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Buildings declared unsafe and dangerous
Council sets hearing date for 1318 and 1324 Kansas Ave.
new deh city council afterhours pic
The Great Bend City Council Monday night discussed declaring structures at 1318 and 1324 Kansas Ave. as dangerous and unsafe. This includes the home of After Hours Night Club. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 In other business Monday night, the Great Bend City Council:

• Authorized City Administrator Howard Partington to proceed with preparations for a bond issue for water line improvements. The main priority would be replacing the current 10-inch cast iron line along 10th Street and in the downtown area with a 12-inch plastic line.

The cost would be about $2,240,000, but the city has close to $261,000 set aside in reserves for water lines. The bond would be fore $2 million and would cover about 8,500 feet of piping along 10th, Main, 11th, 12th, 16th, Forest and Lakin streets.

A 15-year bond would cost the city $165,000 per year. There would likely be a 10 percent water rate proposed to cover the expense, although this was not acted on Monday night.

The new water lines cost about $263 per foot. 

This is the tip of the iceberg, Partington said. There are other streets, such as Broadway and many in residential areas that need to be replaced as well.

Should the bids come in favorably for the initial project, more could be added to the first round.

It is estimated that about one third of Great Bend is served by old, cast iron water lines that date back as far as 80 years. These all could need to be replaced eventually.

• Authorized the accepting of a bid from Brentwood Builders of Great Bend for $157,400 for the construction of a restroom at Veterans Park.

Bids were taken for the construction of new restroom facilities at Veterans Park and near Langrehr Field. Staff has been reviewing the bid that was received and working with Andy Mingenback of Brentwood Builders since his was the only the only bid. 

Due to the cost, it was determined to only build the bathrooms at Vets for now. 

The high price is due to the need for industrial-strength construction and fixtures to help limit vandalism damage, Mingenback said. The structure will be 24-by-22-feet.

• Authorized spending a portion of the money set aside for the war on drugs for Great Bend Police Department equipment. Less than $18,000 of the $35,000 has been spent to date, Police Chief Cliff Couch said.

The three items included:

• $1,200 for software that will help officers download and sort through data on seized cell phones.

• $1,000 for a bar code system to help track evidence.

• Around $10,000 to install a Star Chase system on a couple of the police cars. This is a dart fired from the front of the police car that sticks a tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle using a resin-like glue. The idea, Couch said, was to help limit the need for high-speed chases.

• Authorize Mayor Mike Allison to sign the School Liaison Agreement with Unified School District 428. The agreement between USD 428 and the City of Great Bend for the School Liaison Program has been an unwritten understanding for many years. This agreement codifies the current practices, Police Chief Cliff Couch said.

Currently, the post is filled by officer Jefferson Davis.

• Adopted a resolution authorizing the sale and conveyance of certain property for Cheyenne Village residences. These are the duplexes at 1500 Eisenhower Court.

The houses have sold and this action takes the city’s name out of the equation. The city hasn’t had any liability for the units for several years.

• Adopted the Uniform Public Offense Code Ordinance. This is something that is done annually to keep local ordinances line with any changes made statewide.

• Adopted the Standard Traffic Ordinance. This is also done annually.

• Set Oct. 19 as the date for a public hearing on the establishment of a new Neighborhood Revitalization Program. The council reviewed a draft copy of the plan which may be established for up to three years. The council also passed a resolution that makes certain findings relating to the program. 

City Attorney Bob Suelter said the program can be for one, two or three years. He recommended one, due to several unknowns.

The current three-year Neighborhood Revitalization Program sunsets at the end of this year. There could be issues with the tax lid passed by the Kansas Legislature this year that may impact city revenues, Suelter said.

This was not an approval of the program, just the findings of fact and the setting of the hearing. The council also wanted to know just how much the program is used and if it is even necessary at all.

The program includes interlocal agreements with USD 428, Barton County and Barton Community College to form a Neighborhood Revitalization Plan that encompasses most of the area within the Great Bend city limits. 

The federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program was established for the purpose of stabilizing communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. Operated through the Kansas Department of Commerce, this involves the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed and abandoned homes and residential properties.

• Heard an economic development report from Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters.  

