Osage City Council adds work session to monthly schedule of regular meetings

Gary Holler, of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, explains changes made to the plans for renovation of  Osage City’s community center, during the Dec. 10 council meeting.

Members of the Osage City Council showed they want to work harder to make decisions for the city, approving an ordinance Tuesday that adds an extra regular meeting each month to the council’s schedule. But the extra monthly meeting, set by the ordinance as a work session, will also come with an extra cost to the city’s taxpayers – estimated to add about $3,500 per year to the cost of governance. The eight council members each receive $31 for each meeting, while the mayor receives $51.

The idea of adding a work session to the council’s regular twice monthly schedule first came up during recent open meetings training presented to the council. The presenter had warned that work sessions are considered special meetings, and state law requires that only topics listed in the call of a special meeting are open for discussion. Meetings during which any topic is open for discussion must be a regular meeting established by ordinance, the presenter said, indicating that if that was the council’s desire, they could establish regular work sessions.

During that training session, Osage City Council Member Duane Peroo said he thought the council should have regular work sessions for discussion on any topics. During the Nov. 26 council meeting, Osage City Council Member Linda Carson asked about scheduling regular work sessions, and Osage City Mayor Quintin Robert directed city attorney Rick Godderz to review the current ordinances and look into the possibility of adding an extra meeting each month. Tuesday, Godderz presented a draft ordinance to the council to establish monthly work sessions.

The ordinance sets a work session at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month “for the purposes of discussion and working on issues and affairs involving the city. No formal agenda shall be required and the purpose of the meeting shall be as a work session to gather information and if determined to make recommendations to be acted upon at a regular scheduled meeting …” The ordinance also allows the work session to be cancelled by a motion made during a regular meeting of the council.

Osage City Council Member Becky Brewer questioned whether the work session could be held earlier on the same night as regular meetings instead of on another night each month.

“That would save the cost of the extra meeting, plus it would save us an extra night of gathering,” Brewer said.

“I don’t want to do that,” Peroo said.

“Well, I do,” Brewer said.

Osage City Council Member Bruce Schoepflin said he preferred to have work sessions on dates other than regular meetings.

“It’s going to be a work session, I think we need to be free … it kind of limits us as far as our time,” Schoepflin said. “If we get in a deep discussion about something you know we still got a meeting at 7 o’clock.”

Brewer also questioned whether the council had enough subjects to discuss outside of regular meetings to justify having work sessions.

“We couldn’t come up with two items we wanted to talk about last time,” Brewer said referring to questions she had asked at the last council meeting.

With Carson indicating she had topics to discuss, Schoepflin agreed, “I think we got people here on the council that have quite a few things they want to talk about.”

“I asked  last time what – give some ideas or topics – and I got nothing,” Brewer said.

“I probably got 25,” Peroo responded.

Osage City Council Member Ed Berends said the city’s planning and zoning regulations need “some dire attention.”

On Schoepflin’s motion and Carson’s second, the council approved the new ordinance establishing the regular work sessions. Brewer cast the lone nay vote. In the past, the council has held few work sessions – usually only for the purpose of strategic planning or budget development.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, although council members indicated a desire to make informed decisions, they deferred a city decision onto the local Lions Club.

Troy Hutton, USD 420 superintendent, updated the council on the school district’s ongoing facilities project, which will also renovate the city’s community building. Hutton said a new plan for the renovation had been developed due to too high bids coming in for previous plans. Gary Holler, of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, said the project had a budget of about $300,000, but bids came in about $200,000 more than estimated.

Holler said the new design reduced the number of plumbing fixtures to reduce the cost; one fixture in each restroom is a shower requested by the Osage County Fair board. The renovation will also include a covered patio area on the south side, along with two concessions windows for use by the Lions Club or others.

“If bids come in on budget,” Holler said, “we’d have a big push to get it done by Smoke in the Spring (Osage City’s annual barbecue contest).”

Osage City Council Member Ed Mueller asked if the Lions Club had been shown the plans yet. Hutton said he was presenting the plans to the council first and had not conferred with the Lions Club yet.

Osage City Council Member Leroy Stromgren asked, “How can we take a formal vote if the Lions Club hasn’t looked at it?”

With more council discussion about needing the Lions Club’s input, and Hutton saying the school district needed to move as fast as possible, the mayor offered a compromise.

Noting it was the city’s decision to make, Robert said, “I respect the input of all the groups, but can we tentatively approve it based on the other groups’ approval?”

Schoepflin offered a motion reflecting that the city would approve the project if it received the Lions Club’s approval. The motion was approved, but the council did not indicate how the Lions Club’s approval would be secured or relayed to the school district.

Outside the meeting, Hutton told Osage County News that he would contact the Lions Club to have its members or officers review the plans.

In other business Tuesday, the council:

  • Approved an agreement with Kansas Department of Transportation for Safe Routes to School grant reimbursement.
  • Approved an updated wage matrix for city employees.
  • Approved the relocation of the Osage City Parks and Recreation office to the south end of the city’s Medical Arts Building on west Market Street.
  • Appointed Steve Stone to the city’s industrial development committee.
  • Cancelled the scheduled Dec. 24 regular council meeting.

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