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Winchester Council secures Internet service for city's use

The Oskaloosa Independent of Oskaloosa, Kansas

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Wishing to avoid a worst-case scenario if at all possible, the Winchester City Council decided to acquire Internet service for use by the city when it met the evening of Sept. 2 at John Steuart Curry Community Center.

Having answered all of the questions that came his way, Brian Janus with Kansas Broadband Internet had already left the building when council members Matthew Finley, Mike Libel, Siobhan Bertels and Terry Willyard voted to make the Salina-based company the city's Internet service provider to ensure that the city will have the connectivity it needs to successfully operate the all-important wellhouse as well as both the Police Department's office and the shop.

"We're just trying to keep the water going," Mayor Nancy Curry told Janus at one point, a reference to the equipment at the water tower that needs to be able to "talk" to the equipment at the wellhouse in an emergency. "We're not streaming movies."

Curry wasted little time in telling Janus that she was not comfortable with the idea of the city entering into a two-year contract with Kansas Broadband and thought the council was generally of the same mindset.

He responded by saying the proposed contract was a standard two-year contract.

Council members made it clear to Janus that their biggest concern with a two-year contract was the possibility that Kansas Broadband might not be in business two years from now. "Our last service provider dried up and blew away," Libel said, fearful of seeing history repeat itself.

Janus assured the council that 1 Kansas Broadband was not the kind of company that would insist on making customers honor a contract if they were dissatisfied with the service they were receiving. He said that if the company could not deliver access to the Internet at the speeds it had promised customers it could, then it would be the one that was breaking a contract, not the customer.

Willyard asked Janus how long it would take Kansas Broadband to restore Internet service to the city in the event of a power outage, and he replied by saying that the company had technicians on call for just such a situation. He characterized the company's response time as "pretty fast."

"We need dependability," Libel emphasized to Janus. He responded by indicating that Kansas Broadband could readily provide municipal references for the city to follow up on.

The city will be spending $104.98 a month to obtain two Internet connections, one for the wellhouse and the other for the office and shop combined. The wellhouse connection will have a static Internet provider address with a broadline line speed of one megabit. The office-shop connection will have a broadband line speed of two megabits.

For the past several months Kansas Broadband has been paying the city $80 a month to have access to the water tower, so the city will essentially be out just $25 a month for Internet service.

City Superintendent Chuck Frakes appeared before the council to lay out his case for the formation of a committee that would be responsible for educating residents of Winchester about the problem currently effecting the sewer system and how the city proposes to solve it. "It (getting information out to the general public) would be a huge help," he said.

That problem, just to be clear, is the discharge of rainwater into the system, which has the potential to reduce the ability of the system to effectively process raw sewage under certain conditions. Frakes estimated that 30 percent of the town's residents, and possibly a higher amount, were discharging rainwater into the system, and he said he was aware of 15 people who were currently using a sump pump to remove water from their basements as needed and then send it through a line into the ditches alongside the streets.

Libel and Bertels volunteered to serve on the sewer education committee, as did both the mayor and City Clerk Pamela Erhart.

Frakes reported that there were two trouble spots within the sewer system that need to be dealt with at some point, one of which he described as "a separation" and the other as "a crack." The council subsequently gave him permission to have someone with more expertise take a closer look at both spots to determine what needs to be done to repair them.

Frakes informed the council that the company hired to crack-seal some of the streets was running behind schedule but that he looked for it to be in town in the near future to begin the project.

Frakes told the council that a mechanic had worked on the hydraulic hoses for the city's grader and that the dump truck had been certified by the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The mayor made the city superintendent aware of some tree branches along Poplar Street that need to be trimmed.

On a 4-0 vote, the council gave Terrence Coots of Atchison permission to periodically bring a portable tennis net to the hard-surfaced tennis court/basketball court area at F.W. Huston Park and mark off a court using tape so he and a friend can play tennis there.

In discussing the matter beforehand, Coots told the council that the heavy metal poles the net would be attached to would be left at the park the first time he played there but that he planned to detach the net each time he and his friend were through playing and take it with him.

Coots wanted an OK from the council to paint lines on the hard-surfaced area to designate the boundaries for a tennis court, but he was not given permission to do so because the city still needs to crack-seal the area.

The council received a written proposal from Coots, as requested last month, prior to the meeting and it was that proposal it was acting on when it gave him the go-ahead to bring his poles and net to the park so he can play tennis from time to time. Coots was accompanied to the meeting by John Lutz, who apparently also plays tennis.

A copy of the Police Department's report for the period from July 27 through Aug. 26 was made available to the paper for publication. It revealed that Chief of Police Ron Meyer and fellow officer Dan Ruff had handled a total of 64 calls between them, 17 of which were traffic related. Those other calls included four complaints about dogs, two classified as "domestic," two reports of a suspicious vehicle, one about a disturbance, one involving a case of alleged harassment, and one report of threats being made.

The department issued six notices to appear and gave one warning.

Meyer and Ruff each logged 40 hours.

Toward the end of the meeting, the city clerk reported that she had not received any new applications for the position of part-time police officer. That prompted the mayor to remark, "I think Danny's doing an outstanding job."

The city clerk advised the council that at the request of the city, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was revising the amortization schedule for the loan the city obtained from it to finance improvements to the water system.

The city clerk informed the council that there was a possibility the city could obtain grant money from Game Time Athletics, Platte City, Mo., to help pay for additional playground equipment for the park.

Curry encouraged council members to attend some of the training sessions the League of Kansas Municipalities has scheduled for next month in Topeka, if at all possible.

The only item listed under "New Business" was described as "Fall Clean-Up Day." A date for the event was not set, but the council is leaning toward sometime in October. The determining factor will be the availability of a dumpster to be provided by S.M. Ball Waste Disposal Service.

Council President Virginia Winsor was unable to attend the meeting, which ended shortly before 8:15.

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Original Publication Date: September 10, 2015

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