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Hoisington City Council awarded critical CDBG grant
Agreement on Main Street building appears imminent

Here’s a quick look at what happened at the Hoisington City Council meeting Monday night:

• Scott Fleming, on behalf of the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce, thanked the entire council for attending the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce Annual meeting on Saturday, Jan. 13.
• The council reviewed a draft lease between the City of Hoisington and Epicenter Ministries that outlined a two-year path to ownership for the property at 171 S. Main Street.
• Learned the city’s CDBG grant proposal was approved and the city will receive $600,000 for the EPA mandated well water lagoon and sewer project. As a result of this, the council opted to pay its portion of the project through a $3 monthly surcharge on all utilities customers billing.
• Approved year-end transfers, keeping the proceeds that came from the sale of city property to Rotomix earmarked for electrical projects.
• Approved a request to transfer, but not refigure, tax abatements the city negotiated with the developer of the Rodeway Inn to a potential new investor. Incentives will remain in place for the next four years.
• Heard the city manager’s report that included an update on efforts to form a fire district, possible changes to the county’s dispatch and radio towers that will require the city to upgrade radios to the 800 system, changes to an entrepreneurship loan program administered through the city.
• Council advised Mitchell applicants interested in filling Councilwoman Karen Van Brimmer’s Ward 3 seat attend the next meeting with a letter of intent and be prepared to explain why they want to serve. An ad was approved for the Hoisington Dispatch.
• An executive session was held for the purpose of discussing union negotiations. The council returned to regular session and took action, opting to not renew the contract between the city and the union. (See related story.)

HOISINGTON — Good news for the City of Hoisington last week in the form of a congratulatory letter from Governor Sam Brownback. “I am pleased to award the City of Hoisington a Community Improvement grant of $600,000 through the Kansas Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program This award will provide the needed financing for your sewer project,” the letter stated.
There were, naturally, some caveats. The funds are contingent upon the state receiving fund from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the city will still need to complete an series of steps for completing the agreement between the city and the state. One of those steps is updating bids on the project which the Environmental Protection Agency has been working with the city to delay during the application process for the grant.
The original estimate for the project was $1.7 million, in 20??. An update from 20?? Came in at $1.1 million, reflecting a temporary downturn in construction in the area. City Manager Jonathan Mitchell warned the council that engineers are currently working on revised estimates, and the cost will likely be close to $1.7 million again.
He asked the council to determine if the city will pay for their portion of the project by billing customers based on usage, or simply a flat fee of $3 per month. The council felt the flat fee was reasonable and would be easiest to administer and budget for. The fee will go into effect as soon as the March 1 billing. Work will need to begin quickly, Mitchell said, as the EPA is requiring work to be completed by the end of October of this year.
“It’s a pretty small window, to get everything done. But we are pleased we received this funding. $600,000 is a lot of money that isn’t going to come from taxpayers’ pockets.”.

Council reviews lease draft
Also before the council was a review of the draft lease agreement between the City of Hoisington and Epicenter Ministries. The document outlines a step-by-step path to ownership for the new church that will bring the property at 171 S. Main Street into compliance with current building and safety codes. It is hoped that the church and its associated ministries will be operational within that time frame. Work will be done at the tenants expense. The city, for its part, hired a roofing contractor and the new roof has been completed, Mitchell said.
The city will retain the right to take the property back or grant extensions in the event any of the conditions can’t be met.
“This is a big undertaking, and there is risk involved for both parties,” Mitchell said. We felt like this contract would hold them accountable and keep them moving forward on it. This doesn’t mean you can’t adjust these time frames if you choose to do so, but we thought this was a good starting point.”
Council members felt the draft was reasonable, and with Epicenter reportedly eager to get started, according to City Manager Jonathan Mitchell, work could begin shortly.
Mitchell asked the council to provide a value for the property to include in the lease for the purpose of securing insurance. They agreed on $100,000.

City Manager report
Mitchell said the meeting with the City of Olmitz concerning the proposed new fire district was positive. He expects to hear soon if they would like to move ahead with partnering with the other cities and townships that are working to create the district following Olmitz’s city council meeting this month. If they are agreeable, its possible the district could be created by the end of June, he said.
He provided information about a possible change at the county level that would require all cities in the county to change over their radios to the 800 system. The city has identified a source to purchase refurbished radio units through, and is ready to act when a good deal can be found. It is unknown what the timeline may be, but Homeland Security’s efforts to increase interoperability between departments is driving the consideration. While Police Chief Kenton Doze and EMS Director Scot Fleming agreed that changing radio systems is a perennial concern, it seems, they do feel the change is likely to happen.
Mitchell also provided an update on the city’s search for a speed monitoring trailer, and changes to an entrepreneurship program the city takes part in that could increase the city’s ability to provide business start-up loans to qualified applicants.
He also asked council members to provide direction on how to move forward with finding a replacement to fill Karen Van Brimmer’s Ward 3 seat. She will step down at the Feb. 12 meeting as she will be moving out of her ward. The council agreed they would like applicants to attend the next meeting with a letter explaining why they want to serve and what their qualifications are. An advertisement will appear in the Hoisington Dispatch.

Executive session
Following his report, the council went into executive session in order to discuss union negotiations, under the exemption for Employer-Employee Relations and Negotiations exemption of the Kansas Open Records Act. After the first 10 minute session, two more sessions were requested, one for 10 minutes and one for five minutes. Upon returning to regular session, the council took action. They chose not to renew the contract with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 304. They ordered Mitchell to draft a letter informing the union of their decision (See related story). The meeting was then adjourned.