New water billing system approved

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

 The local post office now requires five days to deliver in-town mail and because of that, the Concordia City Commission approved changing the utility billing process Wednesday night.
 City Manager Larry Uri told Commissioners that the existing ordinance provides for an initial billing with a due date of 20-22 days after the mailing date. City staff then sends a second notice to all customers who have not paid within that time frame. That notice gives customers five days from receipt of the letter to pay, or their water will be shut off. Uri said about 400 late notices are sent out, and typically there are about 30 shutoffs each month.
 Last month, Uri told the Commission that a number of customers didn't receive the five-day shutoff notice for a late water bill until after the shutoff date. He also said a number of water bill payments were received after the late notices were mailed.
 The ordinance approved by the Commission allows staff to send only one bill per month. It will state the amount due on the due date, the amount due if the bill is paid after the due date, and the shutoff date. That shutoff date will still be five days after the due date.
In addition, Uri said the bills will be changed from a postcard format to a letter mailed in a first class envelope.
 Work will begin soon at the Brown Grand Theatre after the Commission approved a $504,439 construction contract with Martin K. Eby Construction, Wichita. The Theatre has been closed to live performances for more than a year because of safety issues with the grid and rigging system.
 Uri said in addition to Building Inspector Bruno Rehbein's overseeing the project, he would also like to have Eric Johnson of Campbell and Johnson Engineers serve as project engineer.
 Johnson said there are several special areas that will need to be inspected, including soil tests, concrete performance and welds. The construction contract specifications call for a special inspector to inspect the welds. Johnson said there are only a few companies in the state certified to perform the inspections, and he has contacted two of them. Hopefully by the end of the week, he said, he will have costs to present to the Commission for that work.
 Uri said City staff will be meeting with the Brown Grand board and the construction company the week of Sept. 24. While there is no start date in the contract, Uri said he thinks the plan is to begin work as soon as possible. The contract gives the contractor 190 days to complete the project.
 Concordia Mayor Tim Parker said the Commission is looking forward to getting the project started and the Brown Grand back up and running.
 The Commission also passed a resolution condemning an unsafe and dangerous structure at 123 West 11th.
The property owners, Jose and Briseida Mares, now have 30 days to repair or remove the house. If no action is taken in that time frame, the City will place an ad for bids to demolish the house and garage.
 Action was also taken to amend the City's current nuisance ordinance. Uri said language was added to the ordinance to give the City a way to proceed against a residence that may not be too dangerous to live in, but is a blight to the neighborhood. Nuisance conditions may include defects increasing the hazards of fire, air pollution, lack of sanitary facilities, disrepair, and unsightly appearances that constitute a blight to adjoining property.
 The Commission also conducted a public hearing for a 2013 budget amendment establishing a new gas fund. The fund will be used for the Concordia municipal gas line that will service the north development. The line will begin operating soon following the completion of the Cloud County Law Enforcement Center and Jail.

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