By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer
Effective July 1, it will be legal to carry concealed weapons into Concordia's City Hall. The Concordia City Commission, on a 4-1 vote, decided not to sign a letter that would have exempted the City from the legislation until the first of the year.
Last month, the Kansas Legislature enacted and Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation allowing the carrying of concealed weapons in public buildings. As of July 1, a concealed carry permit holder may carry a weapon into government buildings unless the building is properly posted or the building has adequate safety measures in place.
At last night's meeting, Commissioners had before them a letter to sign that would have allowed an exemption from the law until Jan. 1, 2014. The majority of the Commission had no problem allowing guns in City Hall and the meeting room.
"I personally don't have a problem with concealed carry," Commissioner Marsha Wentz said. "I'd rather be armed than not, and plan on taking the concealed carry (class)."
Commissioners Charles Johnson and Lyle Pounds agreed with Wentz.
"The ones with a concealed carry permit are probably not the ones we have to worry about," Pounds said.
The only Commissioner who voted against the measure was Christy Hasch. She said she thinks there should be places in the City where concealed weapons aren't allowed, like the swimming pool and library.
"I would be in favor of exempting parts of the City," she said.
On a 4-1 vote, the Commission agreed to allow concealed weapons on city property.
City Manager Larry Uri said to clarify, the vote did not settle the question of whether city employees can carry a weapon while on the job. The City's policy forbids employees from carrying concealed weapons.
"People are still trying to figure out what the law is on that," Uri said. "One part of the statute says we can have our own policy on that, and one part seems to say we can't."
Uri said he will do some checking into that aspect of the law. And, as of July 1, signs banning weapons will be removed from city buildings.
During his manager report, Uri told Commissioners the City had not received a Kansas Department of Transportation grant to fund a park and walking trail around the south Concordia flood control project.
In February, the Commission voted 4-1 to submit an application to KDOT for a transportation enhancement grant to build a 1.3-mile asphalt multi-use trail around the 21st Street dam area. It includes three footbridges, a parking lot adjacent to Cloud County Community College, a shelter, and a restroom building. The project was estimated to cost $1.2 million. Had the City received the grant, it would require a 20-percent match, which Uri had proposed come from Tax Increment Financing dollars.
While KDOT had $15 million available for grants, Uri said it is a very competitive process. He said he expects more money will be available next year, and he will apply again.
The Commission also heard funding requests from several entities ahead of the 2014 budget discussions.
Joshua Meyer, Frank Carlson Library board president, requested $156,552 for library operations, and $38,426 for employee benefits for 2014. He said that is a 1.9-percent increase over 2013 funding.
Shane Britt, president of the Cloud County Community Resources Council, requested $14,000 for operations at the Resource Center.
In 2012, Britt said the Food Bank served 327 households, which translates into 681 people who did not go hungry. There were 73 households that were helped with crisis funds, and 83 students received school supplies through the school supply program.
Carol Alexander became the new director of Club 81 in March. Britt said she has limited hours this summer, but is looking forward to the start of school and new activities.
Gary Dvorak, bookkeeper for the Concordia Senior Citizens Center, requested $4,000–the same amount that has been requested for the past six years.
He said that money is used to supplement the wages of the Senior Center's nutrition staff, who serve 100 balanced meals each day for the seniors of Concordia and Jamestown.
During public comments, the Commission heard from Dennis Wille, from Play By Design, the company contracted to help plan a new destination playground at Concordia City Park.
Wille said he will be meeting with the children of Concordia today–– "Design Day"–to see what things they would like in a playground. He will then formulate a design, which will be presented tonight at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium. From there, fundraising will take place, and the park is scheduled to be constructed in April 2014 by volunteers.
"The outcome will be amazing, because in the end hundreds of people will come together and build the dreams these children share," Wille said. "We're doing more than building a playground, we're really building dreams, and we're building a stronger community in the process."
In other business, the Commission approved an amendment to the engineering contract with KLA Environmental Services for the flood control project. Uri said a required environmental impact study for the project determined there are approximately two acres of land within the dam area that meet the definition of wetlands. The City is required to provide mitigation for the wetlands, which is not included in the City's contract with KLA. For an additional $24,805, KLA will plan the review alternatives and plan for the mitigation project.
A zoning change for 703, 707, 711, and 719 East 4th was also approved. All four properties had been zoned as industrial, and have now been changed to residential.