In other business Tuesday night, the Great Bend City Council:
• Approved requests from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes regarding requests for the Party in the Park to be held on Sept. 21. Among the requests were the closing of 17th Street Terrace west of McKinley Street to White Sands Drive from 7 a.m. to midnight to utilize it for extra parking and allowing one way traffic to be directed to the west, only allow one way traffic to go clockwise through Veterans Memorial Park that day, allow the discharge of fireworks in Vets on that day, and allow people to be in the park after midnight for clean up of the area.
• Approved a cereal-malt beverage licenses for the Big Bend Bike Rally to be held on Sept. 28, and a for the for the Pizza Huts at 2006 Main Street and 4101 10th Street due to change of ownership.
• Approved requests from David LeRoy representing the Great Bend Renaissance Faire, including allowing people to be in Brit Spaugh Park after midnight on Sept. 27 and 28. Other requests included a contribution of $500 for promotional costs, a snow fence, on-site camping for vendors, and trash removal during and after the event. Numerous staff members have met with LeRoy to work on the details of the event, which will take place at the Zoo.
• By a 5-3 vote approved a motion to take no further action regarding traffic control devices at the intersection of Broadway and Harrison. City Engineer Robert Winiecke said in the two years since the first street island east of the intersection was eliminated for a turning lane and two large trees were removed, the traffic flow through the intersection has stayed just about the same. Also in that time, accidents there have not been related to the traffic control system, indicating the measures in place are working.
However, council member Dana Dawson said he has fought for years to have a stop light at the intersection and still thinks one is needed. He said he feels the city staff has tried to kill the idea and that the council is doing residents a disservice by not installing the traffic signal.
He also said the majority of Great Bend residents would approve of the light, even if there is not state funding and the city would have to pay for all of the it. He along with Randy Myers and Joel Jackson opposed the motion.
• Approved a request from Terry’s Residential Design on behalf of Haz Mat Response requesting an additional 35 feet of frontage on the east boundary in addition to the property that the city had agreed to sell to them next to Fire Station 2 on West 10th Street. The company wanted to purchase additional land from another property owner on back side of the tract, but that owner didn’t want to sell. The space is needed to meet their building requirements and parking.
• Authorized Mayor Mike Allison to sign a grant agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration for the completion of a Wildlife Hazard Assessment at the Great Bend Municipal Airport. The city agrees to pay 10 percent of the costs being $9,888 of the total of $98,875. The FAA is requiring that the city have the study done, said Airport Manager Martin Miller. Although there have been no bird-plane incidents here, it has been an issue elsewhere.
• Approved a request made by council member Randy Myers that portable restrooms be placed at Stone Lake. One would be on the south side of the lake and one on the north side of the lake. The city will purchase them for $1,000 each and will pay Jim’s Septic Service $360 per month to service them.
They will be anchored down but only in place for six months out of the year during the spring and summer. Should vandalism become a problem, they will be removed and not returned.
• Approved a request for incremental steps to alleviate parking problems on the north side of 21st Street between Harrison Street and Tyler Street near Great Bend Middle School when school is in session. Winiecke said there have been complaints from area residents about people parking in front of their driveways during school hours.
The steps to be taken include memos being sent to staff and parents advising them of the problem, stepped up enforcement and the painting of parking stalls and curbing on the north side of 21st between Harrison and Tyler. As a last resort, “no parking during school hours” signs could be installed along the north side of the street.
The council wanted to revisit the issue again,possibly talking to the school about additional parking options. Construction on the new gymnasium at GBMS has exacerbated the problem.
• Heard Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Director Jan Peters monthly economic development report. She said she’s been named to a statewide steering committee designed to lobby for additional tax credits for developers wanting to build housing in rural areas.
• Heard an update on city activities from Partington.
Stressing that their action by no means meant the approval of new dog-control measures, the Great Bend City Council signed off Tuesday night on the report prepared by the committee appointed to study the matter.
The report contained several suggestions on which the committee took action. Committee Chairman Bob Suelter walked the council through those items.
