Group to shape new city council

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

A group of 14 Iolans will help shape the size and scope of the city’s next governing body.
Iola commissioners on Tuesday appointed all 14 who applied to a charter ordinance committee to begin discussing the city’s options.
Voters in April overwhelmingly approved scrapping the existing city commission in favor of a larger city council. Plans are for the new governing body to be seated in April 2011.
Commissioners said they want the group to move and act quickly.
Charter ordinances can be used to set the number of council members, their terms and whether elections should be staggered. Ideally, the city commissioners will consider a number of charter ordinances proposed by the committee by early next year. Doing so would give the city time to schedule an election in April in case any of the ordinances were challenged by petitioners.
Advisory committee members are Skip Becker, Paul Beech, Steffen Centlivre, Barbara Chalker, Nancy Ford, Jim Kilby, Bob Johnson, Emerson Lynn, Michael McKinnis, former mayor John McRae, Ray Shannon, Jim Talkington, Larry Utley and Paul Zirjacks.
Commissioners said they would leave it up to committee members to determine when, where and how frequently they will meet.

EXECUTIVES from Russell Stover Candies attended Tuesday’s meeting to voice concerns about their utility costs.
David Shapland, chief financial officer for Russell Stover, Brian Calovich, vice president of engineering, and Darrell Weick, Iola plant manager, spoke about what they said was an unfair burden on the candy plant.
According to figures provided by Shapland, Russell Stover paid $464,684 above actual utility costs from January 2008 through June 2009. Over that same time period, the Iola candy plant paid roughly 24 percent more for electricity than its Abilene plant and 5 percent more for natural gas, Shapland said. Over the past three months, natural gas rates in Iola were roughly 65 percent higher than Abilene’s.
“We do not want to be placed in a position where production decisions are based on electricity and natural gas pricing,” Shapland wrote to commissioners.
In response to a question from Commissioner Craig Abbott, Shapland acknowledged that his figures do not compare property taxes spent at the two plants. For years, Iola’s utility reserves have been used for the city’s general fund in order to keep property taxes lower.
Commissioners said they would take the candy plant’s concerns under advisement as they periodically look at the city’s utility rate structures to determine if industrial rates should be lower. In addition, they will visit with Scott Shreve, Iola’s energy consultant, about the candy plant’s concerns.

THE CITY agreed to accept a gift of a house from the Flewharty family that could be used if and when the city decides to expand its public library.
Attorney Clyde Toland, representing Molly J. Flewharty, told commissioners that she was prepared to give her house at 211 East St., just north of the library, to the city.
Flewharty is the daughter of the late Tom and Nancy (Powell) Flewharty and the niece of the late Tom Powell.
The Powell family has been a fixture in the community for more than a century, Toland said, and has always carried a deep appreciation of the library’s importance to the community.
The only caveat is that the house and its property must be used solely for municipal library purposes, Toland explained. Otherwise, it will be given to USD 257 and trustees of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.