20 to 30 children 5 to 12 years old for $14,057 along with an arch swing set with two regular swings and two reflection swings designed for a parent and kid to swing together. The city also will buy a “selfie swizzler,” which is a bucket seat that spins around with a cellphone holder. The equipment will cost a total of $22,139.74. City workers will install the equipment, and the old equipment will be destroyed.

— Heard that Police Chief Robert Spinks has reviewed all of the federal justice in policing proposals and that the police department is already in total compliance with 36%, in substantive compliance with 9%, in the process of implementing 14% and supports 19%. Spinks does not support one proposal — elimination of qualified immunity, which he said is often misrepresented. Qualified immunity from prosecution for officers only applies if the officer follows all state laws, the department’s policies and his or her police training.

— Heard that city staff will bring an ordinance to the next work session that would repeal the ban on pit bulls. The commissioners could then discuss the ordinance in the work session and the following meeting before acting on it. The commission recently has discussed repealing the ban.

— Heard that two new police vehicles have been delivered and were put into service almost immediately because the city bought the vehicles fully equipped instead of having other companies outfit them.

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