GREG LOWER

Chanute city commissioners voted to go ahead with plans to deploy fiber optic broadband connections to two neighborhoods that have requested it.

The commission voted 3-1 to hook up the Hillside/Sunset subdivisions and an area between 7th and 14th streets that have requested connection. Commissioner Phil Chaney voted against the motion and Commissioner Tim Fairchild was not present.

The vote authorized spending up to $551,000 for the project and to set the rate for consumers at $75 per month.

The commission voted after hearing a proposal to “pitch” the project to residents.

“This will raise some eyebrows, I’m sure,” City Manager Jeff Cantrell said before discussing the terms.

The pitch from city staff eliminated the proposal for a long-term service contract and instead provides month-to-month un-throttled fiber served with a reconnect fee of $135. It also eliminates tiered pricing for early sign-up to eliminate enforcement issues.

Cantrell said the project would not rely on subscribers before the launch. Funds for the construction would come from the city electric utility’s idle funds.

Mayor Sam Budreau said it would be hard to find an investment for the funds that would provide as much return. The project is expected to payback over 30 to 36 months.

Commissioner Jacob LaRue said he was dissatisfied with the rate the pitch initially proposed. City officials have discussed a rate of $75 to $100 per month, and LaRue said he pays $60 with his current provider.

Cantrell said lowering the monthly rate would increase the number of subscribers, and Budreau said the city can amend the rate later to meet market conditions.

The proposal includes spending $250,000 for 230 total customers between 7th and 14th, where lines could go overhead, and $300,000 for 114 possible customers in the Hillside/Sunset area, where lines would be underground.

The discussion came as part of Cantrell’s report. In other items, he told commissioners the city would notify residents about a water quality violation.

“It’s a formality,” Cantrell said. The violation came about because of a reading from a meter that contained old water while a pipe was shut down for maintenance and brought back up again.

Cantrell also reported that the city has broken ground on a new animal shelter in the industrial park and has received 50 applicants for a second animal control officer position.

Neil Phillips of the accounting firm Jarred Gilmore and Phillips presented an audit of the city finances as of Dec. 31, 2018. He said the city had a good year with a lot of different funds and all expenses were under budget.

The city owes $466,000 in tax repayments to Ash Grove Cement, and Phillips said there were no problems encountered in the audit. Commissioners voted to accept the audit.

Commissioners also approved a five-year, 600-page regional hazard mitigation plan. They approved renewal of an agreement with the Southwestern Power Administration that gives them time to provide a six-month notice that the city will dissolve the agreement for a lower-cost electrical contract.

The solar generating plant discussion was tabled. Commissioners approved a resolution to find properties at 218 S. Kansas, owned by Michael Powell; 416 N. Kansas, owned by Justin and Robert McCready; and 516 N. Central, owned by Jay Tredway, in violation of city code.

During public comments, Larry Pierce with the Fourth of July celebration, said the fireworks display still needs $1,000 to reach its goal and commissioners approved assisting. Pierce said plans call for a bounce house, dunk tank, food and music.

Ruthann Boatwright with Main Street Chanute discussed the Cruise Night at tonight’s Farmers Market and plans for a Movie in the Park night July 19 near the Chamber of Commerce office.

Jane Brophy of the Chamber told commissioners the Kansas Department of Agriculture has scheduled the Taste of Kansas, a showcase of Kansas products, for Aug. 3 at the Summit Hill Gardens Event Center.

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