Kip Richardson fills vacant seat on Augusta's City Council

Augusta’s City Council appointed Kip Richardson Monday night to fill the seat vacated by Mike Rawlings when he became Mayor following Matt Childers’ resignation.
 Council members were asked to submit nominations to City Manager Josh Shaw to be considered for the open Ward 3 seat.  Two names were submitted for consideration; Richardson and Charles “Lloyd” VanDeaver.  
An election was held and Richardson received 5 votes, VanDeaver received 1 vote.  Richardson will be seated at the council meeting on Monday, May 21.
Richardson’s bio indicated that he and his wife have four children and nine grandchildren, and are members of Augusta’s First Baptist Church.  He has been an active member of the Augusta Chamber of Commerce, Augusta Arts Council, Augusta United Way and has served with the Augusta Department of Safety Volunteer Fire Unit for 19 years.   
Councilman Tom Leffler was elected President of the Council pursuant to City Code to fill the position vacated by Rawlings.
Rico’s retirement
Because Sgt. Chad McCluskey and Police Service Canine Rico were not able to attend Monday’s City Council meeting, Chief Bob Sage addressed the Council concerning Rico’s retirement.  He shared that Rico joined the Augusta Department of Safety in 2011.  During his career, Rico conducted more than 244 narcotics sniffs, resulting in over 38 arrests and the seizure of more than $42,800 worth of narcotics.  He was involved in at least 116 patrol utilizations, one of which resulted in an apprehension; and he has been involved in several patrol related tracks, one of which was a successful mile long off-lead track of a Federal suspect.
“Both Sgt. McCluskey and Rico have unbelieveable reputations across the state.  Our department has been blessed to have both of them,” Sage said.
Approximately a year and a half ago, Rico recovered from some health issues, but later displayed some problems performing tasks.  After Dr. Mike Cocke evaluated Rico, it was decided that retirement would increase life expectancy.
Rico and the previous Police Service Canine, Basco, were funded through donations raised by Sgt. McCluskey.  Augusta Animal Clinic has donated services for annual care.  The City provided food and additional vet care.
Chief Sage and City Manager Shaw recommended supporting Sgt. McCluskey’s request to keep and care for Rico upon the dog’s retirement.
Council unanimously approved allowing the official adoption of Rico to his handler and partner, Sgt. McCluskey.
Cook’s request granted/Mayor breaks tie
Back for discussion was the issue of a previously paved portion of a parking lot, owned by Corky Cook, located on S. Ohio St.   As part of the South Ohio Project, the pedestrian sidewalk was installed within the right-of-way where it did not exist previously.  The original design called for the sidewalk to be right up against the private property line, but the sidewalk was shifted closer to the street to improve the skew in the drive entrance on Ohio St.  This resulted in an open green space of 3-6 feet between the sidewalk and the parking lot.  
City ordinances prohibit parking and driving on sidewalks, and city code prohibits installation of any new shrubbery, hedge, or landscaping in the street parking.  The purpose is to prevent obstacles from being installed in the right-of-way that impact the city’s ability to access utilities for maintenance purposes.
A major concern and headache for Council is that in many locations throughout town, landscaping, and/or structures have been installed over the top of city utilities.  
Council member Jaime Crum asked if curb stops or painting a line would prevent people from parking on the sidewalk.  Councilman Paul Belt advised that he wanted to see the area returned the way it was found before the project began, and Councilman Tom Leffler was concerned that uninformed decisions were made during the planning of the sidewalks and drive entrances, and a lack of communication contributed to the current issue.
“This is a public right-of-way, not private property.  We’ve denied people to build in the right-of-way,” Councilor Cale Magruder said.
“There’s a difference,” objected Crum, “No one is wanting to build something new in Corky’s situation.  It was okay for over 50 years.”
“A mistake is still a mistake,” said Magruder.
City Manager Shaw explained that the only utility running on the west side of the street in that location is an AT & T underground line.
“It’s a matter of choice where you draw the line.  The original plan was for the sidewalk to be right up against the property line, but it had to be shifted closer to the street due to the grade.  That wasn’t in the original plans,” Shaw stated.
Councilor Justin Londagin asked if the City could simply sell the piece of land to Cook.
City Attorney Austin Parker responded, “You don’t even have to sell it - just vacate it.  Other cities have done this.  You can vacate up to the sidewalk.”
Councilor Crum moved to pave the area  within the public right-of-way that was sodded for the South Ohio Project near the southeast corner of Ohio St. and Main St.
Before voting, Magruder said, “I’m not against his business.  We just can’t keep changing the rules.”
The vote was 3-3.  
It was up to Mayor Rawlings to break the tie.
 “I’ve wrestled with this.  I’m voting in favor of returning it back to the way we found it.”
The City received a quote from Kansas Paving for $2,600 to complete the paving project, but staff recommended working with a different vendor once the KDOT project is completed to avoid complication with the change order process.
Condemnation hearings
Public hearings were held for the condemnation of a single-family residential structure  and a detached garage structure, both located at 435 E. 12th St.
City Code Officer Travis Combes presented the structural engineer’s report and Assistant City Manager Cody Sims that if Council approved the condemnation proceedings that the property owner has until June 6 if he wishes to hire a contractor and pull permits on re-structure or improvements.  Council unanimously approved moving forward with condemnations on both the residential structure and garage.
Several proclamations were signed and read by Mayor Rawlings.
May 6 through May 12, 2018 was proclaimed Drinking Water Week;
Public Service Recognition Week, May 6-12; and Law Enforcement Week, May 6-12.
Rawlings offered a reminder of the Crime Stoppers, Inc. Law Enforcement Week Drop-in Breakfast Wednesday morning at the high school.

More from Monday’s meeting will be included in Saturday’s TG edition.