The City Commission of Arkansas City voted unanimously May 15 to dissolve the South Central Kansas Medical Center Board of Trustees.

The commissioners also voted 5-0 to appoint themselves to fill the newly created vacancies and act as the hospital board going forward.

“I think we are given an enormous responsibility, being (elected) to the commission to the City of Arkansas City, and unfortunately, sometimes tough decisions have to be made for the long-term betterment of our city,” said Vice Mayor Jay Warren.

“As a commission, we have been discussing the hospital board and the hospital management practices for several years. I feel now, more than ever, the time has come for the commission to step up, take charge of the direct oversight of the hospital’s operation. It seems we continue stating the same problems and trying to find solutions over and over again, with no tangible results.”

“I must do what I think is right,” he concluded, making a motion to remove all of the current trustees for the financially struggling city-owned medical center and appoint the City Commission to serve as the board of trustees “until the hospital gets back on track.”

The trustees who were relieved of service are JoLynn Foster, Carol Hearne, Hap McLeod, Jerry Old, Mark Paton, Dotty Smith, Robert Yoachim and Karen Zeller. Dr. Perry Lin will remain on the board for the time being as the hospital’s chief of medical staff.

City staff were directed to inform the former trustees of the changes in the board’s composition, which are effective immediately.

This means the city commissioners will have their first meeting as the board of trustees at 7:30 a.m. May 24 at the medical center.

Charter ordinance

Warren also stated he would make another motion to change the charter ordinance that outlines the structure and powers of the board of trustees. This motion was seconded by Commissioner Karen Welch.

However, before any voting could take place, City Attorney Tamara Niles guided the commissioners through some of the finer legal points that would have to be navigated for the desired actions to take place.

“I think, either way, you would reach the same destination,” Niles said of the options discussed.

But after some consideration and review of the original charter ordinance, she suggested that the commissioners first adopt a new charter ordinance to amend the number of trustees to five, and then appoint themselves as the five trustees.

Niles also called attention to a part of the charter ordinance that called for SCKMC board members to make recommendations regarding new appointments. This piece of the ordinance was removed at the suggestion of Niles, based on the direction of the commissioners’ motion.

Warren rescinded his original motion and put forth a new motion following Niles’ suggestion. Welch seconded this motion, as well.

“Well, I think it’s getting to the point that it’s going to take us to make tax-dollar decisions. … Jay, you’re right, we’ve become the 800-pound gorilla,” said Mayor Dan Jurkovich.

The vote to change the charter ordinance was unanimous and it was immediately applauded by audience members.

The charter ordinance will not actually take legal effect until 61 days after its second publication in the Cowley CourierTraveler.

‘New’ trustees

A second motion then was made by Warren to “remove the current trustees and appoint the five commissioners as trustees,” which also was seconded by Welch.

Removing all of the current members of the board, except for the chief of staff, means there will be three empty seats until the new charter ordinance finally becomes law. At that point, though, the board will shrink to five members.

The chief of medical staff will remain as an adviser to the board, but no longer will have voting rights.

This vote also was unanimous.

One of the first things Warren said he would like to see happen with the newly appointed hospital board is an increase in the number of meetings held in public to at least two per month, as well as a change in the time of the meetings.

“I’d like to have us meet on the second and fourth Tuesday night of every month” as the hospital board, he said.

However, the commission will have its first meeting as the hospital board at 7:30 a.m. May 24 because that meeting already was scheduled.

But going forward, commission members expressed a desire for all future meetings to be held in the evening, likely at 5:30 p.m.

Openness and transparency

Niles cautioned the commissioners that any hospital board meetings will be subject to the open meetings laws and notice of meetings still will have to be sent to those who request such information.

“Just for everyone watching on camera and in the audience, we were very careful not to violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act, and so we did not discuss this in a closed room. We wanted to do it, as tenuous as it may be, right in front of everyone,” Jurkovich said.

“So it may look like a messy process … but what I really want to do is make sure there is a City Commission and a hospital board that (are) headed in the same direction. We don’t have that direction yet.”

One point Commissioner Duane Oestmann was curious about involved the separation of the city’s finances and the hospital’s finances.

There still will be a separation of the two entity’s finances, apart from the city’s financial responsibility for payment of the construction bonds used to build the hospital, according to Niles. That was one reason she advocated retaining the charter ordinance in some form.

Craft house approved

After some bumps in the road, the commissioners also voted 4-1 to issue a conditional use permit to Lori Newsome to operate a “craft house” for her property at 2526 Valley View Drive.

A craft house, as presented by the owner, is a home in which women can gather for communal crafting time and where they are welcome to spend the night. There would be fees associated with renting the space to craft during weekends.

The concept was unfamiliar to the commissioners and had been tabled during the last commission meeting for further study.

Initially, the permit failed on a 2-3 vote, with only Warren and Welch casting “yea” votes.

Jurkovich, Oestmann and Kanyon Gingher expressed a desire for Newsome to try going back to the Planning Commission to see if the venture could be reconfigured as a home-based business.

The first vote failed to resolve the issue because any disapproval of the permit has to pass with a two-thirds majority vote, per state statute.

However, after more discussion — as well as motions to table the matter again or send it back to the Planning Commission that failed to garner seconds — a second motion to approve the permit finally passed. Jurkovich cast the dissenting vote.

In other business, the commission:

  • issued a proclamation designating May 20-26 as National EMS Week in Arkansas City.
  • unanimously approved a charter ordinance exempting the city from the provisions of a Kansas statute relating to libraries, and providing substitute and additional provisions. This charter ordinance will change the length and number of terms allowed for library trustees, as well as clarify the voting status of the commission representative and shrink the board by one member. A proposal to raise the library’s property tax cap by 1 mill was eliminated from the ordinance prior to its passage.
  • unanimously approved an ordinance fixing the compensation for an amended job title. The public works director position was redefined to eliminate city engineer duties, while the assistant public works director and executive assistant positions were eliminated.
  • held a public hearing on and approved a resolution amending an existing resolution, determining the advisability of issuing taxable Industrial Revenue Bonds for the purpose of financing the acquisition, construction and equipping of a commercial facility to be located within Goff Industrial Park. The change was necessary because a tenant has been secured for the building. Welch abstained from voting due to a perceived conflict of interest related to her holding of stock in Ark City Industries, which owns the property.
  • heard updates from City Manager Nick Hernandez on Spring Cleanup Day, his upcoming trip to Las Vegas for a retail convention and the Historic Preservation Board’s public hearing May 21 on the downtown historic resurvey results.