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Great Bend firm granted adjusted sewer rates
new deh city council pic
Chelsea Mermis addresses the Great Bend City Council Monday night about the success of the Hahn Brothers Supercross Shootout motorcross event that took place in September. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

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

• Voted to accept the 2017 funding under the Kansas Department of Transportation’s city connecting links (KLINK) program. KDOT informed officials that Great Bend was successful in securing 50 percent funding for the requested project – the resurfacing on 10th Street from Kennedy Street to McKinley Street, Main Street from Second Street to 10th Street and from 19th Street to 24th Street, and K-96 from 10th Street to northwest city limits. The estimated total cost of the project is $629,512, City Administrator Howard Partington said.

There are gaps in the improvements listed, but those are covered by the 2015 and 2016 KLINK projects that are still in the works. 

• Voted to accept the Geometric Improvement Grant from KDOT. This grant will fund improvements to the intersection of 10th and Grant streets. This grant would be 80 percent state and 20 percent city. The estimated total cost of the project is $778,464, Partington said.

The idea is to widen the Grant and 10th intersection to better allow large trucks to turn south. Most of the work will be on the north side of the junction and will involve the moving of traffic lights.

• Heard a report from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. She said told of the success of Zoo Boo (an estimated 3,000-plus kids went through), November being Explore Great Bend Month and the Green Lights for Veterans campaign (installing green light bulbs to show support for vets).

• Heard an update from Chelsea Mermis on the Hahn Brothers Supercross Shootout motorcross event that took place in September. She said it was successful, drawing in riders from all over the country. She appreciated all the support from city personnel and from the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association.

• Adopted the 2015-16 Snow and Ice Control Policy as recommended by Public Works Director Don Craig. The policy stays basically the same except for the equipment list and the dates. The policy underwent a major revision last year.

• Approved the city’s health insurance rates for 2016. The action means the city will continue the same 83 percent city contribution and 17 percent employee contribution for the year. There were no changes necessary in any area of the health insurance for 2016, Human Resource Director Terry Hoff said.

In fact, Hoff said, the city’s insurance rate through Blue Cross and Blue Shield is going down. This marks the third year in a row that there have been no changes in the rates for employees.

Hoff said the city has talked about bidding out the city’s insurance and that may become necessary should there be a major rate hike. But, for now, he said the policy has remained very affordable.

• Approved an abatement at 1305 Morphy, owned by Joseph Farris and Stacey Farris, for accumulation of refuse.

• Approved a tree trimmer license for C&H Tree Service.

 The water and sewer rates for the City of Great Bend are based on an average of usage from November through January to avoid including the seasonal high usage during the summer months.

This is a good deal for homeowners who wash their cars and water their lawns when it is warm. However, for Terry Esfeld and his business, Great Bend Livestock Company, it is not so good.

“This puts me at the exact opposite,” he told the Great Bend City Council Monday night. He and his son operate a cattle grazing operation, utilizing the former sale barn at 2125 Railroad Ave. to help prepare cattle for feedlots and pastures.

So, at a time when most folks are cutting back on their water use, he is increasing his. He brings about 100 cattle a week into the facility from August through December and again for a couple months in the spring.

This causes his water use to skyrocket to meet the needs of the livestock. But, most of this water does not wind up in the sewer, so his sewer rate remains constant throughout the year (only being used for the restroom and office located on the site).

In most cases, the sewer rate is tied to water use. So, Esfeld’s sewer bills have spiked.

What he recommended, and was approved by the council, was that he pay a flat $25 per month for his sewer. He had no qualms about paying for the water, admitting the animals go through thousands of gallons, but most of it does not end up in the sewer.

He said he had an agreement with the city several years ago stating the same arrangement. “But, somewhere along the line, it got lost.”

He has started to get increasingly higher sewer bills and was advised by city officials to address the council.

City officials said the do not make adjustments for other business, City Administrator Howard Partington said. For example, if a hotel fills its pool during a calculated month, the city will not make an adjustment to the sewer rate. 

There are two laundromats and one car wash set up to pay on a month-to-month sewer rate. No discount is given, but their rates fluctuate based on actual usage. 

This could wind up being the same or less than the $25, Councilman Wayne Henneke said. It was Henneke who, while city clerk, negotiated the original flat fee with Esfeld.

Esfeld said the $25 is probably more than what he should be paying, but he is willing to abide by the regular fee. He preferred this to the fluctuating idea.

“I think what he is proposing is fair,” Councilman Mike Zinn said. “I think he is being more than generous.”

It was noted that should there be a major rate hike citywide, Esfeld’s contract would be revisited. Also, should the property sell, the deal would not transfer to the new owners.

There was concern about setting a president with others coming in seeking special arrangements.