Valley Falls City Council ponders eviction for failure to pay water bill
by Clarke Davis
A number of people cannot pay their city water bill, which brought up the necessity of an ordinance to evict people from their homes after a certain amount of time at the Feb. 1 Valley Falls city council meeeting.
A house without water service is considered a health hazard after so many days, but there is currently no law on the books giving the city the right to evict someone, Administrator Chris Channell told the council.
Most households that are disconnected are back on within a few days, the council was told. But there is one case that has gone for at least a month.
Channell said those people remediated the problem themselves by reconnecting the water illegally. That matter will soon be in city court.
Jan. 31 was the date disconnects were handled last month and water was shut off to nine households. Channell said that was a low figure.
He told the council there were another five households that could have been disconnected but those people called city hall and are willing to work with the city to try to get the bill paid and keep the water on.
An ordinance for evicting people will be part of the health codes and is expected to be stretched to at least 10 days before action is taken.
Channell is contacting other cities in Kansas to find out how they handle the matter and is finding a lot of variation. One city told him of a case where the occupants were defecating in the backyard because they had no water service.
Police Chief Josh Pence said an ordinance such as this would also help him in contacting social agencies when it is assumed there are children whose health is at risk.
Lynn Luck, director of the Jefferson County Service Organization, asked for and received $1,200 — $100 a month — to help support the transportation program for older citizens.
Luck, who is also a county commissioner, said the JSCO operates eight vehicles, one of which is stationed at Valley Falls. The program has been in existence since 1975. The United Way recently cut its support of the program by $52,000.
A popular and much needed service Luck said it provides on average 175 one-way trips a month. The people who use the service also contribute to it.
Other contributors are the Department of Transportation, Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, and general donations.
The director said she is asking each of the eight cities in the county for $1,200 and with this sum of nearly $10,000 use it to obtain matching grants.
Luck also spoke with council members about bringing government commodities to Valley Falls. She said it would require a core group of about 12 people who would provide the manpower and assist when the truck rolls into town. It provides fresh food and baked goods.
In other business, the council:
- decided to take sealed bids for an old police car.
- will conduct a search for a new auditing firm upon the semi-retirement of Dave Bogner, Perry.
- appointed Jim Clulo to the Valley Falls Housing Authority board.
- reviewed applications for a street employee.
- approved a contract with Kendall State Bank for direct deposit of payroll checks.
Councilman Todd Harrington made a brief appearance, but was absent during most of the meeting.
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