City looks to extend rail trail

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Iola commissioners took their first step Tuesday toward extending the Prairie Spirit Trail to Riverside Park.
Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution of support authorizing the use of eminent domain to secure a two-block stretch of what used to be a railroad from U.S. 54 to Riverside Park.
The land is owned by Jack McFadden and leased to Iolan Johnny Womack and Thohoff Construction.
Using eminent domain declares that Iolans “would be best served by constructing the rail trail and related facilities.”
Next, the property must be surveyed before a team of appraisers determine the land’s value. That value will determine what the city pays McFadden.

BILL BIRNELL of Westar presented commissioners with a rate analysis of what Iolans would have paid had the city continued to purchase wholesale electricity from the state’s largest utility provider.
Since 2007, Iola has purchased wholesale electricity through the Kansas Power Pool, a consortium of more than 40 communities acting as a single purchaser.
Commissioners, frustrated at what they consider too-high utility costs, have asked Westar to return with a rate analysis and a proposal for a new contract.
Also receiving the figures was Scott Shreve, Iola’s energy consultant, who will determine how Westar’s rates compare with KPP’s.

COMMISSIONERS declined to act on a proposal to spend $25,000 to Landworks Studio and Thrive Allen County to help develop a plan to convert unused flooded properties to park areas and to develop landscaping in downtown Iola.
The proposal, from Landworks and Thrive, was billed as a “Vision Iola Master Plan” and would have included a $49,900 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.
Commissioners said they supported the concept of planning for new parks, but noted that Landworks is staffed only by landscape architects, not master planners, which is what the city would need in this case.
Commissioners encouraged City Administrator Judy Brigham to stay in touch with Thrive and the Kansas Health Foundation to determine other planning alternatives.
Commissioners also declined to purchase a $549 “city clerk’s recorder and transcriber package” to record each of the bi-monthly commission meetings.
While they still support recording the meetings, commissioners said cheaper devices are preferred.
“It’s quite a bit higher than I expected,” Mayor Bill Maness said.

DOUGLAS R. Campbell has been promoted to detective within the Iola Police Department. Commissioners also accepted the resignation of police officer Kelly Klubek.