GREG LOWER

Chanute city commissioners approved the 2020 budget and renewal of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program Monday evening, with no public comment.

The two issues were the subjects of separate public hearings, but no members of the public came forward to speak either for or against either of them.

The budget sets a spending limit of $57.79 million, which is 13 percent higher than last year, Commissioner Phil Chaney said, but the tax levy is an increase of less than $60,000 for the entire city. He said he challenged anyone to look at any other city’s levies in comparison to Chanute.

The millage levied is tentatively set at 40.981, an increase of 0.158 mills from the current year.

Commissioners also took action to authorize the sale of $5.21 million in bonds to finance repairs and replacement of a turbine at Power Plant No. 2, while re-financing other bonds at a savings.

Chaney said he was concerned about the current agreement with Ash Grove Cement Company to purchase electricity from the city. The current agreement expires at the end of 2021, but Chaney is concerned about whether Ash Grove continues to buy power at a discount to fund the repairs.

“This is a large chunk of money we’re throwing down at a plant that’s going to have 1 ½ years of contract,” he said.

City Attorney David Brake said the city is contractually obligated to  Westar Electric to provide excess capacity. Commissioner Sam Budreau, speaking by telephone, said the problem is multifaceted and the commission needs to move ahead with the back-up capacity.

City Manager Jeff Cantrell recommended the city wait a year to open negotiations with Ash Grove.

“Time is on our side,” he said.

In other business, the commissioners also approved an agreement for a grant to fund reconstruction of the north taxiway of the Martin Johnson airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration will provide 90 percent of the estimated $457,000 project cost. Community Services Director Ryan Follmer said the lowest of five bidders beat the engineer’s estimate by $55,000.

Commissioners approved a request for funds from the Transient Guest Tax for sign projects, although they tabled a video and mural proposal. They approved funds for another mural out of the commission’s funds, rather than from the guest tax.

“We’ve got a nice plan for two murals downtown,” Chamber Director Jane Brophy said.

The funds approved Monday total $13,500 for a welcome sign at 35th and Plummer and a billboard at US-75 and K-39, both of which were damaged by storms.

But commissioners were unsure if an additional request for $5,000 would be enough for a video and for a mural project.

The project is to paint a mural at the southeast corner of Lincoln and Main Street. Brophy said the sign is for tourists who want to take pictures of themselves at the Google Earth and it would be an alternative to standing in the middle of the intersection.

Chaney said he laughed at the Google Earth when it was constructed at the intersection years ago.

The mural project that received approval Monday is a $2,250 plan for the east side of the Opie’s restaurant. Ruthann Boatwright with Main Street Chanute said organizers wanted the project completed by the 50th anniversary of Artist Alley this year. The wall will be power-washed today and renowned international artist Ryan Christenson, also known as ARCY, will start painting Friday.

Commissioners appointed Bill Wixon as citizen-at-large on the Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee to replace Larry Pierce.

Commissioners approved resolutions to declare properties at 714 N. Grant, owned by Michael Powell, Bentonville, Ark.; 811 N. Washington, owned by Cody Falkner or Sherry Peppinger; 909 W. Walnut, owned by Tim Ammons; and 601 N. Garfield, owned by Randy Cain, Chanute, in violation of city code.

In closing comments, Commissioner Tim Fairchild urged people to be careful Thursday when children go back to school.

“Mind your driving,” he said. “Put the phone away.”

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