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Jeremy Gaston | Managing Editor

OSAGE CITY—Public comment combined with scheduled action for a natural gas line replacement change order brought brooding debate to the forefront of the April 10 meeting of the Osage City Council.

Change Order No. 3 completes all alternative work outlined in a gas line project initiated to fulfill a state requirement to replace remaining cast iron pipeline in the city by Jan. 1. Additional work was scheduled to replace other potential issues in the municipal gas lines.

“This course is continuation from discussion at the last council meeting,” said Osage City Utilities Director Mike Gilliland.

The council approved Change Order No. 2 at the March 26 council meeting, and discussed funding for the final order, which included gas line under State Highway 31 and along the highway’s south ditch.

“Conversation was it makes sense to continue on in that vein,” said Osage City Mayor Quinton Robert. “We asked (Osage City Treasurer) Robyn (Liebelt) about our options if we continue to do that.”

Liebelt presented three options: stop project after the current change order, pursue short-term financing for the $100,000 needed, or use part of the city’s cash reserves, which are $285,000.

“This has to do with what Keith (Thompson) said,” said council member Linda Carson. “I think he was head-on with what he said.”

During public comments, Thompson questioned the cost of the project and why city employees didn’t complete gas line work.

“This project should have been done a long time ago, now it’s costing us over a million dollars,” Carson said. “I think some of the city employees could have been doing this work also. That’s just my opinions on it. I know it had to be done… You’ve known about it five, six years ago. Also, how does the auditor look at this. Does he think we should be going with a bond?”

Liebelt said the auditor “doesn’t care.”

“It’s not really an audit thing,” Robert said. “This is a decision for the governing body...”

Carson returned to the line of questioning, citing increased cost due to he project not being completed earlier.

“I’d like to see something to back that up,” Gilliland said. “I don’t know what that means. What are you basing that on?”

“Every year things go up,” council member Duane Peroo said.

“We have five folks that work every day, they take care of the operation and maintenance of those utilities,” Gilliland said. “They’re not in the construction business, and they cannot take care of the construction of those utilities.”

After lengthy debate, Robert returned discussion to the agenda item.

“There are improvements that need to be done, otherwise I wouldn’t have scheduled them,” Gilliland said.

“If we go ahead and do this, does that pretty well catch us up on gas lines?” council member Leroy Stromgren questioned.

“This is a cleanup project,” Gilliland said, noting improvements are to lines in areas not covered in previous grants. “You weren’t able to get a grant… At some point you just had to do it.”

The council made a motion to use city reserves to complete the project, capping the alternative at $100,000 and pursuing reimbursement of the reserve through a five-year bond. The motion passed 7-1, with Carson dissenting.

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