Published in the Iola Register on Jan. 3, 2013.

City commission votes to put insurance savings towards debt payments

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

With nearly $105,000 in savings from switching insurance plans in the coffers, the Concordia City Commission approved amending the 2013 budget Wednesday to put that money toward debt payments.
In August, the Commission approved switching from the state of Kansas employee health plan to Blue Cross Blue Shield. The result, Finance Director Amber Farha said, was a savings of approximately $105,000.
Last month, the Commission voted to use the excess money to pay down the debt service fund. In 2014, the debt service fund will require an additional four mills to cover debt payments. The trend of increasing debt payments will also continue after next year.
In amending the 2013 budget, the Commission approved moving the excess funds from each department and putting it in the debt service fund.
The only other item of business was to amend the City's railroad maintenance ordinance.
City Manager Larry Uri said the intent of the ordinance is to improve the City's ability to compel railroad companies to keep their street crossing in good repair. The amendment increases the penalty for failure to maintain crossings from $50 a day to $500 a day.
"Of course, we really don't want to get to that point with the railroad," Uri said. "I'm hoping that increasing the penalty will be a message from us to the railroad in question, which is the Kyle, that we need them to fix the Broadway intersection."
Uri said he had asked the Kyle Railroad three times to fix its crossing on Broadway, but no action has been taken.
"I'm hoping if you take this action, it will provide us with some leverage," he said.
During Uri's manager's report, he presented a letter he had received from Gov. Sam Brownback concerning the state's persistent drought conditions.
In the letter, Brownback urges all public water suppliers to monitor water usage and levels as well as conservation plans.
Last summer, the City was faced with the possibility of shutting down two of its wells. To avert that crisis, the Commission agreed to enter into an agreement with the Kansas Division of Water Resources to use only 32-percent of its appropriation for those two wells. In an effort to conserve water, the City was placed in a water warning, and consumption declined.
Uri said last night that staff will begin monitoring its well levels earlier this year, so as to avoid a similar situation this summer.
After a ten-minute executive session for attorney-client privilege, after which no action was taken, the Commission adjourned to a study session. Discussion included the review of purchasing, grant oversight, disbursement, information technologies, and records retention procedures.