The recommendations included:
• Restrictions on tethering dogs.
• Adding temperament testing requirement as an option for the municipal judge when a vicious dog and its owner are before the court.
• Increasing vicious dog offenses to class A misdemeanors with a maximum fine of $2,500 and one year in jail, or both.
• Stepped up patrols by the Humane Society. This was aimed at addressing the stray dog problem, which the committee divided into two parts – dogs at large (those that run away from home) and vicious dogs. Higher fines for picking up an animal from the shelter may also be considered.
• Encouraging proactive reporting from residents to prevent dangerous vicious dog incidents. The city would encourage people to call if they feel threatened or see a threatening situation, and the society would visit with them and the pet owner before things get out of control.
• Stepped up spaying or neutering requirements.
• Address adequate secure containment of dogs.
Rejected by the committee were an anti-teasing ordinance, required liability insurance for vicious dog owners, changing the requirement for a kennel license from four dogs to three and mandatory temperament testing for all dogs.
In May, Great Bend residents George and Zola Weber complained to the council about how they feared their neighbor’s pit bulls threatened their children. This ignited discussion of banning pit bulls or other ways of curbing aggressive dogs, leading to the formation of the committee.
However, the committee reached a consensus not to recommend banning any specific breed of dog. Instead, it looked at strengthening current ordinances or suggesting new ones to help curb the problem.
The panel included Zola Weber, Reggie Kern, and RaShann Southard to be the at-large members, and Joel Jackson and Edwin Roberts to be the City Council representatives. City staff selected Suelter and Police Chief Dean Akings to be the city staff representatives. The Golden Belt Humane Society selected Bobbi King and Seth Orebaugh as its representatives.
The council will address the question at later meetings.
More funding for the Humane Society
In a related matter, Golden Belt Humane Society came to the council Monday night seeking an additional $60,000 for their 2014 budget. It had already been granted $70,000 in the overall city budget approved by the council.
This was merely an informational item. No action was taken.
“That’s quite a bit, I know,” said GBHS Board member Jim Welch. But, the extra funds are needed in light of the increased work load that could result from the vicious dog committee findings.
Also, the funds would go to help increase staff salaries (from $7.25 to $10 per hour) and hire a new director ($15 per hour), and offer employee benefits. The society has six staff members, of which two are full time employees.
He also cited increased operational costs from higher electricity and gas prices, and facility upkeep.
There is also a need for a second truck. The one in use has 133,000 miles and requires a lot maintenance. Another vehicle would also allow officers to respond to two calls at once.
Fuel costs are another concern.
“We want to fulfill our responsibilities to the city,” Welch said. He added that the society has sometimes fallen short of its obligations.
Despite the city’s ongoing support for the GBHS, members of the council had some concerns with the request.
“It’s no question they need more money,” said council member Nels Lindberg. The budget is small and additional responsibilities could be added.
But, the Humane Society turned in its budget passed the deadline, and what it submitted was hard to follow and had errors, said City Administrator Howard Partington.
‘This needs some work,” he said.
He referred to an agreement reached between the city and the society in 2005 where the society said it would clean up its act, report to the council regularly and provide regular documentation, adding they haven’t always followed through on the deal. At the time, GBHS was behind in its bills and had other planning problems.
Also in 2005, money was included to increase wages.
“The city has always wanted to be a partner with the Humane Society,” he said. But, “there are some accountability issues.”
Before voting on any increase, council members wanted to see an accurate budget, an accounting of how the money will be spent, a capital outlay plan and a commitment to establish a reserve fund. They want to be assured this situation would not arise again.
There was one more issue. The GBHS covers all of Barton County. The County Commission funded the agency for $16,225 this year.
Of all the calls made, about two thirds are in the Great Bend city limits. The rest are elsewhere.
It appeared to some on the council that the city was paying for more than its share. “It seems that we are slapped by the county a lot,” said council member Dana Dawson.
If the county doesn’t want to increase its allotment, Dawson said perhaps it should provide its own animal control service.
However, Welch said, he has not yet taken a request for more funds to the commission.