 The Great Bend City Council Monday night adopted a resolution setting 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 as the dates for a pubic hearings for the unsafe and dangerous structure at 1318 Kansas Ave., owned by Trent Mermis, and 1324 Kansas Avenue, owned by Norma Ward. 

“Eventually, this is going to come down, and it probably won’t take all that long,” said city Building Inspector Lee Schneider. After an inspection of the properties, it was determined they were unsafe after water running off the roof started a chain reaction leading to the damage. 

A notice was sent on Sept. 18 to vacate the structures within five days of the receipt of the order, and they were vacated on Sept. 28. Also on Sept. 28, the power was shut off and the service drops removed.

The 1318 address was occupied by After Hours Night Club operated by Shannon Kimbrel of Larned who leased the space from Mermis.

The reason for the order was the damaged party wall shared by the buildings and a collapse would cause structural damage to both, Schneider said. The wall at the northeast corner of 1318 and the southeast corner of 1324 has deteriorated, and the bricks are delaminated, loose and falling into the alley (which has also been closed). 

There are two support beams on this corner and they are starting to move. “The structure is in eminent danger of collapse,” Schneider said.

The issue dates back to June 5, 2014.

At that time, a complaint and notice was sent to Ward stating the condition of the party wall. Schneider met with Norma ward on June 16, 2014, to inspect the building and discussed the condition of the wall. 

On June 20, 2014, Schneider said he received a letter from Ward indicating her intention to repair the unsafe condition at the south east corner of 1324 Kansas Avenue. The letter also indicated she was meeting with contractors to inspect the damage and was waiting on an estimate. 

In January of this year, the city met to discuss the building with Ward, Greg Bauer, Mermis and his wife, Schneider, Fire Chief Mike Napolitano, City Administrator Howard Partington and City Attorney Bob Suelter. At that time the Schneider requested Mermis and Ward get together and formulate a repair plan and present the plan in 45 days. 

On March 23, Bauer acknowledged that the 45 days was passed. He said that they were talking to Barton County about selling the Ward building to the county to house the County Attorney’s office. However, county officials were concerned about the cost of the repairs and the repairs were higher than they wanted to pay.

It was indicated that Mermis was interested in acquiring the Ward building and that he would need more time to see what they could do. Another 30 days was granted.

On July 7, 2015 Trent and Chelsea Mermis met with Partington, Schneider, Napolitano, Suelter and Code Enforcement Officer Stuart Baker. In the meeting it was determined that if the following time lines were met by the Mermis’ that the city would hold off on taking action on the structures, Suelter said. The time lines were determined on the assumption that the structures would not experience catastrophic deterioration within the time periods set.

Suelter said the time lines were:

• By Aug. 17, the Ward building located at 1324 Kansas would either be purchased by the Merises or they will have entered into agreement with the owner for the rehabilitation of the structures to make them safe. In addition all additional financing would be in place to carry out the acquisition and/or repairs.

• By, Oct. 11, the Mermises would provide the city with a contract with a licensed contractor to repair the structures.

• by March 1, 2016, the repairs would be carried out to make the structures no longer unsafe and dangerous.

On Aug. 17, Bauer sent a memo stating that from a recent conversation with Mermis that he was visiting with Kevin and Justin Joiner regarding repair work on 1318 and 1324 Kansas to rectify the party wall issues. Kevin Joiner also contacted Ward and indicated that they were putting together a bid to do the necessary work but it would not be ready until Aug. 21.

On Sept. 17, Schneider said it was observed that the buildings continued deterioration had resulted in mortar washing out of the brick and that the east wall was bowing out and that the beam was starting to move. It was determined at that time to have the owners and occupants vacate the buildings and the alley was closed to protect the public. 

As of Sept. 28, Schneider said no action on a repair agreement has been taken by the owners, Suelter said. No contracts have been signed and no permits have been secured to repair them. 

“We are trying to repair the buildings,” Mermis said during the meeting, adding they are doing everything in their power to make it happen. He said he was in negotiations with Ward to purchase 1324 and is working with the contractor, but has yet to secure financing. The cost could be as high as $150,000.

“I’ve heard this once or twice before,” Suelter said. City officials are tired of the delays.

It was noted that just because a hearing date is set, it doesn’t mean the buildings’ fates are sealed. Should Mermis get the funding and work get started, the council could give him an extension.