CHETOPA — Utility customers in Chetopa will get some relief on their next bill.
In an Aug. 6 meeting, the Chetopa City Council voted 4-0 to approve a 15% reduction in electricity rates. Councilwoman Geraldine Castle and Councilman Carthen Nash were not at the meeting. The move was made after Debbie Darnell, city treasurer and electricity billing clerk, presented information on what effects a rate decrease at different levels would have on the utility fund.
The reduction started with August usage, and City Clerk Toni Crumrine said customers will get those bills after the first of September.
The city was able to lower its electricity rate because the Kansas Corporation Commission ordered an approval to change rates for Liberty Utilities — Empire District Kansas. Chetopa buys wholesale electricity from Empire District.
The council also discussed a rate analysis being performed by the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency. The city’s contract with Empire District will expire in June, at which time the city will begin getting its power from KMEA. The agency offers its customers a rate analysis to ensure revenue will cover everything needed for their utilities. The city has given KMEA all of the needed information for the analysis but hasn’t received a report yet.
Chetopa Mayor Terry Robison also discussed KMEA’s suggestion on simplifying the rate structure.
Crumrine said there likely won’t be any further utility rate changes based on the KMEA analysis in the near future.
Also during the Aug. 6 meeting, the council approved the 2020 budget after holding a hearing with no comments from the public.
The council approved the budget with no changes from its earlier publication.
The budget shows net expenditures of $2,713,406, down from $2,809,841 in the 2019 budget. The tax rate will be 67.103 mills, compared to 66.867 for this year’s budget, for a difference of 0.236 of a mill. This year’s mill levy was based on assessed valuation of $3,148,693, while the 2020 budget shows assessed valuation of $3,158,425.
The owner of a $50,000 home in Chetopa can expect to pay $385.84 in city property taxes to support the 2020 budget.
The city swimming pool also was a focus of the Aug. 6 meeting.
Robison reported that the pool manager had quit and that he appointed Darci Wilkinson as the pool manager and Chance Smith as the assistant manager.
The council agreed to allow free admission at the city pool for the last week it was opened, Aug. 7-13. Councilman Gary Bryant voted no.
While discussing the pool, Crumrine said she received a complaint about the phone policy when a child wants to leave earlier than expected. Crumrine had talked with the person asking about the policy and then spoke with the manager and the others involved and documented the issue and felt that the problem had been taken care of. Robison reported that another complaint had been lodged and asked for an executive session to discuss nonelected personnel.
After the five-minute closed session, the council appointed Councilwoman Linda Seaman to discuss with the pool manager the need for lifeguards to be in their stands at all times.
City Supervisor Bryan Midgett also informed the council that the pool pump had been rebuilt and was back in operation. Crumrine presented a pool manual outlining the operation and maintenance of the city pool for the council to review and informed the council that the pool cover had been taken to Splash, Pittsburg, for an estimate on a replacement.
In other business the council:
— Agreed to proceed with asphalt overlay on Walnut Street from Sixth to 11th streets for $45,125. The decision came after receiving the Walnut quote along with a quote for overlaying Seventh Street from Plum to Mulberry streets for $17,550 and discussion about how much work could be done in this year’s budget.
— Agreed to send David Napier a letter notifying him of the amount he would need to pay by Aug. 19 for emergency demolition of the fire-damaged property at 420 Maple St. Napier had accepted ownership of the lots after the demolition and was given a year to make equal payments of $730.96 to pay the condemnation expenses. He hadn’t paid anything as of the Aug. 6 meeting. The city could levy a special assessment of the total expense to the property if he didn’t get current on the bill.
— Adopted a resolution to condemn property at 902 Plum St. and directing the owner to begin demolition of the structure by Aug. 15 and have it completed by Aug. 23.
— Approved a building permit for Rose Scott to move a 12-foot by 10-foot storage container to 1122 Locust St.
— Approved the appointment of Colton Vanatta as city helper effective July 9.
— Approved payment of $788 to the fire department for fire calls and meetings in the second quarter.
— Agreed to order a sign stating the park curfew for Veterans Park is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Discussion about a curfew ordinance was brought to the council’s attention because there is no curfew sign at the park. Lisa Haney asked about collecting signatures on a petition regarding the issue.
— Agreed to adjust the sewer fee for the motel to $25. Derek Gilbert discussed a water leak at the motel that occurred while he and Sarah Gilbert, owners, were away. Because the motel is a business, the sewer rate is based on water usage.
— Heard from Mike Tyler, water plant supervisor, that a boil water advisory will have to be issued after water tower work is completed. The water line valve that feeds the line to the city complex and west cannot be closed. Tower painting is scheduled to be done in October.
— Agreed to allow the purchase of a new drive unit at the water plant at a cost of up to $3,000. Tyler reported that the drive unit at the plant shuts off violently and the part is obsolete.
— Discussed properties in need of repair at Seventh and Cherry and the old Dottie’s Flower Shop on North Fourth Street and the grass being blown in the ballpark field at Elmore Park. Councilwoman Juanita Kepner planned to give a list of properties that she had been contacted about. Bryant stated that city workers did a good job on tearing down a house on South Fourth Street.
— Heard that attorney Shane Adamson has questions regarding the enforcement of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism codes before drafting an ordinance.