Code enforcement once again was a topic of conversation at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting.

Citizen Jim Sybrant requested to be put on the agenda during a previous commission meeting for the purpose of discussing the topic.

Sybrant is a local general contractor and property owner.

“I guess everybody wants to go after the city inspector. I don’t really care to,” Sybrant said. “I think the city inspector is at the bottom of this chain. He is the rattle on the end of the rattlesnake. We fired three city inspectors in the last three years, the last four years, whatever it’s been.”

Sybrant said he thinks the code environment has to be more inviting for individuals to work on their properties.

“What we’ve done in the last 10years isn’t working. We’ve got to turn it around,” he said.

“What do you think that process should be?” asked Commissioner Jay Warren. “The city has to stop throwing up roadblocks along the way,” Sybrant responded.

Sybrant on housing, code enforcement

He expressed a desire to see housing improved in Arkansas City.

In particular, he pointed out homes located between Chestnut Avenue and Kansas Avenue, from Fourth Street to D Street, saying that since his youth, they have begun to fall in to disrepair.

Sybrant said it was due mainly to unfair application of the building codes.

“The only way that you’re going to prove that you’re being fair is to keep a log of what the inspector does,” he said.

“We’re going to have cameras on them before too long,” said City Manager Nick Hernandez.

Hernandez confirmed after the meeting that the cameras would be body-worn video cameras, similar to what the Arkansas City Police Department uses.

Neighborhood Services changes

The city is putting several measures into place to address some of the issues with code enforcement that have been brought to light in recent meetings.

These measures were outlined in a recent email sent by Hernandez to staff and the city commissioners.

Among them are:

  • moving the Neighborhood Services Division — which includes the building official, code inspector and zoning administrator — out from the Public Works Department and directly under Hernandez’s supervision.
  • creating a guide and handout to explain the process and organization of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The goal of the TAC is to address all possible code issues prior to the start of a project, in a single meeting of all the concerned parties.
  • developing an after-action survey for all development projects, in particular industrial, commercial and new construction projects.
  • development of a Quick Problem Resolution process in which an owner, architect, engineer or developer can bring a specific concern directly to Hernandez, which would result in a meeting within a 48-hour time frame.

“This is a fluid process, and as we see the need to adapt our processes to meet the needs of the citizens and staff, we will continue to make changes,” Hernandez said.

The commission scheduled a study session, which will take place at noon April 14, to discuss further these code enforcement issues and the composition of the Building Trades Advisory Board.

In other business, the commission:

  • proclaimed April as Fair Housing Month in Arkansas City.
  • heard a request from a citizen, Marcela Jimenez, who sought permission to have a large family party at the Agri-Business Building that would include alcohol. This is not allowed currently without a special ordinance, but there have been requests in the past for similar allowances. Jimenez was instructed to fill out a request form and Hernandez said City Attorney Tamara Niles still was researching a permanent fix for the issue.
  • unanimously approved the consent agenda, which included the purchase of a 2017 Kubota mower, for an amount not to exceed $13,850, and a 2017 Dodge pickup truck, for an amount not to exceed $25,000. Both vehicles will be used by the Parks and Facilities Division.
  • held a public hearing to consider the advisability of issuing taxable Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) for the purpose of financing the acquisition, construction and equipping of a commercial facility to be located within Goff Industrial Park. The commissioners voted 4-0 to approved issuing the IRBs to Arkansas City Industries, Inc. (ACI). Commissioner Dan Jurkovich was absent from Tuesday night’s meeting.
  • unanimously authorized the execution of a Federal-Aid Fund Exchange Master Agreement between the city and the Kansas Department of Transportation.
  • unanimously authorized the execution of an agreement for voluntary annexation between the city and ACI. The agreement annex some parcels, de-annexes others, and makes possible the inclusion of recent street improvements on Goff Industrial Park Road and 61st Road within the city limits.
  • unanimously voted to table both a resolution amending the procedure for expiration of and appointment to city advisory board terms, and the appointment of a trustee to the South Central Kansas Medical Center Board of Trustees, citing Jurkovich’s absence in both cases.
  • heard updates from Hernandez about several upcoming events, including:
    • the Home and Outdoor Living Festival on March 25-26, at which the city will have a booth;
    • an advisory board appreciation banquet at 6:30 p.m. March 27;
    • the Wilson Park master plan rollout next week, which will include the city hosting an Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce coffee at 10 a.m. March 30 at Wilson Park;
    • Spring Cleanup Day on April 1 and Spring Cleanup Week on April 3-7.