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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Parker treasurer asks council to 'pace' itself on spending

Workers with Spencer Concrete of Paola finish edges and remove forms on a 170-foot-long section of sidewalk on the east side of Center Street in Parker on Aug. 14. The project was part of a Linn County sidewalk grant that saw contributions from both the county, the city of Parker, and property owner Chrisy Byerley. The crew also poured a concrete ramp from Main Street to the east side of the Parker Library, where the library board is expected to install as parking lot. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

By Roger Sims, Journal staff

PARKER – The cost of the city of Parker’s legal action to reopen a one-block section of Walnut Street between Baptist Drive and the city’s southern limit got a little more expensive on Thursday, Aug. 10, as the Parker City Council approved a second bill of $18,000 from McClure Engineering Co., which completed a survey of property in that area.

Company representative Lee “Tuff” Hermeck, in December gave an estimate to the council of about $15,000 to complete the survey plus paper work. The city paid the company $8,000 in March for some preliminary work on the project, but the survey of Dan Gaikowski’s lots was delayed after he did not allow surveyors access to his property.

Gaikowski, owner of a metal recycling business on Walnut Street, has contended that because the city has no record of paying previous owners for the street, it was not open to the public. He has expanded the salvage yard of his business to include what was a block of Walnut Street. However, the street Gaikowski gated off was also the access to the residence of Mike Page, a former Linn County commissioner who has been pressing the council to get the street reopened.

Following a court order, a survey crew was allowed access to mark off Gaikowski’s lots, and the city’s case for condemnation is proceeding through the court system.

At the August council meeting, a recent spate of spending – including the purchase of a used tractor for $41,000 less the trade-in of the city’s old equipment – caused city Treasurer Kathy Harrison to warn the council to be cautious for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in December.

Harrison told the council the city was over budget on several line items. “We need to pace ourselves a little bit,” she added, saying that the city needed to come in under the budgeted amount.

In a budget hearing at the beginning of the meeting, the council approved a budget that met revenue-neutral guidelines with the city’s tax rate at 31.3 mills for 2024, down from about 34.6 mills for 2023.

A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation. Kansas has a statewide assessment percentage of 11.5% for residences, so a house with an appraised market value of $100,000 would have a tax assessment value of $11,500. If the tax rate on that residence is one mill, the tax levied would be $11.50.

The council also after discussing the issue for several months voted to adopt an ordinance that would establish truck routes as well as fines for drivers who didn’t use them.

The streets and portions thereof designated as truck routes in the city limits include Center Street (which is also County Road 1077), South Street between Center Street and Walnut Street, and Walnut Street south of South Street. The last two sections of streets lead to Gaikowski’s scrap yard.

County Road 1077 also follows Woodward Street going east out of the city, and west of the city limits it becomes 2100 Road, which goes west toward the Anderson County line and Greeley. Because of that Woodward Street has a significant amount of heavy truck traffic, however, it was not included in the ordinance.

The council also discussed continuing problems with vandalism at the city lake, including spray painting, as well as reckless driving there.

Police Chief Craig Haley said there had been some discussion about installing a camera at the lake because patrolling there doesn’t seem to work. He said as soon as he or officer Cody Kiser drives away from patrolling, people will tear things up.

In other business, the council:

  • Learned that the city received a $500 grant from WalMart to install a solar-powered flashing pedestrian crosswalk sign at the intersection of Center and Woodward street on the corner where Parker Elementary School is located. The cost of the sign is about $800. To cover the remaining cost of that sign plus truck route signs, the council approved budgeting $1,500.

  • Voted to donate $300 to Parker Day, up from $250 last year.

  • Learned that a broken children’s slide in Heritage Park would be difficult to replace. City maintenance worker Dever Scott will put up warning tape around the slide and remove steps to discourage people from using it.

  • Approved waiving a late fee on an overdue water bill for 125 W. Kimball on a split 4-1 vote. The former tenant of the property left owing a large unpaid bill. The property owner paid the bill but requested the late fee waiver.

  • Discussed whether to repair the city skid-steer loader at a cost of nearly $800 for parts and a labor charge of $75 an hour. Scott argued that once it was fixed, the hydraulic system would continue to leak, and he suggested selling it, but Councilman Jason Webber said the city shouldn’t get rid of it. However a motion by Webber to repair the loader failed on a 3-2 vote.

  • Approved extending the employment of temporary maintenance worker Jake Lee through the end of September.

  • Learned that water and sewer system operator Chad Page intends to seek an increase for his contract services. He said he has been working under the same price structure for as many as 12 years and is looking to increase by as much as 15%.

  • Learned that Chief Haley is looking to get prices for radios for the patrol cars from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. The county recently dropped analog radios in favor of digital, and several cities in the county are looking to catch up.

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