City hears Midtown lot proposal
The Sabetha City Commission met at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9, at Sabetha City Hall. Present for the meeting were Mayor Cody Bletscher, Commissioners Norm Schmitt, Nick Aberle, Maridel Wittmer and Julie Burenheide, City Administrator Doug Allen, Assistant City Administrator Bill Shroyer, City Clerk Steve Compo, and Sabetha Police Chief Robert Wahwasuck. Guests present were Jeremiah Engelken, Marlene Bosworth and Megan Bunck.
Midtown Lot Proposal
J. Engelken presented drawings of “new affordable housing” he is proposing to put on the Midtown lot.
“I am looking to bring in new affordable housing into the town,” Engelken said. “For one, a lot of younger kids coming in, trying to get our young population up, so we can get businesses to grow and to have a place for not only the younger kids, honestly in the last week, I have had two calls in people interested in buying these, and they are widowed women. They both lost their husbands and they sold their bigger houses and now they are looking for something smaller.”
According to Engelken, the plan is to build all eight units — which will be fully electric — and sell at the price point of $150,000. However, due to not having enough capital currently, he proposed only building four units to start. He also said that he already has two people interested in purchasing two of the units.
“The plan right now is to sell the front four or at least four of them,” Engelken said, “but my plan would be to sell the front four closest to Main Street, which is the south property line. One unit will face Main Street and the others [the other three] would face west, or toward the drive that goes back into Flatlanders [Apartments].”
Engelken also said he would want to implement an HOA [Homeowners Association] for the units to adhere to.
Aberle asked “other than being vacant” why did Engelken pick this location for this project.
“One, it is already flattened out, level and ready. That is a key,” Engelken said. “It has all of the utilities already there, we have water, we have sewer. We just have to tap into them. In reality, I think you guys would benefit more from having housing there and reaping the benefit — the taxes you get — than just leaving it empty, and never doing anything with it.
Then, Aberle expressed concerns about Engelken’s project in that specific location due to the current layout of the entire area, but emphasized that he thought the project was a good idea in another area of town.
“We don’t really have a plan for the area… but the whole area doesn’t have a plan and we just keep doing things, like now we’ve plumped the city shop in, which has moved our recycling trailers, and we already have The Main Event that a lot of people have donated more than one of these cost to make it what it is, but we don’t have parking,” Aberle said. “We have already taken the parking at the north end [of The Main Event area] and now we put the city shop back there. So, now when we have weddings every weekend, and both sides of Main Street have cars on it… We also have a 99-year lease with the Boy Scouts on that building, and this drawing doesn’t show where it lands on that map.
“My immediate thought is this is an inconsistent use for Main Street. I think there’s lots of lots around Sabetha that would benefit from having this house built there, and not in a way that people would argue about at all. I personally don’t think a shed-type building… would want to be the first thing you see when you come to Sabetha. I think it would be better suited for Sabetha to make parking for The Main Event and a mural or something on the side of the Boy Scout building to make it look better, or make some green space or a park for that area.
“The other problem that I see coming is because of the parking, The Main Event people do park over here, as overflow parking. Now, people will park around the recycling trailers and so nobody during a wedding or sale or anything is going to be able to do their recycling, because we just moved it — or the County did — and it didn’t land where we said it was going to land. It was supposed to go down by Smokes. What happens when all the city trucks are back behind and need to leave, and it’s just going to be a giant cluster. That is not your fault. You didn’t design that, but that is what it is going to be.”
Then, Engelken asked Aberle what he saw that area being a prime location for other than just staying the way it is.
“I don’t like it to stay the way it is,” Aberle said. “Here is what I proposed the first time. Get all of the people that actually live there [in that area], involve them and I think there is a better place for this and I want to encourage you to find somewhere else to do it. Personally, I think there needs to be an overall plan for the area, and with The Main Event hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been spent to do that, but with no grand plan… Yours [project] is planned very well, but the whole three block area is not planned.”
Schmitt and Wittmer interjected and asked how they would change all of that area.
“You got to take what you have,” Schmitt said. “Start from scratch, I think that is BS.”
“I agree,” Wittmer said.
“There’s a lot of things that go that don’t have a grandiose plan,” Schmitt said. “You got to voice your opinion about where the barn is going, all the negative things. You didn’t want the school to come down, you wanted it to stay, so what is your plan?”
“I thought it had a purpose,” Aberle said. “It could have been remodeled, I showed people the options of it, if someone wanted to spend several million dollars, they could have, and no one wanted to.”
“His plan is to put houses on it,” Schmitt said.
“I realize that,” Aberle said. “Jeremiah is in a tough spot here, because you’re ending up on the edge of something else that is a lot bigger. Was this listed as an option in the paper, for anybody that wants to, come up with a plan, and to build an apartment complex. No. [Cory] Jadwin came up with a plan. He had a plan and he bailed on the plan, because he was going to have to do dirt work. Either it was or it wasn’t filled in properly and compacted to build on.”
“There’s ways around that, if you know what you’re doing,” Engelken said.
“I hope he knows what he is doing because he does a lot of stuff,” Aberle said.
“I’m just saying, there’s other ways to do it rather than re-earthing all of it,” Engelken said.
“Mr. Mayor, I don’t think we’re getting ahead on anything here, we’re going tit for tat and wasting time,” Schmitt said.
“Doug, did that go in the paper, when Midtown came down?” Bletscher said.
