City rejects cleanup extension

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Two piles of debris near Kathy Miller’s home on South First Street have been largely untouched since houses on the lots were demolished this spring. The city gave a wrecking company until Friday to have the properties cleared or else face stiff fines.

The clock is ticking for a wrecking company to clear 18 demolished houses in Iola, or face a hefty fine starting Saturday.
Iola commissioners denied Tuesday a request from Midland Wrecking Company of Lenexa to extend its deadline to clear the demolished houses, part of the city’s buyout of flood-damaged properties.
The request cited “numerous rain days” and other subsequent delays, where the soft ground prevented the company from moving its heavy equipment.
“These conditions have had a real and material effect in our being able to prosecute the work in an efficient manner,” the company wrote in its request.
“I’m not real sympathetic,” Mayor Bill Maness responded. “Yes, they had rain, but they had clear weather all last week. This work shouldn’t take that long.”
The contract gave the company 60 calendar days, beginning March 31, to demolish the homes, remove the debris, flatten and smooth over the emptied lots and plant grass seed.
All of the houses were torn down in short order, but none of the properties have been cleared.
Commissioners heard a plea from Kathy Miller, who lives at 423 S. First St. and has two demolished houses on her block.
“My front porch directly faces one of the piles,” she said.
Miller said her husband’s health problems may be exacerbated by mold and dust from the demolished houses — the debris is so close to her house that she had to move some boards in order to mow her lawn — and asked that the city prompt the company to clean its mess.
If Midland does not meet its Friday deadline, the company is subject to liquidated damages, to the tune of $500 a day.
Commissioner Bill Shirley suggested that when the company resumes its work — Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Bauer said no trucks have rolled into town yet today — that the cleanup begin at the two demolished homes near Miller on South First.

COMMISSIONERS formally extended by three years its Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.
The plan refunds the difference in property taxes an Iola home or business owner would pay if he substantially improved his property’s value.
Property owners essentially would pay no added property taxes for the first six years after the improvements, then receive 80-, 60-, 40- and 20-percent rebates over years seven through 10. The improved properties would be taxed at their full appraised value from the 11th year forward.
Neighborhoods between Spruce and Garfield streets are eligible in the new plan.
The city also incorporated language dealing with applications for tax rebates on improved properties outside the designated areas.
In those exceptions, the city would schedule a public hearing, and must receive permission from Allen County, USD 257 and Allen County Community College before they are approved.
Approving rebates for properties outside the designated zones became a sticking point last year for Allen County commissioners.
City commissioners agreed that the new plan’s language should alleviate those concerns.

THE CITY WILL dispense $36,800 to eight local groups with money Iola receives in transient guest taxes, from surcharges to motel users over the past year.
The Iola Area Chamber of Commerce will receive $26,000, including $5,000 for new signage at the town entrances; the Buster Keaton Committee gets $5,000; Farm-City Days will get $1,500; the Allen County Fair, a youth basketball tournament and Sesquicentennial Committee will receive $1,000 apiece; the Veterans Day Committee gets $800; and the Iola Community Theatre $500.
The disbursements were recommended by the city’s Convention and Tourism Committee.

A BOOT BLOCK to raise funds for the Kansas Special Olympics was approved. Police officers will greet motorists along Madison Street in downtown Iola from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 13, organizer Brian Donovan said.
In a separate matter, commissioners agreed to a request from Don George, representing the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, to make available a stretch of land along the Neosho River for paddlefish snagging.
The city declared this week as “Iola Fillies Week” in recognition of the Iola High softball team, which has qualified for the Class 4A State Softball Tournament.
Iola’s bid for a state championship begins Friday evening in Salina, where the Fillies will play Ottawa.
Members of the softball team and head coach Vince Coons stopped by the meeting while the declaration was read.

BRIAN CRITES, the city’s animal control officer, has resigned. His last day was Tuesday.
Iolan Joe Hess asked both city and county commissioners about the potential of building a new 911 dispatch center on the north side of the courthouse square.
Hess’ proposal includes a two-story structure capable of housing dispatchers, an office for the county’s emergency medical services director and office space for police functions or emergency training.
Hess also proposed the county and city work under one EMS umbrella, with the county designating the city as the administrator of all ambulance activities within Iola.
Hess said that sharing a facility would do much to lessen the number of arguments between the two entities.
Commissioners promised to consider his suggestions.