City to reapply for grant to replace gas distribution system

Saturday, March 12, 2016
Loretta George/Tribune photo Uniontown Maintenance Superintendent Bobby Rich holds an old gas pipe to show the council the effects of age and past construction practices on the city's 50-year-old gas system. Also pictured is Councilwoman Amber Kelly.

The Uniontown City Council is pushing ahead with solving the problems of its aging natural gas distribution system.

During Tuesdays monthly city council meeting, Mayor Larry Jurgensen said the city will be reapplying for a Kansas Department of Commerce's Community Development Block Grant to pay for the gas system improvements.

The city applied in 2015, but was denied the grant. An entity can only apply twice for this grant.

An email to the council from the grant administrator, Carey Spoon with Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission, explained the denial in February.

The KDOC wanted the council to consider selling the natural gas distribution system to an outside operator, according to Spoon.

The city's gas utility has been "the bread and butter of the city," providing needed income, Jurgensen said. Therefore they are reapplying for the CDBG.

In the next grant application, the city will need to provide more detailed information, such as details of when maintenance was done on the gas system and how it met requirements should be included, Spoon said in the email.

Clerk Sally Johnson said she has been seeking help with strengthening the grant submission through the League of Kansas Municipalities and the Kansas Corporation Commission.


Superintendent Bobby Rich clarified statements made in a Feb. 12 Fort Scott Tribune report about the grant denial.

An excerpt from an email Spoon sent the council said "KDOC had an issue with maintenance causing problems with the gas system."

In addition, "KDOC is concerned that the city is too small to properly operate and maintain the system" with one employee, Spoon said in the email.

"I dislike the wording," Rich said. "I feel I need to address my integrity (as maintenance superintendent) from the Tribune report."

He said the engineer's report noted past maintenance as one of the issues.

"There was a comment in the enginering report states, 'Cathodic protection has been compromised in several areas due to past maintenance practices that did not preserve connectivity across repairs,'" Spoon's email states.

Construction practices in the past and past city maintenance, as well as the age of the gas system (about 50 years) are the contributing factors to the issues the city has now, Rich said.

Rich showed an aged gas pipe to the council, demonstrating the condition.

"The (Spoon) quote doesn't reflect on (Rich), personally," Jurgensen said. "As far as his maintenance and the improvements he's made to the gas system since he's been here, the deodorizer, the regulator and all the repairs he's made, he's done an awesome job."

"I've got mixed reviews. Some people have said (the quote) was a personal attack on me," Rich said. "For that reason I feel I need to defend my integrity."

"I read it as the state just doesn't want to have one person taking care of the gas system," Johnson said.

Several members said they agreed with Johnson's interpretation.

Concrete anyone?

In another discussion, Rich said there has been too much concrete dumped on city property at First and Clay streets.

"Our concrete pile is getting rather large," Rich said. "If anybody wants it they can have it. All they have to do is load it up and haul it off. Some of that stuff was brought in and dumped."

In the past, the state would use some of the concrete, but it was more than they can utilize, Jurgensen said.

The city is asking no more concrete be dumped at this site, Rich said.

Clay dirt mixed with rock is also available for the public, Rich said.

The dark soil at the dump will be used for landscaping around the storm shelter, Jurgensen said, and should not be taken.

Other business

* City Codes Officer Kandyce Cox reported there is a complaint form that can be filled out by residents who know of nuisance animals, debris or unsafe structures, etc. in the city. Contact city hall for more information (620) 756-4742.

* The council approved sending letters to notify pet owners of the $5 late registration fee. Failure to register a cat or dog within the city limits has a fee of $25.

* The city experienced a brief electric shutdown around 1 p.m. Tuesday, possibly due to a lightening strike, Rich said.

* The council approved purchasing new software for Rich's computer.

* Rich was approved to attend a Kansas Corporation Commission gas workshop in Chanute May 10.

* The council approved Treasurer Charlie Bolinger to attend a workshop created by the Municipal Services Team at a time convenient with her schedule.