“If you remember right, you wanted us to come back with an example of what we were looking for, and it went into the paper, and the preference at that time that we went with is residential,” Allen said. “Preference for residential and we told them they had to come in with a plan, and it had to be approved by you guys.”
“I also remember that they put it in the paper that you guys turned down Cory because you wanted other people to have options for it, and that was in the paper,” Shroyer said, “and no one has come up with an option.”
“I believe that came from Nick [Aberle] at that time,” Schmitt said.
“Yes, it did,” Aberle.
Then, Schmitt said that he liked Engelken’s idea, but he “didn’t like the structure, the metal.”
“It says, pole barn,” Schmitt said.
Engelken gave examples of other “pole buildings” he has recently done in town.
“Honestly, I would put a Wick frame over a stick frame all day long,” Engelken said.
“I do like that you would put an HOA in place,” Schmitt said.
Bletscher asked when he would start the project if it was approved and Engelken said the first one would be going up in March/April 2024.
At the end of the discussion, the commissioners decided to table the rest of the discussion until the Nov. 14 meeting.
Bosworth was present to discuss Neighbor-2-Neighbor with the commissioners. Bosworth said that Neighbor-2-Neighbor was looking for some good projects and more volunteers. She reminded the commissioners that they are a part of the Greater Sabetha Community Foundation and will be participating again in the Give to Grow event in November.
Bosworth said if someone needs an application to apply for help that they can find more information on their Facebook page, website or pick up an application at the City Dispatch office.
Wahwasuck presented his written report to the commissioners. Below is his report:
There was only one dog call since Sept. 6, and it was for a dog at large, where city personnel or an officer responded, but no dog could be located in the reported area.
1322 Roosevelt: Unfit structure, maintenance and repair. The resident states that they have purchased the materials needed to make the repairs. They were given 21 days to finish the repairs or the city would move forward with removal or the structure.
523 N 14th: Unfit structure, ready for abatement. Resolution to be passed for abatement.
401 Ohio: Blight premise. Ready for abatement.
502 N Ninth: Two junk motor vehicles, nuisance property, junk vehicles ready for resolution and removal. Resolution to be passed for abatement. Some work has been done over the past few weeks, but not enough to clear the issue.
317 S Fifth: Junk motor vehicle, blight premise, animal confines. Ready for resolution and abatement.
517 S 11th: Junk motor vehicle. Ready for resolution and abatement.
308 S 13th: Junk vehicle, in process.
520 S Seventh: Unfit structure. Resolution to be passed for abatement.
914 Virginia: Weeds. Owner took care of the one property, but another property remains.
The Sabetha Police Department (SPD) continues to make contacts with the school and be a presence as much as possible within the school and at sporting events.
The SPD has accepted the resignation of an officer. The officer has agreed to terms to stay on part-time.
The SPD is currently conducting the background check on one received application and continues to review resumes submitted. An initial interview was completed with a new hire candidate.
The month of September was a busy month with cases increasing to 26 filed, which is up from 18 in July and 16 in August. The SPD’s calls for service also increased from 176 in August to 193 in September.
In a showing of going above and beyond, an officer responded to a call for help and removed a bat from a citizen’s home.
“Just another day at the office for department personnel when it comes to doing what we can, when we can,” Wahwasuck said.
Allen said Benesch is the same company the City has used in the past for airport plans. Allen said the City is eligible for FAA monies. According to Allen, in order to get these monies, the City has to put out a request for a proposal. This is the only company that responded and Benesch will be the company the City uses for the next three or four airport projects. The taxiways project is the first project on the list. The commissioners unanimously approved the contract.
Industrial Park Land Sale – Triple C Contract
Allen explained that the lot the City was proposing to sell is located directly west of Triple C, up to the railroad tracks. Allen said the City has put in an easement however, so they could get back to the rifle range.
Wittmer made a motion to approve the contract. Schmitt seconded, and Bletscher asked if there was any further discussion. Aberle said he had questions because of the airport plans that the commission just got done approving.
“The airport plans that we just got done approving, overlays some of the property that we’re selling,” Aberle said.
“Does it go across the highway?” Allen said.
“Yeah,” Aberle said.
“We will have to look into that then, because I did not know it went across the highway,” Allen said.
“The air control area [does],” Aberle said.
“We would have to see what height they could build to before we sell the property,” Allen said. “That’s a good point.”
After further discussion, the commissioners decided to table that motion until Allen got clarification.
Also at the meeting:
The commissioners approved the minutes from the Sept. 25 meeting.
The commissioners approved Resolution No. 2023-24, which sets a public hearing for two nuisance properties at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27. See the full resolution on Page 11A of this week’s Herald.
The commissioners approved Resolution No. 2023-25, for a wage resolution for Sabetha paramedic Bobbi Dillon following her 90-day orientation.
A resolution for abating the property of 502 N Ninth was tabled until the next meeting due to an incorrect address listed on the resolution.
The commissioners approved purchasing a Bobcat skid loader for the city shop in the amount of $50,709 from Merz Farm Equipment in Falls City, Neb. The other bid was for a Case skid loader in the amount of $55,394 from VLP Equipment in Topeka.
The commissioners approved a liquor license for Gourmet Gatherings.
The commissioners decided to go into a 20-minute executive session to discuss personnel. Present for the executive session were the Board of Commissioners, Wahwasuck, Allen and Shroyer. No action was taken following the executive session.
The commissioners will meet again at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, at Sabetha City Hall.