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Larned considers how to finance a pool
Pool consultant hired, but decision on bond put on hold
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Here’s a quick look at what happened at the Larned City Council meeting Monday night:

• Approved by consent the appointment of Linda Presley to fill the vacancy on the Larned ADA Advisory Board.
• Received a dividend check from the city’s insurance carrier, Alliance insurance, in the amount of $Reconfirm the amount.
• Heard a presentation by Rick Ensz with Cooper Malone McCain concerning a potential contract to provide financial advisor services as the city considers how it will move forward with either the renovation or replacement of the Larned City Pool. Cooper has recently assisted in several similar pool projects, assisting the cities to utilize Public Building Commission statues to issue their pool bonds, paid through the excise of an additional sales or property tax.
• Approved an agreement with of Larkin Aquatics as Pool Consultant at a cost of $4,750 plus costs not to exceed $6,000.
• Considered the implementation of a surcharge on utility bills and determine a date to implement the surcharge to be used to offset the cost of the swimming pool. Tabled discussion.
• Considered the approval of a loan application to USDA Rural Development for financing improvements to the Larned Water System. After further discussion, the council opted to table action and look further into the option to move forward incrementally with improvements over time, rather than take on additional debt now.
• Approved the purchase of tablets and accessories for creation of a paperless agenda packet system for the City Council.
• Considered approval of a contracts to install HMAC units at both the City Hall and Jordaan Library. Concerns over why bids for both projects were not received from the same contractors led Mayor William Nusser directed City Manager Brad Eilts first to verify the process the city’s bid-letting procedure to ensure an open bidding process. Action was tabled.
• Received presentations from the Larned Police chief, Fire chief and EMS director.
A 20 minute executive session was held for the purpose of conducting the annual review of City Manager Bradley Eilts. Upon returning to regular session, the council approved extending an additional 12 months housing allowance to Eilts existing 24 month contract, and provided him the COLA adjustment awarded to other city staff, retroactive to the beginning of the year, to be paid at the next pay period. The meeting was then adjourned.

LARNED — With record high temperatures tempting residents out to the Larned City Pool to beat the heat, it was no surprise Monday evening’s city council meeting focused heavily on what the next steps in finding a solution to the city’s outdated pool might be. City Manager Bradley Eilts lined up presentations from Rick Ensz of Cooper Malone McCain to discuss financial services to provide the city with guidance towards a bond issue, and from Kyle McCawley, project engineer of Larkin Aquatics, to discuss pool consulting services. The council also considered the option of a utility surcharge to offset the cost of a pool. Ultimately, council members opted to pump the brakes.
Last September, the council approved the formation of a pool advisory board consisting of community members who would assess what to do about the city pool, which is leaking and in need of several repairs. In October, Eilts met with Ensz to discuss what steps the city would need to take in order to fund a potential future project.
Ensz began with an overview of the proposed three-year contract, outlining how the bond would be underwritten. CMM would receive payment for their services only when and if the city approved and issued a bond, he explained.
“A percentage of the bond will be the one and only fee,” he said. “If no bond is issued, the city would owe no fee.”
In order to remove any conflict of interest, it would be up to the city to determine either independently or through its project engineer, the amount of that bond, and the fee would then be added to determine the final amount.
Most municipalities pay for pool projects through either a sales tax or a property tax, Ensz said. He went over the timeline of taking the project from a concept, through the community buy-in and bond issuing phase, through the start of construction. He proposed a three-year contract with the city.
That’s when council members Councilman Dennis Wilson and Councilman Jason Murray, both of Ward 3, weighed in with questions.
Wilson wanted details about impact studies, expressing concerns over the effect an added sales tax could have on what Larned’s “already shaky retail sector.”
Ensz replied the company looks at what the neighboring communities tax rates are, and also if any increases have recently been made or are being considered.
“A lot of times communities think they will be way out of whack with their neighbors, but in fact they find they are right in line, or in fact lower,” Ensz said. They do the same analysis with property taxes.
“You may be higher, but you also have to consider impact of time and travel,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know what their tax rate is.”
Wilson, owner of a local car dealership, disagreed, pointing out that on big ticket items, the tax rate of the city does come into play.
“I’ve had people call to inquire about Larned’s sales tax, and hang up on me when they learn how high we are,” he said. He wondered aloud if the city was far enough along in the pool planning process to begin looking into financing.
Murray saw the advantage of having a bond issuer in play early on, especially with the city looking into how to fund updates to the 100-plus-year-old water system, also on the agenda for the evening.
After some further discussion, the council decided a second opinion was needed before action could be taken. Nusser directed Eilts to find at least one more option after assuring Ensz that his presentation was appreciated.
“We generally want to see multiple bids on anything anymore,” Nusser said.
Later in the meeting, the council heard from Kyle McCawley with Larkin Aquatics, a municipal pool and splash pad consulting firm. The Larned pool advisory committee met with McCawley recently to discuss options and considerations for the pool.
The company, he said, would not only assist the city in determining the design of the pool, but also if the present location is best, as well as analysis of what the operating expenses will be in the future, depending on features included in the design.
Following a few more questions and answers, council members approved entering into the agreement for consulting services with Larkin Aquatics at a cost of $4,750 plus costs not to exceed $6,000.
Another pool related agenda item was discussion over whether a utility surcharge could help to fund maintenance and operation of the pool. Eilts cited the city of Hoisington as a local example of where this works.
Hoisington imposes the surcharge through monthly utility billing, and in exchange, all residents, and a limited number of guests, receive free admission to the pool throughout the season. Nusser voiced his opinion that the system may have worked 20 years ago, but now it seems too little too late for Larned. He also pointed out that with the city’s water system needing updating, perhaps a surcharge could instead be imposed in order to create a fund to tap for those updates. This line of discussion was taken up later in the meeting when the council considered applying for a CDBG grant and the bond needed for matching funds for the project. No members advanced a motion in favor of the application. It was felt repairs could be made over time.
“No matter what, there will need to be an increase of some sort in order to pay for these projects,” Nusser said.
With the meeting already dragging into its second hour, the council opted to table both items for further discussion at a later date.