PAWNEE ROCK — Concerns over how ordinance violations are presented to the public continued to be a hot-button issue with city council members in Pawnee Rock Tuesday night. Complaints about current violation notice procedure dominated the meeting.
The discussion was a continuation of one that began at a special meeting held Aug. 21.
At the meeting, FEMA representative Steve Samuelson noted that floodplain rules and regulations are complicated to understand, and he hoped to shed light on issues community members were having with citations received. He said it was common practice for FEMA to conduct an audit on communities recently recovered from an event. He offered examples of how residents and city clerks could work together.
One resident with a FEMA citation, Terry Mead, was there. Mead is the partner of council member Chris Mead.
Samuelson asked and was granted permission to use Mead’s situation as an example. He has a pile of wood chips on his property, which Samuelson determined posed a risk because they are buoyant and could float away in a flood event. By ensuring material or items stored on ground in the floodplain would be adequately secured so it won’t float away, the city could provide permits to residents, bringing them into compliance with FEMA regulations, he said. He offered a few suggestions, which Mead agreed he could take into consideration.
Should a city ignore violations and efforts aren’t made to ensure residents take the rules to heart, FEMA can deny participation in the federal flood insurance program for all residents within the city limits. For Pawnee Rock, that could make it impossible for residents to get mortgages on properties since a large number of residences lie within the floodplain.
Samuelson shared what typically happens when FEMA determines a citation is warranted. First, FEMA documents a violation, then the resident is notified through the city and the steps needed to remedy the violation are provided. He said usually a friendly notice is given first, followed by increasingly stern notices, which, if not heeded, would ultimately result in a summons to court.
The illustration raised questions about how city ordinance violations are dealt with, and council member Chris Smith suggested Pawnee Rock’s procedures were not in line with other governing bodies. Currently, Pawnee Rock requires only one written or verbal notice of a violation of city ordinance before a resident can be summoned to municipal court.
Council member Smith again tried to introduce discussion concerning the need to update the city ordinance and make changes to procedures for notifying the public of violations. She shared verbiage from a state statute, suggesting the city’s ordinance needs to be more in line with the state. Her suggestions were met with pushback by the mayor and Bader.
They were also met with an impassioned response by the city’s ordinance officer and head of maintenance Shane Bowman following his report. He read from the city’s ordinance book, and then stated that he is simply the agent of the city, and he is doing his job as outlined in the ordinances.
“It’s my job to go out there and by this book say, “Hey, this is what it says. I sent you a letter. You take care of it,” he said. “And you know what I get out of it? I get death threats, I’ve had somebody threaten to put me in the hospital, and I’ve learned that somebody is telling everybody that if I don’t back off, he’s going to do bodily injury to me. I’ve had two dogs poisoned, and my truck is over there right now, and the fuel tank’s been poisoned. That’s what I put up with to help try to keep the city clean.”
Chris Smith again took up her point about the need to revisit the ordinances and ensure they are up to date in line with other communities. She offered to bring information from the Kansas League of Municipalities that provides step-by-step instructions. Bowman was in agreement.
In related action, McCowan presented a violation checklist that City Clerk Sharon Anglemeyer plans to begin including in her filing system. The form will be included with every ordinance complaint that goes through the city to ensure all requirements have been met, and detailing dates and persons involved. McCowan asked members to take the form home for consideration, and if changes need to be made, come back with suggestions at the October meeting.
Question concerning appeals
Tuesday night, Link asked that an email from City Attorney Ron Smith dated Aug. 14 be read. She also wanted to know why the city attorney was informed about the special meeting a week in advance, but council members were not informed until 24 hours prior. McCowan responded by law she only needed to provide 24 hours notice, and she was waiting to find out if Samuelson could make it to the meeting first. She then asked Bader to read the email.
Attorney Ron Smith’s email provided background concerning city ordinances revised in 2011 that laid out the formation of a city planning commission which would also double as a board of zoning appeals. However, there are no zoning regulations included in the ordinances. Smith suggested in his email that the council would likely conclude creating a city plan and city zoning would be cost prohibitive.
“It makes sense that you cannot have appeals for zoning regulations that are not on the books,”Smith wrote.
But, this lack of planning and zoning doesn’t override FEMA’s requirements concerning regulations of the floodplain, Smith’s email went on. In short, those wanting to develop land in the city for any reason must get a permit from FEMA, not from the City of Pawnee Rock. The city clerk may assist them. The city council has no say in approval of FEMA permits, and the city cannot make any exceptions or variances contrary to FEMA regulations.
But Link was not convinced, and stated she was asking for a board of appeals, not a zoning board, and that she felt citizens’ due process was being violated.
Meeting at a glance
Here’s a quick look at what happened Tuesday night at the Pawnee Rock City Council meeting:
• Minutes from the July 29 special meeting, Aug. 5 regular meeting, and Aug. 21 special meeting were presented. The minutes for July 29 were tabled until council member Phyllis Agee could be present.
Council member Chris Mead provided a correction to the Aug. 5 minutes concerning a motion she made requesting the establishment of a board of appeals. Janis Link also asked for a correction concerning wording about a meeting proposed in July. The minutes were accepted with corrections.
Concerning the Aug. 21 minutes Smith questioned the wording describing a visit from Samuelson, a FEMA consultant, that included detailed information pertaining to discussion about a citation received by her husband, Terry Mead. Mead allowed Samuelson to elaborate on the issue at that meeting to provide an example of procedure only. Mead took issue, stating that the level of detail provided was inappropriate for meeting minutes. Link also objected to the minutes, stating that the topics that were discussed at the meeting were not what the council had agreed to meet about. After further discussion, two council members, Deb Bader and Paul Umble, were in favor of accepting the minutes as presented, and Chris Mead and Joyce Link were opposed. Mayor Linda McCowan broke the tie, accepting the minutes.
• Bader presented a bid from Kansas Correctional Industries for new street signs. Options for 24-inch and 30-inch signs were provided. The council approved the bid for 24-inch signs, and directed Bader to compare cost and shipping for brackets and report back.
• Mayor McCowan shared information concerning an upcoming tri-county event celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail. Joyce Link and community member Dawn Brown volunteered to head up a committee to organize a city-sponsored event to be included in promotional materials.
• Reports were received from fire and maintenance department heads.
• Discussed a contract for a roofing project for the city building. The project was approved months ago and has not been started. The council ordered a letter to be sent informing the contractor they have 30 days to complete the project before action is taken to find another contractor.
• The council met briefly in executive session and returned, taking action to grant the City Clerk Sharon Anglemeyer a $1 per hour raise, effective immediately.