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Larned wastewater plant director receives award
Dale Vanderhoof
Larned Wastewater Plant Director Dale Vanderhoof shares the award he received for outstanding plant performance with council members at their regular monthly meeting Monday. Under Vanderhoof's direction, the facility has received awards in the past two years and he expects a third this year.

LARNED — The staff presentation that Dale Vanderhoof gave the Larned City Council Monday night was short and sweet.

Vanderhoof’s presentation came at the end of an ordinance-heavy session that ranged from sale of city property and loan refinancing to revamping rules for controlled burns and increased compensation for the Larned Volunteer Fire Department.

Vanderhoof, a Kansas certified Class IV wastewater treatment operator, OSHA trainer and instructor, was hired by the City of Larned in November 2018 to spearhead repairs and monitoring deficiencies cited by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment at the Larned Wastewater Treatment facility earlier that year. 

“When you start with a facility that was cited for dumping black stuff into the river, and three years later, the water that you release is safe enough to drink, this is what you get,” said Vanderhoof, as he was presented with a company award for outstanding plant performance as Larned plant director.

Larned Finance Director Monica Steiner handed Vanderhoof a plaque awarded by Aqua-Aerobic Systems Inc., which recognized the Larned plant for outstanding performance for 2020. It is the second year running for the award, and Vanderhoof told the council that he expected to earn a third for 2021.

Vanderhoof, who also won the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Jim Current award in 2019 for his work at Larned, explained that the awards are largely based on the steady stream of monthly water quality samples he sends to KDHE for testing. “You have to have at least six months of quality data,” Vanderhoof said. “Anyone getting these awards is part of an elite group.”

Vanderhoof noted that the Larned plant “has progressed a long way” from KDHE’s citation and fines it imposed on the plant in 2018.

“We are getting really good numbers now,” he said. “It is worth all the hard work.”

Vanderhoof’s award followed an ordinance-heavy agenda on Monday. 

Two of the ordinances dealt with fire code and the Larned Volunteer Fire Department.

In his presentation to the council, Larned City Manager Brad Eilts noted that last February, the previous fire chief and Firefighter TJ Hearn requested the addition of standards related to recreational fires, bonfires and open fires in the city. Working with the city attorney, an ordinance was drafted that’s purpose was to clarify violations, fire hazards, guidelines and restrictions ad well as address concerns on access and enforcement. The new ordinance defines “open burning” as the “operation and use of firepits, bonfires, recreational burning, outdoor barbecues that use different fuels other than charcoal briquettes or portable propane cylinders, fireplaces, stoves or similar devises meant to be used outside that hold the fuel to be burned, on an owner’s property but in such a manner that such burning is or may be unsupervised by the property owner for a significant amount of time.”

Prohibited activity includes the burning of treated lumber or pallets; wooden shingles; brush, leaves or yard waste; cardboard; paper; garbage and other similar items defined as combustible solid waste.

Resident Jason Zink, when recognized by the council, voiced his concerns over a provision of the code which authorizes the extinguishing of a fire if “it is determined that smoke from the fire is offensive to nearby neighbors or determined to constitute a hazard.”

Zink said that he wished the council would consider “rolling back” ordinances that determine “what you are allowed to do or to store on private property. There’s too much of ‘my neighbor has a say in what I say or do on my own property’ in this.

 “It’s common sense to me,” he said. “In my non-lawyer opinion, there is a lot left to interpretation, that depends on the makeup of the PD or the fire department at that particular time.”

In answer, several council members expressed confidence in the discretion of the police department and the fire department, noting that they should allow appropriate action in each situation to be determined by the enforcing agencies involved.

The ordinance was passed unanimously as presented by members present in a roll call vote.

The council, after discussion, also amended the Members-Meetings section of the city code dealing with compensation for members of the Larned Volunteer Fire Department. In his proposal to the council, Acting Fire Chief Leonard Herrman noted that the last time the compensation schedules were reviewed were in 2009. He suggested an across-the-board increase of $5 per each activity on the schedule, while rasing fire school attendance daily compensation from $45 to $80 per day.

The council unanimously approved the amended compensation figures as presented, by roll-call vote.