Burlingame to test for gas leaks

Glenn Adamson
Branch Reporter

BURLINGAME—The Burlingame City Council spent most of Monday’s meeting discussing utility issues.

After being warned by the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) in February about gas leaks in the city’s distribution system, the council had considered hiring a company to test the system, but failed to reach a consensus.

Monday, with a single nay vote from councilman Norman Bloomquist, the council agreed to hire Gas System Compliance, LLC, who submitted the low bid of $3,550, to survey the system.

Bloomquist said that city employees should conduct the survey to save money. However, Burlingame City Administrator Flip Hutfles said the KCC “highly recommended” a third party perform the leak test. He pointed out it would be a one-time test.

Councilwoman Carolyn Strohm agreed, saying hiring a third party would allow city employees to continue their regular work.

See Burlingame, Page 4A

Hutfles presented bids from several companies. With councilman Kevin Fry absent, and Bloomquist voting against hiring a company to test the system, the council approved the bid.

The KCC had also warned the city about inaccurate gas line maps.

Last month, residents were put on notice that electric rates are expected to increase annually after a multi-year contract with Westar Energy is finalized. This week, Hutfles told the council that Southern Star Transportation, the city’s gas supplier, will be increasing rates due to capital improvement projects undertaken by the company. He also reported that gas would be purchased during the summer for sale during the winter.

In other utility discussion, the council debated the city’s utility trip charge – the cost of a city employee taking a “trip” to property where utilities are to be turned off.

Bloomquist and councilwoman Vikki DeMars agreed the current charge of $20 was high enough, especially for people with financial problems. Burlingame City Clerk Patti Gilbert said if people were having difficulty paying utility bills, they should call her to make other payment arrangements to keep their utilities from being shut off.

Councilman Dustin Swander disagreed with DeMars and Bloomquist, offering a motion to raise trip charges. His motion died for lack of a second.

The city’s utility foreman, Gerry Grandstaff, asked the council to clarify how he should handle purchases and sales of goods such as electrical transmission wire. He was also concerned about electric meter placement.

City attorney Rick Godderz said the city should not be in the business of selling electrical wire to anyone other than customers purchasing electricity. Sales of items such as wire should be the same as the city’s cost, he said, and city code states the city will provide an electric meter and one utility pole to anyone purchasing electricity from the city.

Swander and Burlingame Mayor Brenda Dorr told Grandstaff that from now on, he should be handling all utility purchase bids. Hutfles had previously been handling the duty.

There was a brief discussion between Strohm and Hutfles about purchasing a new transformer. This had been considered at the last meeting, due to the city’s transformer limiting the amount of electricity that can be delivered and creating a constraint during peak loads in the summer months, requiring the city to generate power to meet peak demands. Hutfles said that “hard numbers were needed” before the council could make a decision regarding the purchase. Hutfles had previously said a replacement transformer could cost as much as $250,000.

Library's foundation cracked

In other discussion, the council heard about a problem with the city library building that is built on a concrete slab. Its slab has cracked in a back corner of the building; settling has occurred that has damaged part of the floor, an exterior wall and an interior wall. The crack in the exterior wall is wide enough for someone to put their fingers into it.

Hutfles reported he has received a bid from an outside company to jack up the floor. He expressed a desire to wait for other bids before approval of a repair plan. Repair for the building has been budgeted in the 2008 budget at $40,000. The council approved seeking additional bids.

The council also heard from Lee Ann Smiley, who spoke on behalf of the Burlingame Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has requested that Santa Fe Street be closed from Kraus Hardware to the main intersection during the upcoming Rodeo Days. After discussion with Smiley, the council approved the request. She noted that currently 10 craft booths are planned for the downtown, along with a parade and other activities. Smiley requested volunteers to help out during the day’s activities.

Also during Monday’s meeting, Justin Hefley talked to the council about an historic residence at 103 N. Dacotah. The council had previously expressed concerns over the condition of the house, thought to have been built before 1865. Hefley reported that he and his stepfather will be doing work on the house. While no one is currently living in the house, Hefley said he would be residing there after repairs are made. The council expressed appreciation that he was improving an historic property.

During presentation of the first quarter the financial report, Hutfles commented that revenues exceeded expenditures.

Discussion followed on the purchase of a lawn mower for the city. Bloomquist said he would like to see all purchases be made from local merchants, if possible.

In other business, the council:

• accepted the resignation of Kendra Douglas from the library board and appointed Monica Greenwood as a replacement.

• heard that Larry Cline has resigned as a city laborer. Hutfles said he is advertising the vacant position.

• heard that Burlingame School District has asked the city to remove a large oil tank that is located on school property. Grandstaff said city equipment is not sufficient to remove the tank because of its size, and Hutfles has been trying to find someone with machinery to remove it.

• heard that communication equipment for mobile phone companies has been installed on the city water tower.

• agreed to discuss at the next council meeting whether to run ads for Rodeo Days. With the expenditure expected to be $106, Hutfles recommended not purchasing the ads.

• heard a recommendation from Strohm that something be done with old picnic tables in the city park. They are missing pieces and children are using them to climb on top of the restroom building.

• heard a request from Dorr that the council address the condition of the old Silver Dollar building downtown.

• met in executive session for approximately 30 minutes to discuss personnel matters. No action was taken afterwards.