ELLINWOOD — An item of old business was put to rest Tuesday night when the Ellinwood City Council approved Charter Ordinance 11, which clarified that the mayor has the ability to terminate city employees, with the approval of the city council.
The clarification was driven by Mayor Irlan Fullbright’s decision not to re-appoint Art Keffer to his position as chief of police in May, effectively terminating his employment. The decision was ratified at the time when city council members Alan Brauer and Kirk Clawson moved and seconded to approve the slate of appointments minus Keffer’s, and the motion was approved unanimously by the council. But, Fullbright took heat in the court of public opinion, prompting Councilperson Jon Prescott to request formal clarification of the mayor’s duties and abilities in the form of a charter ordinance at the June meeting.
With old business out of the way, Fullbright accepted the resignation of Councilperson Alan Brauer, who listed his reason in his letter as his recent move outside the city limits made him ineligible to continue serving.
One of Fullbright’s duties is to appoint a councilperson to fill the vacancy. With the full approval of the council, he appointed Steve Oelke to fill the remainder of Brauer’s term. Oelke is the Industrial Arts teacher at Ellinwood High School, and has been a longtime resident of the city. He was unable to attend the meeting Tuesday night, Fullbright explained, as personal business required him to be in Nebraska at the time. He will be installed at the next meeting of the city council.
Condemnations to be published
City Manager Chris Komarek updated the council on progress the city has made towards cleaning up a handful of dilapidated structures. Over the past several months, the city has sent the required certified communications to owners of record of four properties, and has exhausted its efforts to bring the properties under compliance with city codes through cooperative means with those owners. Now, he said, it was up to the council to approve his request to begin condemnation proceeding for the three dilapidated structures located at 106 West 4th, 518 East 4th, and 404 East 4th, and one other structure located at 610 N. Hirsch that imposes a health nuisance to an adjacent property.
According to City Attorney Bob Peter, the next steps in the process will be to publish the city’s intention to condemn in the official city newspaper twice, and set a date for a hearing six weeks after the last publication. At that hearing, the council will determine if they will continue the process, or, should the owners of record present a plan to bring their properties into compliance, they will decide to provide the needed time.
“We don’t think anyone will show up for three out of the four,” Peter said. He recommended setting the hearing for all four properties for the same date, and suggested it would be best to call a special meeting for the purpose of the hearings.
The council approved all four resolutions and set the hearings to be addressed Municipal court, on Wednesday, Oct. 24, beginning at 7 p.m. at the City Office.
Interim street super appointed
An executive session was requested for 15 minutes in order to discuss confidential information pertaining to non-elected personnel. Upon returning to regular session, Mayor Irlan Fullbright stated that Street Department Superintendent Kevin Clair was no longer employed with the city.
“He’s done us a great job, and just decided he was ready to try something else,” he said. “With that being said, the position is open, we have projects going and different things happening.”
He noted the council had considered three options, and had decided to appoint an interim director for six months, “to allow everything to mellow out, the dust settle.”
He appointed Water and Wastewater Superintendent Spencer Proffitt to that position. Proffitt, he explained, would continue to perform his duties with the water department.
Peter clarified that it is the mayor’s duty to appoint someone to the position with the approval of the council. Prescott moved to accept the appointment, and Kirk Clawson seconded the appointment. The motion was unanimously approved.
But, one visitor publicly stated his opposition to the appointment.
“I strongly urge each and every one of you to put yourself in my shoes, and think about what he just did, and how you would feel,” the unidentified visitor stated.
“A lot of consideration when into this,” Fullbright responded. “Nothing against you at all.”
The visitor, later identified as Blake Wornkey, was not satisfied, asking what the difference would be between now and six months from now.
“I’ve had seven years in this position,” he stated.
Fullbright talked of the importance of serving under another person, and seeing a different perspective besides what he has experienced under Clair. He affirmed Wornkey’s expertise in the department, even stating he was very appreciative of it, and that the decision was not a comment on his performance.
Councilpersons Ken Lebbin and Jon Prescott both urged Wornkey to consider the decision in a positive light, and didn’t rule out the possibility he could be moved up at the end of the six month period. Still, Wornkey was not pleased, and exited the meeting following the exchange.
Here’s a quick look at what happened Tuesday night at the Ellinwood City Council meeting:
• Approved Charter Ordinance 11, pertaining to giving the mayor the ability to terminate only with the approval of the majority of the council governing body. Adoption of the ordinance was on the agenda in August, but was tabled due to the requirement for a two-thirds majority vote for the adoption of a charter ordinance.
• Mayor Irlan Fullbright accepted the resignation of City Councilperson Alan Brauer, whose move outside the city limits made him ineligible to continue serving.
• Fullbright, with the approval of the council, appointed Steve Oelke to fill the remainder of Brauer’s term.
• Fullbright, with the approval of the council, appointed the following individuals to the Ellinwood Planning Commission: Mark Minges, Rob Dove, Glenn Hurdle and Chad Stephen. A fifth member will be appointed at a later date.
• City Manager Chris Komarek asked the council to provide input and direction on possible future street improvements in addition to those already scheduled. This will fulfill the city’s requirements relating to the bond issue. Excellent pricing may allow more work to be done than first anticipated, Komarek said.
• Approved renewal of the city’s health insurance policy, due Nov. 1, with BXBS Gold Level Blue Care Premier SG Choice Plan. A 10 percent anticipated premium increase came in much lower, at 3.81 percent.
• Approved adoption of the 2018 Standard Traffic Offense Code.
• Approved adoption of the 2018 Uniform Public Offense Code.
• Approved the beginning of condemnation proceedings for three dilapidated structures: 106 West 4th, 518 East 4th, and 404 East 4th. Notices will be published twice in the city’s official newspaper, after which a hearing for each property will take place. The date for these hearings will be addressed in Municipal Court, and will take place Wednesday, Oct. 24 beginning at 7 p.m. at the City Office.
• Approved the beginning of condemnation proceedings for Health Nuisance/Dilapidated Structure at 610 N. Hirsch. Komarek stated this resolution pertains mostly to the health nuisance which has been determined to be detrimental to an adjoining structure. A notice will be published twice in the city’s official newspaper, after which a hearing for each property will take place. The date for these hearings will be addressed in Municipal Court, and will take place Wednesday, Oct. 24 beginning at 7 p.m. at the City Office.
• An executive session was requested to discuss confidential information pertaining to non-elected personnel. The session lasted 15 minutes. Upon returning to regular session, Mayor Fullbright stated that Street Department Superintendent Kevin Clair would be taking another position elsewhere, and he appointed Water and Wastewater Superintendent Spencer Proffitt as the interim director for the next six months.
• Komarek presented the City Manager’s Report, which included updates on several ongoing city projects including the recent perfect inspection of the EMS ambulance, EMS statistics, progress on a culvert project at the Long residence, communications with Ryder Brick concerning street bricks the city has agreed to sell, a power station update, and work in progress at the swimming pool. A schedule for installation of holiday lighting, decorations, and tree trimming was also provided.
• Councilperson Kirk Clawson inquired if the chemical toilet that was moved from Wolf Pond to City Park for the After Harvest Festival would be returned. Komarek affirmed it would be.