City mask mandate remains in effect, Sowers named mayor

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe

A mask mandate update was presented to the Dodge City commissioners on Monday, Dec. 21 with data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment report on the coronavirus, presented by city manager Nick Hernandez.

According to Hernandez, since the mandate went into effect on Nov. 16, 100,000 masks to the public had been distributed from the city with another 16,000 masks still on hand.

Hernandez said based on the KDHE report, since the mandate the cases have decreased in the city.

"I did a 14-day rolling average and the day we passed the mask ordinance, the rolling average was 45 cases per day," Hernandez said. "As of Dec. 20, our 14-day rolling average is 12.4 cases per day."

According to Hernandez, Western Plains Medical Complex has fewer patients in the ICU.

Hernandez's recommendation to the commission was one more month of the mandate.

"I think our people have showed that they've done what they needed to and I am going to make a motion to suspend the mask mandate at this time and reevaluate at the next commission meeting," commissioner Joseph Nuci Jr. said.

There was not a second to the motion, therefore the motion died.

Since the ordinance is still in place, the mandate with remain in effect with a reevaluation to take place at the second city commission meeting in January 2021.

"With the hopes that we can do away with it then," commissioner Kent Smoll said.

City commissioners voted for the next city mayor and vice mayor after the resignation of Mayor Joyce Warshaw on Dec. 15 which stemmed from alleged threats made to her regarding the mask mandate.

Commissioners voted for Kent Smoll as vice mayor and Rick Sowers as mayor.

The votes for mayor came from the commissioners only as per policy.

Sowers had previously been the vice mayor.

Sowers was voted in with a 3-1 vote with Nuci the nay vote. Smoll was voted vice mayor with a 4-0 vote.

Later in the meeting Nuci stated his vote against Sowers was not that Sowers could not do the job but that the mayor position is slated for someone to attend every function in the city.

"Right now not everyone is able to go to every function and he's playing it safe, which he should because he is the first responder, so it's not because I doubt his character or his ability," Nuci said.

The alleged threats made towards Warshaw were deemed to be from a Kentucky man and were reported to not be threats but opinions, according to investigators.

Ralph stated he will be looking into the proper procedures going forward as to the length of time the now-Mayor Sowers would be the figure head of the position.

Commissioner discussed the vacant position for the city commission.

According to Hernandez, before an application for special appointment to City of Dodge City commission, Hernandez suggested the city has 25 days to establish a process and 60 days to make the appointment from the time of the resignation.

"Let's over the next two or three weeks, actually ask for applications from the public to review this form and make sure it's OK," Hernandez said.

All the applications would then go the commissioners which would then reconvene to narrow the field and interview the candidates in a public forum during a study session. The commissioners would then make a final motion to make the appointment for the position.

"That way it's very open, it's vary transparent and everyone in the community has access to everyone who applied and that way it reduces the chances of someone claiming the commissioners are just appointing somebody," Hernandez said.

The deadline for applications will be Jan. 15, 2021 at noon.

Commissioners also approved a resolution for water utility fees, sanitary sewer services, solid waste collection and storm water utility service for the city.

According to city officials through date from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the five-year average for services for 2019 was 3.7% therefore for 2020, the city will increase those fees by that percentage point.

City finance director Nicole May stated the rate increase usually occurs at the start of the year but held off due to COVID-19.

Utility rates will be evaluated again in June 2021 for the 2021 year and will return to normal rate evaluation in March of 2022.

The rates were approved with a 4-0 vote.

Commissioners tabled a rate finalization on recycling for the next commission meeting.

A reroute bid proposal from APAC Kansas, Inc. Shears Division, was also approved for McCaustland Road No. 2 for a total bid of $843,093.66.

The base bid for the project came in at $711,118.16 plus an alternate bid of $131,975.50 for the realignment and construction of the new roadway.

The alternate bid will be for drainage improvements for Nor-Am cold storage roadway.

The reroute proposal was approved with a 4-0 vote.

For Long Branch Lagoon, commissioners approved the purchase of ChlorKing Chlorine Regeneration Cells for the chlorine regeneration system at the water park for $35,672.67.

The cells are estimated to last four to five years and saves the water park as it will not have to purchase large amounts of chlorine each year with the cells in use.

The chlorine cells were approved with a 4-0 vote.

The 2020 special drug and alcohol funds were allocated to Compass Behavioral Health for $10,000; New Chance for $72,500 and Friends of Recovery for $7,500.

According to May, the city had $90,000 in funds taxed to grant out.

The funding came from the alcohol and drug tax that is collected in the community.

Commissioners approved the purchase of a one-ton flat bed truck for the streets department from Lewis Chevrolet for $49,527 which was the low bid. Lopp Motors was the other bid for $52,075.50.

The purchase was approved with a 4-0 vote.

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com