The City Commission of Arkansas City voted 4-0 on Sept. 5 to declare several structures in Arkansas City as unsafe and dangerous.

The structures all are in a state of disrepair. Many need work to the foundation or roof, or mold removal.

Six structures — located at 215 North B St., 306 North C St., 310 E. Madison Ave., 315 North D St., 611 N. Seventh St. and 900 S. Third St. — were presented in depth by Combination Inspector Mike Bellis.

Two of the properties were pushed to the back burner. One property owner has started demolition and the other has promised to pull permits to make repairs.

The other four were declared dangerous and ordered to be repaired within 120 days or demolished within 45. Two of them are owned by a financial institution.

“Can someone purchase these houses and do the work?” asked Commissioner Charles Tweedy III.

“Yes,” said City Manager Nick Hernandez, “but they would need to do so soon.”

The houses located at 215 North B St. and 306 North C St. both are available for purchase, but need to be brought up to safety standards and building codes before they could be used as habitable structures.

Anyone interested in purchasing either property would need to contact Bellis before Sept. 19.

After such a purchase, there would be a period of time during which construction or demolition permits would have to be pulled.

Amtrak passenger rail update

During his city manager updates, Hernandez mentioned an upcoming feasibility study in Oklahoma regarding the possibility of adding Amtrak passenger rail from Oklahoma City to Newton.

Amtrak passenger rail inspection train
Photo by Andrew Lawson/City of Arkansas City

Mayor Duane Oestmann, left, visits with Ulrich Pricer before both boarded an Amtrak inspection train from Arkansas City to Wichita on June 9, 2017.

The proposed route would have a stop in Arkansas City, but it possibly could be in competition for state transportation dollars with another proposed route from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and Springfield, Missouri.

Hernandez asked if he should plan to attend the study at 9 a.m. Sept. 6 at the Oklahoma Capitol. The commissioners directed him to attend and represent Arkansas City’s interests.

He mentioned that BNSF has indicated it is willing to support passenger rail on its existing track at freight speeds, which are 55 mph.

Although this is slower than normal Amtrak passenger routes, both Hernandez and Mayor Duane Oestmann noted that was the speed of an Amtrak inspection train they rode in June from Oklahoma City to Kansas City, and they thought it was sufficient.

Restricting the speed would remove the cost of major track improvements and reduce the overall price tag of the Amtrak expansion to the $100 million to $200 million range, Hernandez said.

That reduction makes the possibility of an expansion a little more likely than it seemed previously, but there still is a lot of work that needs to be done before this route becomes a reality.

In other business, the commissioners:

  • unanimously approved the consent agenda, including approving the Aug. 15 minutes, scheduling a study session at noon Sept. 15 in Hernandez’s office to discuss sanitation and recycling, and appointing Felipe Escalante to the Northwest Community Center Advisory Board.
  • approved a resolution to enter into a contract with Layne Christensen Company, of Wichita, for the re-drilling and offsetting of Well No. 5, for an amount not to exceed $145,074.
  • approved the creation of a Community Spirit Award Committee that will give out the Joe B. Avery Community Spirit Award annually. Committee members will be appointed later.
  • heard updates from Public Works Director Eric Broce concerning several ongoing projects, including South Summit Street asphalt repairs, 15th Street reconstruction, adding millings to several gravel roads in town and repairs to a pair of intersections after major water leaks.

Commissioner Dan Jurkovich, who is expected to become the new mayor on Sept. 19, was absent.

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