Randy Miller, director of the City of Hoisington’s electricity distribution department, was honored at the City Council meeting Monday night for his 32 years of service to the city. Mayor Clayton Williamson formally thanked him, and presented him with a plaque. Miller will retire at the end of the week, and it was announced the public is invited to a reception in his honor Friday afternoon at the council chamber from 2 to 4 p.m.
The council came anticipating hearing a citizen complaint concerning unfair representation of utility connection fees, but the party did not show. City Manager Jonathan Mitchell, who had discussed the matter with the party, went ahead and presented the objection to the council that because utilities like water and sewer and electricity are not actually physically disconnected and reconnected when residency of a property changes, it is misleading to charge a “connection” fee. The party suggested the council either change the name to something that better describes the fee, or suspend charging it.
“The fee has been charged to thousands of customers for as many years as I can remember,” said Councilperson Nancy Farmer, “and I can’t recall anyone ever complaining about it before.”
Councilperson Mike Aylward agreed, adding, “Because he did not think it was important enough to be here, I think we should just move on.”
Ambulance bids presented
EMS Director Scott Fleming presented bids received from three ambulance companies. Prior to the last meeting, the council had seen three models that the department was considering, AEG, Lifeline, and Osage. Fleming recommended purchasing the Osage model, priced at $179,972, which the city will pay in cash from funds that have been set aside in anticipation of replacing the current obsolete unit.
Fleming responded to questions over his recommendation. Some council members had felt the AEG model was preferable, even though the price was higher. Scott agreed that the AEG was a good vehicle, but that the Osage was comparable, and his past experience working with the Osage representative gave him confidence that future service of the unit would be close and easy to access.
“ If you have a problem, 99 percent of time he can diagnose it over the phone and you can fix it right there,” he said. Service is available in Wichita, he added, and if it had to go back to the manufacturer for any reason, Osage is built in Linn, Mo. The nearest dealer of AEG, by contrast, is in Columbia, Mo., and it is built in South Carolina.
EMS technicians travelled to Larned, where the EMS department there uses and Osage unit that closely specs out like what Hoisington has requested, he added. They were in agreement that they preferred the Osage unit.
Aylward inquired how much of the equipment in the current unit would be transferrable to the new unit. Fleming assured him that all would be transferred, and no additional expenses would be incurred. The price also reflected lettering of the new ambulance. The council approved the purchase, and delivery in June.
The question of what would become of the existing unit was quickly answered. Mitchell researched what similar units were being sold for at online auction sites and found a range of $3,000 to $7,000 was common. Trade in value was $4,000 with osage. But Fleming, who also works with a company called Lifeteam at Newton presented a verbal offer from the company to purchase the unit for $8,200. Lifeteam will be responsible for removing all lettering, and is also willing to wait for delivery until after Hoisington’s new ambulance has been delivered. The company fixes up old ambulances and uses them for transport services. The council approved the sale to Lifeteam.
Election cycle progress
With that, attention again turned to changes to the election cycle. Mitchell presented a simple poll he had created, and asked the council for feedback and direction for how it should be distributed to the public. Options included printing in the Hoisington Dispatch, which the city would be charged the advertisement rate for, and printing inserts to add to the February city billing.
Some council members objected to adding statistics concerning the number of communities that have changed to an exclusively at-large election format, arguing that it seemed to attempt to sway decisions in that direction. The rest of the council agreed to leave that information off the poll, and to condense it to the decision at hand. They also agreed the expense of a newspaper ad was more than the council was prepared to spend, and that distribution through city bills, with extra fliers available at the city offices was sufficient to determine the public’s opinion on the matter.
The deadline for replying to the poll coincides with the billing due date, Feb. 17, which will provide Mitchell with enough time to report to the council the findings at the second meeting in February, he said.
Other items of discussion and actions taken included:
* Mitchell presented three options for HVAC upgrades from 360. The first and most expensive option called for a fully-engineered upgrade that would not be completed in 2016. The second and third options were scaled back with partial re engineering. It was determined that the second option would provide the most benefit to the city in a timely manner, so the council approved moving forward. Mitchell will bring back a contract for approval at the next meeting.
* The State of Kansas asked Mitchell to appoint a work team from the Hoisington community to work on the upcoming flood mapping project. The city will join Lyons as the two largest communities to be affected by the watershed project. A team of five was decided upon, including two governing body members, one planning commission member, and two at-large community members. Brian Wilborn and Jim Sekavec volunteered to serve. The city hopes to have the rest of the team decided in advance of an upcoming meeting called by the state that will be held in Lyons in February.
* Mitchell and City Clerk Donita Crutcher will complete a mock meeting with iPads in early February, and will present the tablets to city council members later that month, with an eye towards implementation of paperless meetings in March. Some council members are still reluctant to make the switch, but were encouraged to attend training nonetheless.
The Hoisington City Council meets next at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 8.