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Ellinwood City Council approves health insurance option
KDOT project underway, progress slow
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The eastbound lane of Hwy 56 and K 96 on the east side of Ellinwood is currently closed as contractors continue to prepare to lay pipe for a major KDOT highway project that will change the look of Santa Fe Ave. through Ellinwood. Work is anticipated to continue through the holidays, prompting the Chamber of Commerce to plan for all Christkindlmarket activities to take place at Wolf Park this year. - photo by Veronica Coons, Tribune staff

Other items of discussion and actions taken included:

The council approved a request by Jacque Isern of the Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce for the use of the bandshell and grounds at Wolf Park for the 2016 Christkindlmarket celebration. She said vendors would be set up in Minnis Chapel again this year, and there would be the living Nativity, a Christmas tree in the bandshell, and a group is brainstorming for new activities to include. All activities will take place at Wolf Park this year due to ongoing work on the highway, she said. Also, the Christmas village will be set up again this year. The celebration will be on Sunday, Dec. 4, and last all day.

ELLINWOOD - The Ellinwood City Council met Tuesday night, and quickly wrapped up the question of the city’s health insurance renewal before moving on to new business.
In a special meeting on Sept. 19, the council met to discuss the city’s health insurance package through Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The plan renewal date is approaching a sizeable premium increase is expected. Currently the city pays 100 percent of the employee premium, and spouses and families pay a percentage. But the increase was not something the city was prepared to absorb. Three options were discussed, including one to pass on the increase to employees to pay out of pocket, another allocated a portion of a budgeted three percent raise to employees to pay towards the increase, or finally to drop the plan and go with a new one.
Komarek visited with department and reported back Tuesday night that the vast majority of employees favored option two, which would allocate one percent of the anticipated raise to cover the premium increase, keeping the same plan. In doing to, the city would continue to provide 100 percent of the premium for employees, and 77 percent for an employee’s spouse and family. A separate Vision Service Plan was also approved for another year as a separate business item.
Three visitors asked to speak to council members. One inquired about the use of golf carts on city streets, another about the timeline for the city to follow up on a specific ordinance violation and the third to inquire about the possibility of the city acquiring a windmill to supplement electrical generation for the community.

Golf cart concerns
Terry Boor noted that children had been observed driving golf carts on city streets on more than one occasion. She asked at what age it was legal to do so, and if it were legal to drive carts on the highway. Komarek and Mayor Irlan Fullbright both responded. Only persons licensed to drive are allowed to operate golf carts on the city streets, and only during daylight hours unless the vehicle has lights. Also, none are allowed on the highway. Terry asked if parents of the youngsters could be held responsible for their children. Komarek replied that they could, and the charges may range from child endangerment to authorizing a minor to operate a motor vehicle. He also stated he would alert the police chief to monitor for children on golf carts more closely.

Ordinance violations noted
Rock Miller, who has complained to the city about a neighbor asked the council for an update on what is being done to force the person to clean up his property. He noted that there are inoperable vehicles, refuse, garbage, vermin and more visible on the property, and that on occasion additional vehicles are brought in for a few days at a time, and then removed. Komarek said that two official letters had been sent in June, but a decision on which ordinances to charge the person with violations of has been put on the back burner. He promised that the city would decide on and make charges soon, and that he was also in agreement with them that something must be done.
Rob Dove took the opportunity to remind the council and visitors in attendance of the upcoming First Impressions meeting on Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the Ellinwood High School commons area. The report is the result of an Extension project in which representatives from Ellinwood and Cimarron visited the respective communities and are reporting back on what their first impressions are. The goal is to help the communities focus on what areas they are doing well in and where they need help in order to provide visitors and tourists the proper impression of their town. Dove stated that the property belonging to the individual in question would be a big item in the report.

Power Pool report
Dennis Lebbin's inquiry was addressed fully when Kansas Power Pool CEO Mark Chesney addressed the council later in the meeting. Chesney made a courtesy visit to the council, which he does a few times a year. He reported on the successful conference held in September which a Komarek had attended. In answer to the windmill question, he shared that the KPP now receives just under 20 percent of its energy from wind, and agreed with Council member Ken Lebbin who described the complicated process of determining if an investment in windmills at a particular location was economically viable. The explanation appeared to satisfy the visitor, and Chesney then thanked the council for their membership in the KPP and departed.

KDOT work underway
During his staff report, Komarek shared that Ellinwood EMS would be picking up its new ambulance later this week, and should have it back in town on Friday or Saturday. It will be put into service next week. Also, Around the city, the effort to get tree trimming caught up is continuing and street and water department workers will continue their work through the end of the month before they switch their focus to installing the holiday lighting.
The Fire Department has been visiting Ellinwood schools this month in an effort to promote fire prevention, part of a national effort that occurs every October. Komarek also reminded the public to check the age of their smoke detectors. If it is over 10 years old, it should be replaced, regardless of whether its batteries are fresh or not, he said.
The KDOT project along Santa Fe is moving along slower than anticipated, but progress is being made. Some delays occurred due to controls going out on an excavator during work on the lift station, but now the base is set, and sewer lines are will be installed in about a week. Locates have been called in for the pond, and crews will begin digging there again soon, he said.

 Additional easements approved
The council entered into executive session for the discussion of acquisition of real estate for 10 minutes. Upon returning to open session, they approved a permanent easement between the city and Kathleen Hildenbrand along a quarter of her land for drainage purposes, and also approved a temporary easement to last two years in order to complete the necessary grading and tree removal. No further action was taken, and the meeting was adjourned. The next regular meeting of the Ellinwood City Council will be at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 8 at the city offices.