By a 3-2 vote, the City Commission of Arkansas City approved an ordinance Tuesday night that modifies existing Municipal Code concerning issues related to building codes and regulations.

The ordinance also creates licensing requirements for backflow prevention and fire suppression installation contractors, clarifies property owners’ ability to perform work on their own properties without a license, and alters the composition of and appeals process for the Building Trades Advisory Board.

“Commissioners, this is on the agenda for a first read, but in fact has been coming back to you repeatedly for quite a while now,” said City Attorney Tamara Niles.

The ordinance clarifies that property owners or volunteers, so long as they are not paid, can perform almost any repairs or work to a residence, apart from electrical, mechanical or plumbing work.

Furthermore, owners can even perform electrical, mechanical or plumbing work if they:

  • personally alter the electrical wiring, plumbing and/or mechanical systems;
  • receive no compensation;
  • demonstrate to the code enforcement officer that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform such alterations in accordance with applicable codes.

Additionally, any person, firm or corporation assisting the owner must be licensed by the city, and all alterations must comply with all applicable provisions of Municipal Code, technical codes and other applicable law, including permit and inspection requirements or installation and maintenance standards.

Commissioner Jay Warren asked if the city could provide a detailed list that is easy to read for anyone who wants to do such work.

“The people, if they want to work on their houses, can see what they can and can’t do,” Warren said.

“We forfeit fewer of our rights (the way this is written),” said Mayor Dan Jurkovich.

Tree removal contractor removed

One small section of the ordinance was taken out before the 3-2 vote, however.

This section would have created licensing requirements for tree removal contractors.

Removing the language resulted in the split vote, as Commissioners Duane Oestmann and Karen Welch did not agree with the removal.

“I disagree with it,” Oestmann said of the motion made by Jurkovich and seconded by Commissioner Kanyon Gingher. “Tell me again why you want to remove the tree removal contractor.”

“I didn’t hear of any citizen or know of any citizen who had been hurt by a tree removal contractor,” Jurkovich replied.

Oestmann contended that the language regarding tree removal contractors would protect citizens financially from damages that could be caused by such contractors.

Welch, however, voiced concerns for citizens being scammed by individuals who claim they would do the work, but simply leave after being paid.

During a study session Feb. 2, Gingher, Jurkovich and Warren all indicated they opposed the tree removal language and thought it represented unnecessary regulation.

Building Trades Board

Some language in the ordinance also altered the future makeup of the Building Trades Advisory Board.

Previously, the board consisted of two electricians, two plumbers, two mechanical specialists, two general contractors and a layman familiar with building regulations, all serving two-year terms.

The board now will seat two electricians, two plumbers, two mechanical specialists and three citizens at large, who can be anything from a general contractor to a layman.

The electricians, plumbers and mechanical specialists will remain on a two-year term cycle, but the new at-large positions will be for terms of three years.

This change was brought about partially at the urging of local contractors who thought there was not enough representation by “average citizens.”

Niles said the addition of a conflict-of-interest clause will prevent two individuals working for the same company from serving together on the board at the same time.

In other business, the commissioners:

  • recognized Annicka Hernandez for her achievement in winning the Kansas League of Municipalities’ “If I Were Mayor…” statewide competition.
  • unanimously approved the agenda after moving two consent agenda to the New Business section.
  • unanimously approved the following consent agenda items:
    • approving the Jan. 16 regular meeting minutes as written;
    • ratifying Jurkovich’s appointment of Carol House to the Outstanding Student Award Committee;
    • ratifying Jurkovich’s reappointments of Mark Bartlett, David Billings, Brian Lawrence and Ken Miller to the Building Trades Board;
    • a resolution authorizing the purchase of a 2018 Yale MCW040-E electric walk-behind forklift from Berry Material Handling, of Wichita, for the new Water Treatment Facility, for an amount not to exceed $21,677;
    • a resolution authorizing the Arkansas City Police Department to enter into a five-year purchase program for Tasers with Axon, of Scottsdale, Arizona.
  • unanimously approved a resolution creating the 2018 Capital Improvement Planning Committee.
  • unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city to enter into an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) to let and administer a construction contract for the Crestwood Drive bridge replacement project, for an amount not to exceed $60,000.
  • unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Jurkovich to execute Supplemental Agreement No. 1 to the original master agreement, dated April 13, 2017, between the city and the KDOT secretary of transportation.
  • unanimously approved the following personnel policy updates: Employee Council and Safety Footwear.
  • heard updates from City Manager Nick Hernandez regarding a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 22 for the new Water Treatment Facility and the unveiling of a plaque in honor of the late Marc “Coco” Tapia.