Park may be counted in flood zone

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

The city is at risk of having all of Riverside Park considered in a flood zone.
Iola commissioners were told by City Administrator Judy Brigham Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has indicated it may force the city to rebuild the railroad corridor on the east side of the park as a certified flood-proof levee in order to keep the park out of the flood zone.
The city is disputing that, and has used FEMA funding to rebuild the swimming pool, Recreation Community Building and New Community Building following the June 2007 flood.
The park flooded after a portion of the railroad corridor was breached.
City crews subsequently rebuilt the railroad corridor, removing loose ballast in favor of compacted dirt.
The city’s contention was that rebuilding the corridor was enough.
“When we decided to rebuild in the park, it was based on FEMA’s opinion that the park was not in the flood zone,” Mayor Bill Maness said.
“The errors were on FEMA’s end at the start of the project,” Brigham said, for not notifying the city that such efforts to rebuild the corridor would not be enough to keep the park out of the flood zone.
Brigham, Maness and Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock will fly to Washington, D.C., on Friday to meet with FEMA representatives, as well as officials from Sen. Sam Brownback’s, Sen. Pat Roberts’ and Rep. Lynn Jenkins’ offices in the hopes of changing FEMA’s mind.
The trip, revealed in a memo late last week, proved to be a sore spot for Commissioner Craig Abbott, who said that Brigham has not kept commissioners up to date on the FEMA discussions.
“My desire is to be more informed,” Abbott said. “I do not believe that Friday was the first time we could have known that you ‘might’ have to go.”
The trip will cost about $1,500, Brigham said, while noting that similar trips in the past have proved beneficial to the city.
For example, a trip to Washington in January convinced FEMA to divert funds that would have gone to rebuild the city’s flood-damaged steam generators to instead be used to rebuild the swimming pool.
“We’ve exhausted all of our other options,” Brigham said. “This is our last resort.”
Having the park in a designated flood zone would mean higher flood insurance premiums, Brigham said, and would mean greater restrictions on what else could be built there.

THE IOLA Police Department will no longer have office workers on hand 24 hours a day after the county opens its new dispatch center in January.
Commissioners approved Tuesday the hiring of a clerical employee to staff IPD headquarters at City Hall during regular business hours. The employee will field non-emergency calls to the police department, help file reports and do other menial tasks in order to free up officers to focus on law enforcement.
Commissioners agreed that when the county opens its dispatch center, there no longer would be a need to keep City Hall open.
Currently, City Hall is unlocked 24 hours a day to accommodate walk-up traffic to the police department.
The prevailing question for the city is whether a single office worker will be able to handle the demands of the job.
Abbott said the city should start small.
“We want to be as efficient as we can,” he said. “We can always go up (by hiring another employee) much easier than we can to cut back later.”

RAY’S MINI Mart, the city’s only business licensed to sell adult entertainment materials, is in danger of having its license pulled.
Commissioners declined to renew the convenience store’s application because of violations dealing with city codes, such as keeping the adult materials locked and inaccessible to children. The business has 10 days to get into compliance or the license will be gone for good.
The city a few years back approved highly restrictive ordinances regarding adult entertainment, noting that such businesses must be in a commercial area but several hundred yards away from churches or schools. Those measures mean there are few, if any, locations in Iola able to secure a license.
Commissioners approved a cereal malt beverage license for Cedarbrook Golf Course.

THE CITY formally accepted a $219,000 grant from the Kansas Housing Resources Council to further develop infrastructure along North Cottonwood. The grant will allow the city to build roads and place necessary utilities for construction of a new senior housing complex.
The city has been meeting with a developer looking to build the complex.

MANESS said he was troubled with the ever-growing number of delinquent court fines, which total more than $70,000 over the past two years.
Commissioners will invite Judge Thomas Saxton to a future meeting to discuss ways to entice those convicted in Municipal Court to pay their fines or risk other penalties. Maness also suggested the city consider hiring an employee to handle defendants ordered to perform community service.