Buyout nearly complete

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Iola is nearing the end of its flood buyout and demolition project.
Code services officer Jeff Bauer told Iola commissioners Tuesday that work is nearly complete for cleanup of 18 more demolished houses.
All told, the city has purchased 103 properties containing houses or other structures damaged in the 2007 flood. The structures have been moved, leaving nothing but trees and grass.
Micky Davis, program administrator for the buyout project, hopes the city can purchase as many as 10 more flood-damaged properties, Bauer said.
Owners of the remaining 10 properties have yet to clear titles to their properties, so it’s not known whether the city will be able to purchase them. If not, commissioners will likely be forced to have the properties condemned and demolished. A property owner would not receive funding in those cases.
In a related matter, Bauer said Midland Wrecking of Lenexa is more than halfway through its cleanup of 18 demolished homes purchased in the buyout.
“They hope to be done by the end of the week, although the rain may have slowed them some,” Bauer told the Register this morning.
Commissioners also expressed an interest in beginning a second buyout program. The second round would be for property owners in the city’s flood zones but not eligible for the first buyout program because they either weren’t damaged in the 2007 flood, or the damage was too minimal to meet state and federal thresholds for the first buyout.
In order to qualify for grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — a virtual necessity — the city must conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
The analysis would determine how much money would be spent to buy properties in the flood zone, compared to the hypothetical cleanup or repair costs required if those properties were to be flooded in the future.
The analysis is mandatory to attract more FEMA funding, City Administrator Judy Brigham explained.
The second round of buyouts would not incorporate state funds, which means the city would need to chip in more to buy the properties if the buyouts continue, Brigham said.
Under the first buyout program, the city was responsible for 5 percent of the costs, with FEMA paying 75 percent and the state 20 percent. With the second round, FEMA would still pay 75 percent, and the city be responsible for the remaining 25 percent of the total costs.
“That’s what the cost-benefit analysis is for,” Brigham said.

THE CITY renewed its natural gas supply contracts for one year with Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, Inc. and N & B Enterprises, Inc.
A sticking point in negotiations, transportation costs for N & B gas, were alleviated when N & B agreed to reduce the transportation fee to 12 cents per thousand cubic feet (MCF), a price consistent with what the city pays Southern Star.
In a related matter, commissioners approved a contract with Russell Stover Candies for the candy manufacturer to purchase a portion of its natural gas each year at a fixed price. Doing so enables Russell Stover to better set its annual budget.
The option is available for any large-scale natural gas customer, commissioners noted.
Commissioners also tabled discussions on proposed changes to its contract to remain a part of the Kansas Power Pool.
Contracts also were approved with:
— The Iola Municipal Band, for $6,500 for the band to perform its weekly concerts at the courthouse bandstand.
— Hans J. Fischer Architects of Lawrence, for $65,856 for its design and oversight of an $800,000 renovation to the Iola Public Library.
— Kings Construction of Oskaloosa, for $119,956 to extend Cottonwood Street to the north another 600 feet through what used to be a portion of Cedarbrook Golf Course. Extending the street will accommodate construction of a new housing complex for senior citizens. Commissioners hope to acquire state grant funding for the extension; otherwise the city will use money from its sales tax revenues earmarked for streets.

ASSISTANT City Administrator Corey Schinstock showed commissioners options the city has to better mark the Prairie Spirit Trail’s intersection with North State Street.
Schinstock showed large pedestrian crosswalk signs that would cost a combined $539.70, plus even larger signs that would be positioned farther from the crossing.
Schinstock said he is awaiting a quote on a light signal, which could cost as much as $70,000.
Schinstock urged commissioners to consider pursuing a grant if they favored the light signal because of its cost.

SIGG’S AUTO Parts has received a Regional Business Excellence Award from the Kansas Department of Commerce, commissioners were told.
Sigg’s was one of 179 businesses nominated for recognition from the Commerce Department. Twenty-eight received the regional honors. Two other local entities, The Family Physicians and Hope Unlimited, received Merit Awards.