Town hall offers answers, updates




During Tuesday's Garden City Commission town hall meeting, Mike Muirhead, public utilities director, provided a brief update on steps the city is taking to address discolored water and low water pressure complaints received over the past couple of months.

Muirhead said the city is about halfway finished with putting in a new water main to replace old, four-inch cast iron pipe along Inge Avenue from Fulton to Kansas Avenue. When completed in the next 60-75 days, people along that street will see improved water quality and pressure, which will also improve fire protection. Muirhead said fire hydrants in that area have had very low flow.

In areas around Lyle and Hackberry streets, Muirhead said a contractor examined the mains last week and indicated they were too bad for a normal cleaning. City staff has asked for a cost estimate for enhanced cleaning of about a seven-block area, which will come to the city commission in the near future for action.

"It's so bad normal pigging won't get that material out," he said. "We've also looked at replacing two water mains ... and some of the old service lines are galvanized pipe. Those need to be replaced at the same time."

Overall, Muirhead said the city is working with a consultant to develop a master plan for the water system. When completed, the plan would indicate areas that need improvement, and list priorities for future projects to include on the city's five-year capital improvement list. Muirhead said for the next budget year, $650,000 is being requested for system improvements.

"It's not an inexpensive thing to repair," he said.

Town hall meetings are typically scheduled on the fifth Tuesday of a month. Tuesday's meeting was an open forum to allow the public to ask commissioners questions.

Questions from the public, most of which were submitted online through social media, covered the bypass project, rebroadcasts of commission meetings, housing and the current form of city government.

They included:

* When will the bypass reopen?

Matt Allen, city manager, said the bypass is scheduled to be reopened to traffic between May 6 and May 17, a target date provided by the contractor about a month ago. Allen said the contractor believes the project may be finished closer to the front end of that time frame.

* When are city commission meetings rebroadcast on Channel 8?

Following a regular Tuesday meeting, they are rebroadcast at 7 p.m. nightly from Wednesday through the next Tuesday.

* Why aren't pre-meetings or retreats broadcast on the cable channel?

Allen said the city uses facilities for retreats that don't have permanent cameras like the system in the commission chambers. For the pre-meetings, which are informational meetings concerning various topics conducted immediately before regular Tuesday meetings, the commission uses a meeting room across the hall which does not have a camera or sound system. They are open to the public though not televised.

* Can people show up at a pre-meeting and record it themselves?


* Sister Janice Thome didn't have a question, but urged the city to continue efforts to address housing needs in the community.

"You've made a lot of efforts to try to get more housing in town, and I thank you for the efforts you've made. We need much more," she said.

Thome said 341 students in the school district and their families are living with other people instead of in their own homes or apartments. She said she knows of one family looking for a place who could not find one house or apartment for rent at any price level in the city.

"It's as tight as it possibly can get," she said.

Mayor Dan Fankhauser said there are a few projects on the way that would add housing, though he acknowledged it will take time for them to be built.

* Why doesn't the city elect a mayor directly?

Allen said in the early 1950s Garden City, as a city of the first class under state law, adopted a manager-commission form of government. Five commissioners are elected from the city at large who choose a chairperson from among themselves to assume the ceremonial title of mayor. Allen said it would require a vote by the public to change to a different form of government.

"Tradition," was the short answer provided by Fankhauser.

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