The Holcomb City Council approved the the T-21 ordinance, decided on a health insurance plan meant to benefit employees and discussed potential plans for future city sidewalks at its meeting Wednesday.

The T-21, or No. 417, ordinance, raises the legal age to purchase and possess cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and tobacco products to 21. On May 10, LiveWell Finney County Health Coalition Grant Coordinator Donna Gerstner and three Holcomb students presented the ordinance to the council, sharing personal anecdotes of how tobacco had affected their families and schools and urging members to raise the age.

As the ordinance passes, Holcomb joins Garden City as the only communities in western Kansas to pass the ordinance. As of last month, 20 other localities in the state had accepted the ordinance.

Violations of the ordinance in city limits will result in a $25 fine and a juvenile offender may have to appear in court with a legal guardian. The ordinance also makes it illegal to sell cigarettes, electronic cigarettes or tobacco products to anyone under 21, or purchase said products for anyone under the legal age. Doing so will result in a fine of at least $200.

City Administrator Robin Lujan said the city will alert businesses to the change after the news was published in The Telegram.

Gerstner thanked the council earnestly after the approval.

“Thank you very much on behalf of the youth of Holcomb…” Gerstner said. “We’ll move on to the county now.”

After several meetings of discussion, the council approved a new health insurance plan meant to save the city money while also benefitting employees. The council began researching options other than the current plan several weeks ago, after realizing higher premiums would severely impact city employees’ salaries

The council chose United Healthcare’s AMG 1 plan, along with a membership to Grow Well. Employees on a single plan will receive a 90 percent employer/10 percent employee split, and those on all other plans, including family or spouse, will receive an 80 percent employer/20 percent employee split. For the next year, the city will also contribute $50 a month to employees’ Health Savings Accounts. They will reevaluate the HSA provision in a year.

Lujan said the proposal for the plan was presented to the council by Shawn Myers of Keller Leopold Insurance in Garden City. The council will have to pay the state an early termination fee of $7,504.82 to abandon the city’s current insurance plan. The motion called for the new plan to be effective as soon as possible.

“I know that this took a lot of time and effort, but I do think that we’ve gotten something, by putting in more time, I think we have something that is better for employees,” Rupp told the council after the motion passed.

Early in the meeting, the council listened to three residents of the new Charlene Addition housing division, who addressed a previous complaint that the city was splitting the cost of a future sidewalk behind their houses amongst them and the future owners of eight empty lots in their neighborhood.

Lisa Knoll led the discussion, saying she and her neighbors felt the cost is unfair because the sidewalk would be behind their homes and was an additional, unexpected charge to their property. She suggested instead splitting the cost of the sidewalk among the future owners of the eight empty lots on the street so buyers could agree to the cost upfront.

When Mayor Brian Rupp suggested not building the sidewalk as a possible solution, Knoll said she thinks the sidewalk is an important one, since the area experiences significant foot traffic. She said it is necessary for safety reasons.

Knoll and City Engineer Joel Krosschell discussed the possibility to seek out grants to cover the costs of the sidewalk and possibly other sidewalks in the community. Knoll specifically mentioned the Safe Routes to School grant, which she has worked on before.

The council discussed the sidewalk with Krosschell later in the meeting, reviewing the ups and downs of different options. Rupp again brought up the possibility of waiving the requirement to build a sidewalk in the area, while council members directed the conversation to other options, including grants to pay for the project.

Rupp said he was against Knoll’s suggestion to split specials costs to the other eight lots on the street.

Lujan said at the next meeting, the council should include an addendum to the property’s development agreement to establish timelines for projects such as the alley north of the Charlene Addition. At the end of the meeting, Rupp said the council was still considering what to do regarding the sidewalk behind Knoll and her neighbors’ homes.

All council members were present, though Jerry Quint arrived after the vote for the T-21 ordinance.

In other business:

The council approved the use of fireworks in Holcomb from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from Saturday, June 30 to Thursday, July 5.
The council approved Ordinance No. 418, which amended the Comprehensive Plan to change the classification of 207 N Henderson St. from institutional to low-density residential and rezoned the property from public facilities district to a single family dwelling district. Comments on the request for the amendment said the property had been used as a single family home for many years.