Arma City Council members agreed to put some bite behind their bark regarding nuisance properties.
The properties at 305 E. Perry, owned by Kent House, and 305 E. Main, owned by Marge Hallacy, have been on several council agendas, and council members agreed Monday they are not seeing desired progress.
City Attorney Rick Smith said the House family was unable to be present, but had contacted him and said some demolition work has been done and they intend to take the remainder and turn it into a habitable structure.
A neighbor, who did not identify herself by name, said the structure has been an ongoing problem.
“All I want to say is this has been that way for years,” she said, adding that she sees armadillos, snakes, foxes and other varmints. “They say they’re going to fix it up, but I wouldn’t even let my dog live in that house.”“If I lived next to it and saw varmints coming across my yard, I’d be upset too,” said council member Dick Cleland.
Mayor Buddy Bualle said the original deadline was last fall, and Smith said he would notify the family of the council’s intent to send out the property clean up for bids if the homeowners are not present with very specific information at the next meeting.
Hallacy was present for the discussion of 305 E. Main, and council members expressed frustration with the ongoing timeline there as well.
“We’re working on it,” Hallacy said. “I know it will be done the first of August - before Homecoming.”
Hallacy said if she couldn’t do it herself she would hire it done, and council member Johnnie Logiudici asked whether she had contacted someone to do so yet.
“From what I’ve seen of the house on your property, less progress has been made than on the House property,” Bualle told Hallacy, adding that hers also was scheduled to be done by Homecoming last fall.
Page 2 of 3 - Brenda Banks said she is a neighbor of 305 E. Main and the situation has been ongoing for 20 years.
“I’ve lived next door to that property for 20 years. Her property devalues my property and has for 20 years,” Banks said. “If you give her another month to fix the property, I would like to know exactly what she has to have done.”Banks asked that the city send a letter and bid out that property’s clean up as well.
Hallacy said she plans in the next month to fix the roof, windows, siding, painting, front porch and to have the yard clean up.
“If it is not completed by Aug. 1, we move to the next step,” Smith told Hallacy.
Council member Ray Vail said sometimes the city’s work feels like lip service.
“We need to put some bite behind our letters,” he added.
Smith said the city can only require a certain among or compliance, including habitable and in safe condition, but cannot necessarily regulate every factor.
“What I have a problem with is we gave you a year,” said Cleland. “Even though you aren’t living there, there’s still varmints.”
Hallacy said there aren’t any varmints, and Cleland replied that the project isn’t moving quickly enough.
The council then voted that the issue must be resolved by Aug. 5 or the city will proceed to the next step in the process.
They also voted to proceed with demolition at 506 E. Washington under Section 12 of Ordinance 465.
In other business, Bualle discussed the 2014 budget and noted that the city collects a franchise fee from some corporations, including Kansas Gas Company.
He said the city currently collects a 1.5 percent franchise fee from the gas company, but other communities charge as much as 5 percent.
“Even though it would be a source of revenue, I’m going to recommend we don’t pursue it at this point,” Bualle said, adding that other rates have gone up around the community and it would be an additional burden on Arma’s residents and taxpayers.
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Bualle said collecting additional revenue on the franchise fee didn’t seem necessary in the scheme of the budget, which plans for fairly flat revenue and expenditures.
“My goal was to try to keep expenditures as flat as possible,” Bualle said. “We’re almost identical in 2014 to 2013.”
He said the city is looking at a budget of approximately $3,150,000, or a mill levy of about 25.989 mills, of which four are for sewer.
Bualle said the final calculations may change a tiny bit, but the end result will be very close.
Bualle talked about a few places within the budget where he has proposed some adjustments between funds, and he said the accountant will put numbers into the budget for the city to approve in coming meetings.
“It would be nice if valuation would go up and generate more money, but this time it’s not happening,” he said.
Librarian Brenda Banks reported that 968 items were used in the library during the month of June, during which children also read book after book for the summer reading program. Some of the most popular series were Fancy Nancy and Barbie books. Teen activities begin in July.
The council also approved a water adjustment for Dick Cleland. The monthly meter average is $15.88 and Cleland’s bill was $762.03. The city offers splits in circumstances such as leaks, and approved charging Cleland his average plus half for a total of $388.96. The city absorbed $373.07.
Police Chief Al Combs reported the new truck is supposed to be ready Wednesday evening.