City commission approves comprehensive plan proposal and fee schedule changes

Jan. 24—For the last meeting of the month, the Abilene City Commission met for a regular meeting yesterday. The commission discussed four agenda items, including approving fee schedule changes city staff recommended.

To begin the meeting, Mayor Trevor Witt declared the week of Jan. 29 to Feb. 3 as Catholic Schools Week.

"I encourage all citizens of Abilene to recognize the many accomplishments and opportunities that this outstanding school provides to our community," Witt said.

The commission then approved an ordinance to vacate a city-owned alley located behind St. Andrews Elementary School. The vacation is for lots two, four, five, 12, 13 and 14. The school wants to use the alley for an expansion project. The ordinance's approval also joins all the lots into a single lot.

The commission then approved the appointment of Jill Goldsmith to the Abilene Public Library Board. Goldsmith is replacing Jenna Delay, filling in for the rest of her term until April 30, 2026.

Next, the commission approved the proposal from Foster Design Associates for the city's comprehensive plan and parks master plan. The proposal limits the budget to $73,825.

The commission then approved, in a 4-1 vote, changes to license, permit and other related fees on the fee schedule. John Kollhoff, city vice-mayor, voted no. Marsh said after reconsideration, the water and sewer rates were added back to the fee schedule. All the storm drain fees that city staff initially considered removing from the schedule will remain. Upon inspection, city staff discovered two properties were incorrectly not being charged storm drain fees. City staff notified the property owners the charges for their properties would begin, according to the agenda document.

Kollhoff said he did not agree with the increase of the fireworks license fee. City staff proposed the fireworks license be raised from $250 to $500. He also suggested the changes should be separated into resolutions based on categories and approved one at a time. He initially made the suggestion in the commissioner's study session last week. Kollhoff moved the agenda item be tabled until the next meeting so the changes could be categorized. That motion failed.

Witt said, with confirmation from Marsh, the proposed firework fee is on the low end of the range of prices in the area. Marsh said Junction City charges $1,500. The fee is paid by the firework suppliers, not the local stands.

"I've talked to one of those fireworks people, and they went, 'I'm surprised it wasn't higher already,'" said Dee Marshall, city commissioner.

Marsh said many of the fees have not been reevaluated in several years.

Marsh then gave a city manager report. The Abilene Police Department is teaming up with Dickinson County for a special needs and alert identification program, which gives first responders resources to better identify and aid individuals with special needs. The new lights for the city's tennis courts have been installed. The Abilene Fire Department participated in a smoke detection program by giving out smoke detectors to city residents. The program is funded by the Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Since the Abilene City Commission only meets four times a month, the commission will not meet for the fifth Monday of January. Their next meeting is at 4 p.m. Feb. 6 for a study session.