CHETOPA — City workers in Chetopa may get a 15% pay raise next year.

During a July 7 meeting, the Chetopa City Council voted 4-1 to include the possible wage increase in the 2021 budget. Councilperson Gary Bryant voted against the measure.

City Clerk Toni Crumrine said Thursday that the pay raise might not be approved, and if it is, it’s possible that not all workers will receive a raise, and some could be much less than 15%. She said the council just wanted to budget for the possible raise to ensure the money would be available if the council decides to give raises. The city workers didn’t receive a raise this year.

Crumrine said the proposed 2021 budget includes a 1.3-mill increase in property taxes, but the tax rate would collect the same revenue as this year’s budget because the city’s assessed valuation has declined.

In the July 7 meeting, Crumrine said that she had been given only one small project to include in the budget — cleaning and inspection of the water treatment plant’s clear well and intake well house at a cost of about $3,200. City Supervisor Bryan Midgett said he planned to request more projects be included in the budget the next day.

Crumrine planned to present a draft copy of the 2021 budget at the council’s next meeting, which was on Tuesday, along with the 2019 audit.

 

Wastewater system work

The council also moved toward a wastewater treatment system project to alleviate a problem the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has alerted the city about.

KDHE had contacted City Supervisor Bryan Midgett concerning the number of bypasses at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and asked what the city intended to do to solve the problem.

The city had reported 15 bypasses since March. When more water flows to the wastewater plant than it can handle, the water bypasses the treatment process and is dumped directly into the Neosho River. The problem is caused by stormwater infiltration into the sewage system during heavy rainfall. Several years ago during a sewage line project, the city had its lines videoed and found many collapses of the old clay lines. That allows stormwater to flow into the sewage system, overwhelming the treatment plant. The stormwater should go through the city’s drainage system and doesn’t need to be treated.

In the July 7 meeting, the council met with Bruce Boettcher with BG Consultants engineering firm and Carey Spoon with Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission to discuss the sewer project and the available funding opportunities.

Crumrine had contacted Boettcher and Spoon to start the process of applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Development Block Grant and more funding options through the USDA and KDHE. Crumrine said the city could borrow money through a bond with the USDA or a loan from KDHE. That money would be used as the city’s match to a Community Development Block Grant.

Boettcher discussed the different options for the project, and Spook talked about the CDBG application, which is due in September.

The council authorized BG Consultants to create a preliminary engineering report at a cost of $6,500 and agreed to allow Mayor Tammy Bushong to sign paperwork needed to set up a meeting for the CDBG and for possible funding from KDHE. The preliminary engineering report and CDBG meeting are requirements of the grant program.

 

New councilperson

Also during the July 7 meeting, the council chose Ernie Wulf to fill the unexpired term of Councilperson Betsy Koonz, who resigned in June, citing health reasons.

Pam Campbell also expressed interest in filling the position. Castle asked both candidates several questions before the council voted to elect Wulf.

Crumrine swore Wulf in and he took his seat at the council table for the remainder of the meeting.

Scherrill McConnell also had expressed interest in filling the unexpired term, but she did not attend the meeting.

 

In other business the council:

— Received a copy of the Labette County Commission’s resolution to exempt the county from Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order requiring face masks to be worn in public. Shane Adamson, the city’s attorney, said the city could pass an ordinance that is more restrictive than the county’s resolution, but the council chose not to require people to wear face masks in public in the city.

— Heard from Adamson that the city could file charges against a person for stealing utilities and get restitution. Councilperson Geraldine Castle had asked if the city could shut off utilities for someone who had been caught stealing utilities. Adamson said he would check into the matter further.

— Heard from Bushong that Labette County received funding from a federal pandemic relief bill and that some of the funding will be passed down to cities in the county for COVID-19-related expenses.

— Heard details from Bushong about a free food distribution. Bushong thanked Stacy Wulf for organizing the distribution.

— Agreed to advertise surplus equipment and set a deadline of noon July 21 for bids. The equipment was supposed to already have been advertised, but there was a miscommunication and the list wasn’t compiled until the day before the meeting.

— Heard that Crumrine planned to submit a capacity development survey to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment the following day. The survey is required paperwork detailing financing, water plant operations, water distribution and other items.

— Heard Police Chief Scott Feagan report that Jimmy Hoggatt intended to scrap out a trailer he had moved to his property. Castle had asked about the trailer. The council also discussed other residential properties that needed to be investigated for possible code violations.

— Approved the rebuilding of a pump at the water intake point for the water treatment plant. Mike Tyler, water plant supervisor, said the pump that was rebuilt in 2012 was slowing down. A second pump was running OK. He presented a quote of $5,400 to pull and inspect the malfunctioning pump. The quote may increase depending on what needs to be repaired after the motor is inspected. Tyler had hoped the repair could wait until next year but didn’t want to take the chance of the second pump going down while one is not pumping at capacity.

— Agreed to purchase a new pump for the public swimming pool for $1,050. The pump was rebuilt last year but quit working recently. The city was told there was no guarantee that the pump would keep working long-term after the repair. Tyler had received quotes ranging from $856 to $1,050 for a new pump. Bryant voted against the purchase.

— Agreed to have city workers chip and seal the parking area behind Chetopa Manor. Bryant voted no.

— Approved an ordinance to establish policies and procedures with respect to new utility installation services for customers.

— Confirmed the appointment of Peyton Voyles to a mowing position.

— Agreed to leave the Hornet Addition covenants unchanged. The vote followed discussion about possibly changing the covenants to allow other structures to be built in the residential neighborhood. Someone had wanted to buy a lot next to a house to build a garage, but that would have required a covenant change.

— Heard that Crumrine was waiting on a quote from Doyle Glass for removal of the stained-glass window at the former city building.

— Approved a building permit for Robert Humphrey to move a 40-foot by 8-foot storage container to 120 S. 14th St. and a 20-foot by 8-foot storage container to 123 S. 14th St.

— Approved payment of $500 to the fire department for runs and meetings during the second quarter.

— Approved payment of $340 to the first responders for runs during the second quarter.

— Heard from Bushong that a dirt pile at Seventh and Elm had not been moved.

— Agreed to donate $200 to the Labette County Fair premium sale.

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