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Larned City Council agrees on terms for surge settlement
Humane Society request for assistance approved through 2019
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The Larned City Council met Monday night, and agreed on terms for settling the depreciation incurred following a Sept. 5 electrical surge in one part of the city. - photo by Veronica Coons

LARNED — Following up on a lengthy October discussion concerning how to reimburse Larned residents affected by a Sept. 5 power surge caused by the city, council members Monday night heard an update from City Manger Brad Eilts on progress being made with the city’s insurance company.

At the October 1 meeting, Cassidy Smith, the EMC insurance group representative, explained in Kansas, liability claims can only pay out actual cash value (ACV) for damaged items. The ACV does not include depreciation of the item, so there is oftentimes a gap between what the insurance company will pay, and the cost of replacing the item. The council agreed in October that the city should pick up the difference, within reason. 

This prompted the council to urge homeowners and the adjuster from EMC to expedite their claims in a timely manner. By the time all parties met again Monday night, all but a few of the homeowners had settled their claims, with the remaining few anticipating doing so in the days to come. It was estimated the loss per household would be less than $10,000. 

After a brief discussion about how the claims would be verified, council members were in agreement that homeowners who wish to have the city reimburse them for depreciation of their items apply at the city. It was noted that all who apply will be approved. The application process was necessary because some homeowners had opted to not seek the reimbursement for unknown reasons, Eilts said. 

Of the handful of homeowners at the meeting, no one objected and were in agreement. One homeowner reported that the adjuster had been easy to work with and had expedited their claim very quickly. 

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Celeste Dixon with the Pawnee County Humane Society makes a plea for continued financial assistance from the city for 2019 at the city council meeting Monday night. - photo by Veronica Coons

Humane Society makes case

Also at the Oct. 1 meeting, city council members heard a plea from the Pawnee County Humane Society to extend the $500 a month assistance to the struggling non-profit slated to end in 2018. Jason Murray, Ward 3, had requested discussion be tabled until the financials were provided and an explanation for the additional funds was provided. Monday night, board members, led by Celeste Dixon, returned for another round of negotiations. 

In addition to providing a building and utilities, it’s property insurance and office supplies, providing pet food as needed, and providing and intake, boarding and associated veterinary fees for strays picked up in the city, Larned has been providing $500 a month towards the Humane Society’s budget for the past year. Pawnee County has also been providing $500 a month towards the budget. Still, Dixon said, the shelter is not breaking even, despite recent attempts to secure grants and to increase fundraising efforts. 

One line item on the budget they are working on now is keeping veterinary expenditures down. That’s tough, Dixon admitted, because the law requires them to provide a certain level of care to each animal. They may have to consider turning some animals away when they reach their quota for certain veterinary services like spaying and neutering. That led to discussion about how no-kill shelters compare to standard shelters, and ultimately what happens to animals that are not accepted into no-kill shelters. Its a decision the board members aren’t taking lightly, so efforts to increase donations are underway. 

Jason Murray, Ward 3, asked Dixon to describe the manager’s skill level at grant writing. He noted that since it is a paid position, perhaps it would be better use of administration dollars to make that more of a focus. Dixon attempted to explain that the duties being performed now , including supervision of the inmate exchange program, didn’t leave time for writing grants. She added that most of the shelter volunteers are employed elsewhere, so can’t help much with day-to-day tasks. 

Progress is being made, Dixon said. A recent volunteer has begun working on grant writing, with some initial success, she said. Still, Murray pressed for why the organization hasn’t better utilized people in the community who could help. He pointed to the Larned Pride club, which recently securing several grants, he said, and could probably lend a hand. The city also help, he added, but has not been asked. He insisted more effort needs to be made by the Humane Society in the area of securing donations and writing grants, rather than relying further on taxpayers. 

“After several months of giving encouragement, it doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere,” Murray said. 

Mayor William Nusser asked if putting a time limit for the additional $500 a month assistance might motivate the group to try harder. Dixon agreed she could see some merit in the idea. It was George Elmore, Ward 2, who motioned to provide the Humane Society $500 a month for another year, and if that was not enough time, they would need to come back to the council and explain why. Kim Barnes, Ward 4, asked Finance Director Monica Steiner if there was money in the budget to cover the request. Steiner replied it would come out of the $20,000 the city sets aside for outside organizations, most recently utilized by Circles of Central Kansas for a poverty reduction campaign. 

With the motion still on the table, a second was finally given, and with no further discussion, the council approved the request.