As a means to protect the City of Great Bend and assure all residents are equally represented, the City Council Monday night approved an ordinance outlining how it can fill vacancies on the governing body (made up of the council and the mayor), specifically those created by a “non-functioning” member.
“The city currently has no clear definition of what creates a vacancy or any procedure to address the situation where a person is elected to a position on the governing body but fails or refuses to accept the office, take the oath and/or attend meetings,” City Attorney Allen Glendenning said. This either leaves a portion of the citizenry not fully represented or leaves the city with only the cumbersome, lengthy and expensive processes of ouster or a recall election.
Without the ordinance, the process to replace a council member is governed by Kansas state statutes. These require the recall election initiated by the residents of the ward in question.
Glendenning said the ordinance allows for the replacement of non-qualifying or non-functioning members, which is much less cumbersome and expensive. It would allow the governing body to “promptly and efficiently replace a non-qualifying or non-functioning member.”
The ordinance has four sections:
• Mayor. If a vacancy in the office of mayor occurs by reason of acceptance of an incompatible office, resignation, death, removal from office, removal from the city, failure or refusal to qualify or otherwise, the president of the council shall become mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term and a vacancy shall occur in the office of the council member becoming mayor.
• Council members. If a vacancy in the council occurs by the same reasons, the mayor, by and with the advice and consent of the remaining council members, shall appoint a suitable elector from the ward in which the vacancy occurs to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.
• Vacancy created by failure to timely qualify after election. If any person elected as mayor or council member fails or refuses to take and subscribe the required oath or affirmation, or otherwise neglects or refuses to qualify, within 30 days after election, such person shall be deemed to have refused to accept such office and a vacancy shall exist and shall be filled.
• Vacancy created by failure to attend. If any person elected as mayor or council member fails to attend four consecutive regular meetings of the City Council without an excuse accepted by the governing body, such person shall be deemed to have resigned, and a vacancy shall exist and be filled.
The original proposed ordinance called for governing body action if a member had three consecutive non-excused absences. That was amended to four, and requires a majority of the other members to sign off on the matter.
Some on the council asked if the new ordinance could be expanded to include what non-excused meant. However, Glendenning said that was not feasible.
Sparking the ordinance was the continued absence of Ward 4 Councilman Brock McPherson, officials said. The city’s four wards each has two council representatives, leaving Ward 4 with only one who attends meetings regularly, Natalie Towns.
Council members serve two-year terms and Towns is up for reelection Nov. 7. But, McPherson’s post isn’t on the ballot until 2024.
Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance
Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:
• Approved a short-term rental ordinance.
This covers properties rented to transient occupants for periods of less than 30 days so as to “minimize the adverse effects of short-term rental uses on surrounding residential properties and neighborhoods, and to preserve the character, integrity, and stability of residential neighborhoods in which short-term rental properties are located.” The owner may or may not be present.
This covers properties referred to as Airbnbs. It is not intended to regulate hotels, motels, lodging houses or hospitals.
Licensing and permits will be required.
• Approved a change order for the skatepark resurfacing project.
When excavations began to replace the concrete surface of the Great Bend Skatepark at Brit Spaugh Park, the crews found an unwelcome surprise that will cost the city about $40,000, Interim City Administrator Logan Burns told the City Council Monday night.
Burns recommended approval of a change order from Stone Sand for removal of soils for $10,000 and supply and place clean dirt/concrete screening for $29,700, for a total of $39.700. The council approved it.
To accommodate the additional costs, without tapping Quality of Life sale tax money, options are to take monies from Park Maintenance where they have a balance of $50,000.
Our other options are using Federal Emergency Management Agency flood disaster funds of $51,026.56 and FEMA walking bridge reimbursement of $34,925.59.
Any of these funds or a combination of any can be used to cover the additional expense, he said.
• Approved an ordinance regarding vacancies on the governing body.
“The city currently has no clear definition of what creates a vacancy or any procedure to address the situation where a person is elected to a position on the governing body but fails or refuses to accept the office, take the oath and/or attend meetings,” said City Attorney Allen Glendenning. “This either leaves a portion of the citizenry not fully represented or leaves the city with only the cumbersome and expensive statutory processes of ouster or a recall election.
He said the city can pass an ordinance that allows for the replacement of non-qualifying or non-functioning members, which is much less cumbersome and expensive.
• Approved an ordinance prohibiting the harboring of chickens within the city limits.
The current city code prohibits the harboring of chickens within the city limits, City Attorney Allen Glendenning said. Recently citizens have expressed a desire to be allowed to keep “backyard chickens” within the city limits and have argued that the present code does not prohibit them.
However, it was at the May 15 meeting that Kathryn Schaffner and others addressed the council about the ordinance referencing chickens and how unclear the ordinance is written. Other citizens voiced their opinion supporting chickens in city limits.
• Approved the 2023 street chip-and-seal project bid from Circle C Paving for Chip for $308,100.
This covers a chip and seal with a fog seal top coating on residential streets on approximately 100 blocks in the Hubbard Street and Holland Street area, Public Works Director Jason Cauley said. The work should begin at the end of July or in the first part of August.
The council stressed it wanted city crews to make sure all pot holes are filled before the project starts.
• Approved the 2024 Connecting City Link Improvement Program (CCLIP) project.
The city’s CCLIP project was approved by the Kansas Department of Transportation. This includes making improvements on Main Street from the Arkansas River bridge to Second Street, and improvements to Patton Road from 10th to Ninth street, said Assistant City Engineer Hitha Kadiyala.
Under the program, the state covers 90% of construction and construction engineering, with the city covering 10%. The total cost is in the estimation stage and has not been released, Kadiyala said.
• Approved proposed lease of storage building at Great Bend Municipal Airport to Ray Christians for the storage of agricultural equipment. The lease had expired and a new one was negotiated, Airport Manager Martin Miller said.
The 10-year lease calls for an annual payment of $1,800 that can be re-negotiated every five years. Christians is responsible for the maintenance and repairs to the structure.
• Heard a report from Interim City Administrator Logan Burns. He focused on on-going city projects such as the Justice Center, Brit Spaugh Park improvements and the planned splash pad at Veterans Memorial Park.
• Approved permissions for the annual Blessed Bike Rally Aug. 18-20 in Jack Kilby Square.
This included blocking off parking stalls on the north side of Lakin Avenue between Kansas Avenue and Main on for vendors to set up and tear down, closing Lakin Avenue between Main and Kansas from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Aug. 19, and allowing individuals to stay overnight in Jack Kilby Square for security of the event.
• Approved abatements for trash and refuse violations at: 409 Chestnut St., Wayne R. Johnson;
313 Grapevine St., Maria Elena Garcia Franco; 319 Kiowa Rd., Ana G. Zuniga; 1618 Jefferson St., Max J. and Sara L. Hames; 2201 Mccormick St., Ricky Hrnandez; 2535 21st St., Evan Keenan; 201 Frey St., Doug Effertz; 222 Fruit St., Daryl W. Schartz; 1813 Morphy St., Darrell W. and Amerika L. Holden; 2433 24th St., James Thomas; 523 Morphy St., Enrique Alvarado Tamayo; 1805 8th St., M. Guadalupe Alvarado; 707 Stone St., Kevin Davison; 1715 Heizer St., Julio Cesar Palacio; 2006 26th St., Isaac J and Heather R. Enochs; 2609 Lakin Ave., Evan L. Keenan; and 719 Morphy St., Steven Favela.