Holcomb weighing options with pound

10/10/2013

Scope of improvements still to be determined.

Scope of improvements still to be determined.

BY SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

HOLCOMB — Following a vigorous debate, the Holcomb City Council decided by consensus on Wednesday to ask City Engineer Pete Earles to prepare two estimates for a project at the city's animal pound — one for the cost of a smaller renovation and repair project and the other for a possible expansion of the facility.

Council members were split about whether to move forward with a proposed expansion of the pound to double its number of holding stalls from four to eight, or whether to simply address existing needs, including the roof, ventilation system, lighting and building a small storage shed next to the building that would keep vermin out of animal feed.

The council budgeted $80,000 for the pound project in this year's budget but has not agreed on the scope.

Councilman Brian Rupp said he believes the existing building's needs can be addressed at a much lower cost than the amount budgeted.

"Is there a real demand? Are we over capacity? Can we do the things that need to be done for $6,000 or $7,000, or do we need to spend $30,000 to double the size?" he said. "It's like anybody's budget. Everyone has things you need to spend money on. Where is the priority and necessity?"

Rupp indicated there may be other needs the city could spend money on rather than an expansion of the pound.

But Mayor Gary Newman argued that an expansion of the building would take care of existing issues while also planning ahead for potential future growth of the city.

"To repair stuff that's going to get repaired in an expansion anyway is a bandage," he said. "I think we need to plan for the future. If we add capacity now — and we're not over capacity now — but if we add capacity, it's obviously a need for the future as the city continues to grow."

Councilman Greg Cox said putting a secure storage shed outside could free up one stall that's being taken up by equipment, and as a result open an area for another animal cage.

"It would be a heck of a lot cheaper and would fix our capacity problems. Then we could build a new roof, with a decent fan, a decent lighting system, heater and ventilation system," Cox said. "Keep in mind, we're a pound, not a shelter. A shelter is a place you can store animals and send out materials to get them adopted."

Cox said Garden City's shelter serves that purpose now when Holcomb has adoptable dogs and cats. But he said most of the time, the dogs Holcomb takes in are not adoptable or are abandoned.

"It's a hard, cold reality. We hold them until it's time to euthanize them," he said. "It's an ugly thing, but it has to be done. We certainly don't have the human resources to have somebody do the job that a shelter requires. It's just our police department that handles stray animals."

The council asked Earles to bring back estimates for both options to the Oct. 23 meeting.

In other business:

* The council rejected a bid from Lee Construction to build a water and sewer system extension to 12 homes on the city's southeast side in order to then accept an alternate proposal from the property owners to build the line using their own contractors at a much lower cost.

For nearly a year, Holcomb has been working with JD and Rusty Farr, owners of property located off Scotty Lane, on changing from a private water and sewer system to having city utilities extended to the property.

The property was annexed into Holcomb in March, and the project was bid in August.

But the sole bid came in at just more than $149,500. The Farrs asked the council to allow them to hire their own contractor to do the work and to buy materials themselves, which they estimated would result in a cost of about $95,000.

Either way, the city will be asked to issue bonds to finance the project, and a special assessment will be placed on the property after the project is completed and will be repaid by the property owners.

The 3.65-acre property is divided into 14 lots. Currently, 12 of the lots contain single-family homes. Two lots will be vacant.

No city funds will be expended. The property owner will pay the bonds back over a 10-, 15- or 20-year time period and will see the bill each year on their property tax bill.

The Farrs agreed to build the project to the standards determined earlier in working with Earles, and also agreed to have an inspector on site to review work while the project is under way.

The city will be provided with all bills and costs associated with the project before the council approves any bond.

Rupp said he was not opposed to the Farrs' proposal, but cautioned that the work must be up to the standards set by the city before he would vote to accept the work and agree to the bond when it comes back to the council.

* Holcomb has been awarded a 2013 Safe Routes to School grant of $200,000 to improve sidewalks and pedestrian/bike safety in the community. Planning for the grant application began in 2011 and involved identifying locations that needed improvement and took into account parent and community concerns.

Improvements include a "bulb out" at the Main Street crossing that connects Holcomb Elementary and Wiley Elementary schools, construction of sidewalks along two streets, construction of handicap ramps at two intersections, new pedestrian crossing signs, remarking of crosswalks and education and encouragement activities on safety and awareness.

The grant requires a 20 percent match, which will be due in 12 to 18 months following the letting of bids and the final approval of the project by KDOT.

In a press release, Newman said securing the grant took effort and participation from families, the city, school district and the Holcomb Recreation Commission.

"The city of Holcomb receiving this grant is a substantial boost to our community. Not only does it help continue to build our infrastructure, but it ensures that students have a much safer way to get around the community, and to school," he said. "The grant will be used to provide sidewalks along high traffic areas that are in need of safe corridors for children in the community to use as an alternative route to school, whether they are walking or riding their bicycles."

* The council declared Oct. 23 through 31 as Red Ribbon Week in the city, and encouraged citizens to participate in drug prevention education activities. National Red Ribbon Week urges people to wear red ribbons to show support for living healthy, drug-free lifestyles.

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