BY DALE HOGG
At the May 1 City Council Meeting, a public hearing date was set for this council meeting to discuss dilapidated structures at 417 Walnut and 422 Walnut, including one where electricity and water had been high-jacked and raw sewage was allowed to pour onto an adjoining lot.
The hearing took place Monday night and the council voted to declare the structures as “unsafe and dangerous.” The action means that either the owners of the trailers will tear them down or the city will be forced to do so and pursue getting compensation from the owners for the work, Code Enforcement Officer Stuart Baker said.
With the 417 Walnut St. home: The skirting is partially missing; there are windows broken and several windows boarded up; the home is not secured and is an visual nuisance; and the home is vacant and there is no gas or electricity.
Baker said city officials have been unable to contact the owners of the trailer, who are apparently trying to avoid prosecution. The land is rented from a Great Bend individual who is not involved in the legal matters.
So, Baker recommended earlier the city raze the home so the lot owners won’t get dragged into the mess. The council agreed.
As for 422 Walnut St.: Skirting is missing in places on the north and south sides of the mobile home; there is a broken window on the south side and an electric water heater hooked up on the outside of the mobile home and not the inside as required; and electricity and water which were being used at the mobile home were being obtained illegally after utilities had been shut off.
In addition, there is a pit underneath the trailer where sewage is being held and a sump pump is used to transfer the sewer water to the empty lot south of the mobile home.
Baker said the property has been abated by the city once and was raided by authorities last August. There had also been several video cameras set up on the trailer’s exterior, but those have been removed.
Baker said city personnel hauled seven truck loads of debris from the property.
No contact has been made with the owners of this structure either.
No action taken after closed sessions
Council meets in executive session for attorney-client privilege
The Great Bend City Council Monday night emerged from the second of two 15-minute executive sessions only to take no action and adjourn the meeting.
According to the agenda as read by Mayor Mike Allison, the council went into its first closed session for “matters that would be deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship.” They came out of this session and immediately went into the second for the same reason.
However, the Great Bend Tribune pressed the council on its reason for going behind closed doors. Citing the Kansas Open Meetings Act, the Tribune noted that when a governing body recesses into an executive session, it must state “(1) the justification for closing the meeting, (2) the subjects to be discussed during the closed or executive meeting,” and the duration of the session.
The Tribune contended that both the justification and subject requirements were not met. However, Allison, dismissed the claim and contended that the council’s initial statement was adequate.
While attorney-client privilege is an accepted reason for an executive session under the Kansas Open Meetings Act, KSA 75-4319 also requires a “justification” for the session. Page eight of the Kansas Attorney General’s Citizen’s Guide to KOMA defines the justification as “A brief description of the topic to be discussed in executive session without revealing confidential information.”
Other topics acceptable under KOMA for executive sessions include: Personnel matters regarding non-elected personnel; employer-employee negotiations; confidential data relating to financial affairs or trade secrets of corporations, partnerships, trusts or individual proprietorships; matters relating to students, patients or residents of a public institution. But the law states that the specific topic must be outlined when the session is announced.
No action may be taken in an executive session, and discussions must not stray from this topic. The governing body must reconvene in open session to take action.