TOO MANY HORSES?

This property was the subject of controversy in 2009.

Despite the 7-1 vote to start de-annexation of the part of the Neumayer property within the city, three of the seven Clay Center City Council members who voted in favor of setting a public hearing have said they did not support de-annexation.

The three-acre property on which seven horses and a mule reside includes less than a quarter of an acre that is within city limits.

Councilman Sterling Meals voted against the motion to set a hearing on vacating and de-annexation. Council members McKenna Porter and Daton Hess have said at previous meetings they have reservations about de-annexation, but were silent Tuesday.

Councilman Steve Fox said he did not support de-annexation at Tuesday's meeting, but voted for the motion so the city could hear from the public. Fox said he has been "really torn" on the issue and is against de-annexation, but was "all in favor" of putting the matter to public debate.

"By voting on this we're not automatically turning this property over to county," Properties Committee Chairwoman Connie Jordan said in making a motion to start de-annexation. "It's still a process, you have to advertise and hold a public hearing."

Councilman Butch Hess seconded the motion. He said he talked to the property's closest neighbor who did not have a problem with the horses being there.

The Properties Committee could not come to a consensus on what to do about the property, Jordan said.

In a meeting before the city council meeting Tuesday, the committee discussed everything from sending a letter to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and asking them to address the issue of too many animals to changing a city ordinance that would not allow any horses within city limits.

The committee was split between de-annexation, supported by Jordan and Fox; or not doing anything about the property except for asking Lori Neumayer to place her fence along the city/county line, supported by Meals and Fox.

"When Lori Neumayer asked 'Where do I put my fence?' the answer should have been on the city/county line," Fox said. "How we got to this point (of de-annexation) I'll never know."

Abandoning the an easement and de-annexing the property within city limit was proposed by City Administrator Cheryl Beatty.

City attorney Dustin Mullin said the property within city limits "includes two triangles in question" which would be de-annexed. One of those triangles is a storm water easement near the creek behind Printz TV, which the city would de-annex but not give up. The other triangle borders Blunt Street about where the hay feeder has been placed.

Meals said he supported moving the fence back from Blunt Street, which would not only create a buffer but also force the hay feeder to be placed further away from Blunt Street.

Begnoche said such a buffer would be another property the city would have to maintain and a waste of tax-payer money.

"Our city administrator ... sees the value of not owning another one of these stupid little spaces," Begnoche said.

Meals said de-annexation also "is not for free," and he saw value in having "these stupid little spaces." At the committee meeting he offered to pull the weeds on the property himself.

Meals said at the council meeting he was worried that starting the process of de-annexation will set a precedence for other such situations.

"I disagree that we are setting a precedence," Jordan said. "These situations are unique, and they're on a case by case basis."

Jordan also said the property has been difficult to enforce as a nuisance because it is both within and outside city limits. De-annexation gives the county "full jurisdiction," she said.

The council will decide when to have the public hearing at its next meeting because the city attorney needs time to research what's required in the process of de-annexation, including length of time from publication before holding the hearing.

Begnoche added that public input has swayed council members to change their minds on issues in the past, including the issue of having a full-time mayor.

In other city business:

-- Porter reported she has been appointed chairwoman of the pool improvement committee by the mayor.

-- The council adopted the 2009 International Plumbing Code. The last plumbing code was updated in 2000.

-- The council approved a building permit at 605 Huntress for a 624 square-feet metal building.

-- The council tabled further action on condemnations of four buildings to see if the county would participate in the cost of demolition.

-- Streets commissioner Greg Jensen reported that the city has recycled 93 tons since starting to pick up recyclables from residences on Dec. 4.

-- Begnoche, council president, presided over the meeting as mayor in the absence of Mayor Sharon Brown, who was at an Illinois leadership retreat paid for by Fort Riley with Fort Riley leaders. Beatty was also absent because of an illness.