Details addressed

By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Register Reporter

HUMBOLDT — The city council voted during its Monday night meeting to give both Mayor Bob Sharp and City Administrator Larry Tucker authority to spend up to $10,000 of community development funds to purchase those properties within the Humboldt city limits being sold for delinquent taxes at a county auction on Aug. 19. Tucker said the city hopes, by purchasing and reselling the lots to potential home builders, it can recoup some of the expenses incurred demolishing nuisance structures on the sites.
An effort to approve new zoning regulations was sent back to the planning commission for clarification.
The lone issue is with front yard setbacks for single family residential structures on corner lots in R-2 (multifamily) residential zones.
The proposed 30-foot setback from any facing street disallows use of a small lot, said councilman Sean McReynolds. Previous rules allowed selection of either street as a front yard, requiring only one 30-foot setback. R-1 (single family) zones require only 15 feet for a front yard, Mc-Reynolds said.
The planning commission will take up the issue at its next regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at City Hall and bring back new wording to the council’s Sep. 14 meeting. For consistency, proposed subdivision regulations were sent back as well. Approval of the corresponding zoning map was tabled.

IN OTHER news, according to a federal study, Tucker said, 40 percent of Americans do not have adequate Internet access, “either because of cost or because they do not have access to the infrastructure they need.”
Tucker is looking into applying for a portion of the $7.4 billion in federal funds the government has set aside to expand broadband Internet access to rural communities across the country. Tucker hopes to have an application addressing the needs of Southeast Kansas submitted by the end of December.
A 9,000 square foot as-yet-unnamed retail store is interested in building on land proposed for purchase by the city of Humboldt at the southeast corner of old U.S. 169 and Hwy. 224 The city will move to annex that land should the proposal go through.
The city square will get two new lights, a regular street lamp at a designated sidewalk cut across the street from the Lion’s Den and a special directed light to illuminate much of the square from the corner of Bridge and Eighth streets.
A proposal by Tucker to reduce traffic speeds in the central business district to 20 miles per hour and adjacent to the new swimming pool and Manion/Sweatt fields to 25 mph was sent back for reconsideration.
“I’d like to see Tank Farm Road at at least 30 miles per hour,” said Sharp, who noted along with others that the ball fields were used for a limited time during the year yet the road provided regular farm access throughout the year.
“I think (reducing speed on Ninth Street) will be detrimental from an economic standpoint,” McReynolds said.
Chief of Police Dan Onnen said the speed limit reductions, especially around the schools, were proposed to address safety and crossing issues. Onnen said the playground at the elementary school is used year round, especially in the evening hours in summer.
Tucker added that Twelfth Street is a proposed bike lane, and will soon be busy year round as well.
Councilman Dan Julich asked for a proposal considering the various costs of traffic control devices including manually operated crossing lights and lighted and non-lighted speed reduction signs tied to hours of operation at the schools. The council agreed.
Speed limits in Humboldt will remain at 30 mph unless otherwise posted, Onnen said.
On other streets, Kansas Department of Transportation representative Darrin Petrosky said no new projects would be taken on this year due to budget restraints, but planned projects would continue.
“We’ll be making some repairs to the three foot wide shoulders on US 169 from Minnesota Road to the (south) county line,” Petrosky said. In addition, he said, patching portions of K-224 and K-223 will continue as scheduled.
“This summer we will also be overlaying U.S. 54 from the Allen County line to Fort Scott,” Petrosky said. That work should begin in August.
Tucker told Petrosky, “We need to let our representatives know that 169 is important to southeast Kansas. We’re a direct route from Kansas City to Tulsa. It would be nice if 169 could be widened to four lanes.”
“Yes, it would,” Petrosky answered.
An annual audit of the city’s finances showed no unwarranted expenditures, said Neil Phillips of Jarred, Gilmore and Phillips, Certified Public Accountants.
An accounting glitch had the city billing some sewer work incorrectly, said Tucker, resulting in the audit’s showing a negative balance in that account. Phillips addressed that by reminding the council that work budgeted in a particular fiscal year had to be paid out in that fiscal year, regardless of when the actual work was done. In addition, since some of the work was grant funded, different regulations apply and the negative balance is “not deemed to be a statutory violation” he said.
Phillips also said that Humboldt city staff should be cross-trained, to ensure “that accounting duties are taken on by a different employee” when the designated accountant goes on vacation or is otherwise unavailable. Because the staff is so small, he said, “The fiduciary responsibility on that person is really high.”
Also, the city had some “unsupported expenses,” basically lost receipts on its charge records, he said. Follow proper protocol and keep receipts, he reminded the council.
The swimming pool was probably the city’s biggest debt, because the entire project was financed, Phillips said.
“Clear out in 2029 we’ll get that pool paid off,” he said. “We’re trying to set up a reserve fund so that next time we don’t have to issue taxes or debt to do improvements to the swimming pool.” The reserve currently has $3,750 in it.
One oddity on the audit that Phillips pointed out is in the city’s “component units.” Those are agencies supported by, yet somewhat independent of, the city, including the historical society, the library and cemetery.
Even though the library foundation received a large endowment this year, that money is unavailable for daily operations and salaries, Phillips pointed out. “They don’t have access to this,” he said. However accounting rules require the money to be shown in the overall library budget, he said.
Overall, Phillips said, the city is sitting well, financially.
Two items ahead “that future lenders might want to know about” include the water line replacement project wherein the city has taken out a $1 million loan and a purchase agreement with Emprise Bank for the building on the square.