Monday night's topics ranged from swearing in of Councilman Reavis to artificial palm trees

The Augusta City Council unanimously elected former city councilman Ron Reavis last month to fill the vacancy of the open Ward 4 council seat that was vacated upon Justin Londagin’s resignation.  Reavis was sworn in at the start of  Monday night’s regular council meeting.
The visitors portion of the evening’s agenda included Don Durflinger with American Legion Post 189, who presented an update on the Veteran Memorial and a request to relocate it from the Docking Park on East Seventh to the  city-owned lot near the abandoned railroad area south of Community National Bank on State Street.
City Manager Josh Shaw shared background with council members concerning the Veterans Memorial and advised that the project was proposed three or four years ago by previous American Legion leadership.  The location they requested, the Docking Park at Osage and Seventh, was approved and Legion group was to return to Council with drawings and plans.  That step in the process failed to happen.
“I’m generally supportive, but I recommend that it go to the Park Board,” said Councilor Cale Magruder.
Council member Jamie Crum agreed that she liked the idea of the memorial, but hesitant to approve the newly requested area.
“We’ve had discussions about what should go in that spot.  Maybe the Park Board should decide,” Crum stated.
Shaw advised that multiple ideas for the spot had been discussed and that staff is currently working on a grant to help finish the rails to trails project.  An art sculpture path had been proposed, along with a bandshell/pavilion.  
“That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be room for the memorial, but we would definitely need drawings and plans,” Shaw said.
Council members unanimously decided that the next step for the Legion would be to present drawings and refer the issue to the Park Advisory Board.
Sugar Shane’s palm tree
Shane Scott, owner of Sugar Shane’s Cafe, appeared before Council asking that a artificial tree be allowed to remain in a city planter located in front of the business in the 400 block of State Street.  Scott explained that a city-owned tree at that location had died and an artificial palm tree was temporarily placed in a planter.
“It adds personality.  The customers love it and I wanted to know what you think,” Scott said.
Councilor Crum asked if the issue wouldn’t be better going before the Downtown Inc. board.
City Manager Shaw explained that he wasn’t certain what code would apply to the situation.
“Would it be called signage? Landscaping? Tree sculpture?...Someone should approve something, but I’m not sure what to call it.  It is in a streetscape location.”
Councilman Kip Richardson shared that more things were “popping up” downtown and   is a concern.
Councilor Tom Leffler agreed and said that he had seen bicycles chained to the handrails on parts of the sidewalks and signs posted on the sidewalk near the pharmacy.
“We haven’t done our due diligence down there.  I don’t have a problem with Shane’s tree, we just need a way to make it work...There’s several things downtown we need to look at,” Leffler said.
Councilor Crum told Scott that she liked the tree, as well, but suggested it be moved onto Scott’s property and off of the city property near the street parking.
“I can move it.  I take pride in our downtown and I don’t want to be heartburn for you guys,” Scott responded.  
Magruder and Belt agreed that they like the tree, but supported moving it out of the streetscape area.
“Maybe this guy’s onto something.  Trees do cause problems and maybe as they die, we can just replace with an artificial tree instead of re-planting,” Reavis suggested.
Leffler added that if the city can’t maintain the trees downtown, then artificial trees seems a reasonable solution.
Council members decided to allow the palm tree to stay temporarily for another 60 days while more discussion on the issue will take place.
Rally 4 Roberts this Saturday
Dan Roberts of Augusta requested permission to close Fourth Street between Walnut and State Street from 7 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8.
A fundraiser is planned to assist Brayden Roberts, son of Dan and Shannon Roberts, in his fight against Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a form of blood cancer. (See front page story today)
There will be approximately 300 motorcycles, jeeps, and other vehicles participating.  They will leave Augusta around 10 a.m. and drive through Beaumont, Latham, Winfield, Derby, and into Wichita, ending with live and silent auctions.  
Council approved the request.
Other action
Public Safety Director Bob Sage requested that City Fire Engine #3 be declared as surplus property and authorize disposal of the vehicle on Purple Wave Auction, pursuant to city policy.
Engine#3 was placed into service in 1972 and in 2010 it was moved to the old fire station behind City Hall when the aerial platform was purchased.   The intent at the time was to keep the engine in reserve in case an engine was taken out of service.  Maintenance and repairs for Engine#3 became more difficult and parts became harder to find. The engine is no longer dependable in a fire response.  
Council approved the request.  Proceeds from the sale will be placed in the General Fund and later applied to the equipment reserve fund that will be created in the 2020 Budget.
Tabled items
• No action was taken on the approval of the joint-funding agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Interior to maintain and operate the river monitoring stations for the Walnut and Whitewater Rivers.  More research and discussion is expected on this item.
• No further action was taken on the condemnation of a single-family residential structure and a detached garage structure located at 434 E. Broadway.  Action is expected on Oct. 1, 2018.
• Further discussion and re-examination of current contract is expected before making a decision on replacement parts in the amount of $11,915 for the city-owned cremator at the Augusta Animal Clinic.  Pricing for a new unit will be compared to the price of replacing parts.