Prices spark debate

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

HUMBOLDT — City Council members kept a close eye on the city’s purse strings Monday while they discussed a pair of upcoming big-ticket projects: improving Humboldt’s aging water lines and moving city hall to a new building.
Council members were told that Emprise Bank is set to move into its new building at the intersection of Ninth and New York streets by Nov. 1. The city already has in place an agreement to purchase the old Emprise building at the intersection of Bridge and Eighth streets for $351,000.
In order to move into the Emprise building, the city must do a bit of remodeling, City Administrator Larry Tucker said.
Most notably, the building must have a new elevator — pegged at a price of $116,000 — in order to make its basement handicap-accessible.
Tucker proposed a new courtroom and conference area be built into what would be the new city hall’s spacious lobby. Current drawings have the courtroom situated in the basement. Council members weren’t as enthusiastic about the added room, citing its price, projected at $146,000.
The city will purchase the Emprise facility through a lease-purchase agreement, while the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office has tentatively approved the city to receive up to $270,000 for the remodeling. Up to $70,000 would come in the form of a grant, Tucker said. The rest would be available through a low-interest loan.
If councilmen reject the plans for the conference room, the city may not qualify for the full $70,000 grant, said Christie McReynolds of the Rural Development office.
In any case, there is no urgency to act quickly, noted Mayor Bob Sharp.
Council members Sean McReynolds and Sam Murrow agreed. McReynolds proposed continuing with the city’s plans to renovate the building while segregating the conference room as an optional package.
Perhaps the remodeling can occur in phases, Murrow said, “but I do see some of these plans as ‘wants’ instead of ‘needs’ right now.”
The Council voiced consensus to retain the existing time-and-temperature sign on the building’s exterior and not replace it with a significantly more expensive sign that would also broadcast various messages about city news and upcoming events.
Council members also approved with a 6-0 vote — members Jeremy Weilert and Jerry Griffeth were absent — to hire Zingre and Associates P.A. of Fort Scott to handle the necessary architectural plans for the elevator, and if necessary, the added conference room.
The fees for Zingre will not exceed $20,780 plus out-of-pocket expenses of $1,091.

IN A related matter, Jason Nelson of the Allen County Emergency Medical Service, asked the city to consider remodeling the ambulance station in part of the existing city hall building.
Nelson proposed tearing out a wall separating sleeping quarters in the ambulance station from what is now the Humboldt Police Department’s evidence room. The Humboldt police eventually will move with the rest of the offices to the new city hall.
Nelson brought in a pair of estimates to remodel the station, one at $10,000; the other at $11,000.
“I’m not asking you for a decision tonight,” Nelson said, but rather wanted to keep the city abreast of the county’s plans.
Council member Dan Julich said he was intrigued by Nelson’s proposal, but noted that the city must be assured by the county that an ambulance unit will continue to be stationed in Humboldt.
“There will be as long as I have anything to say about it,” Nelson replied.
“But it’s still the County Commission’s decision,” Julich said.
Council members also wondered if the county could share in the construction costs, or assist with labor in order to keep expenses low.

HUMBOLDT also approved hiring NPL Construction Company of Topeka to install about 50,000 feet worth of new water lines for $1.3 million.
The NPL bid includes placing polyurethane water lines instead of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Typically, polyurethane is more expensive than PVC, explained architect Ken Shetlar of Shafer, Kline and Warren, Inc., but NPL has enough boring equipment and the technology to do the project at a lesser cost.
The company’s bid was the lowest of seven received.
Still, the city has in place only enough funding for $1.2 million — available through a low-interest USDA loan. The city should be eligible for the added financing, Christie McReynolds said, without having to alter its water rate structure.
Council members tabled a discussion on temporary financing for the water line project because the USDA monies will not be available for another six months or so.
The city needs about $680,000 up front to begin the project, Tucker said.
The Council has two options, securing the funds from the accounting firm of Cooper, Malone and McClain, Wichita, or from Community National Bank.
The issue is determining how much the city must pay in financial adviser fees to Cooper, Malone and McClain for the firm’s assistance in helping the city with a pair of recent sewer rate studies. If the city goes with the accounting firm, the adviser fees would cost the city $9,975. But if the city goes with Community National Bank, the firm’s accounting fees likely would be increased to $30,000.
Council members met privately with City Attorney Fred Works for 15 minutes to discuss the matter before deciding to table the matter.