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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Council clears way for new group home

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tyson hiring boom, housing shortage also discussed

The Doherty Addition in Southeast Cherokee is the location for a proposed new four-bedroom group home for adults with physical and/or learning disabilities. The Addition also contains several vacant lots soon to include full City services for people to construct new homes on in the wake of the hiring boom at Tyson Deli. Photo by Mike Leckband
Cherokee's City Council Tuesday night approved the second and waived the third reading of a new ordinance changing the zoning in the Doherty Addition to accommodate a new group home that would house adults with physical and/or learning disabilities.

The Cherokee County Residential Services (CCRS) had sought a change in the zoning from R-1 (single family dwelling) to R-2 (multiple family dwelling) to accommodate the home they will begin to construct in the near future. The Council's action Tuesday passes the new ordinance and clears the way for the home to be built.

Before passing the ordinance, the Council heard from a concerned neighbor about the clientele that would be housed in the group home. They feared the home might be for "MHI or CCUSO" patients who had been dismissed.

The neighbors were reassured by Calvin Carver of the CCRS that the home is exclusively for people with physical and/or learning disabilities. "We simply want to bring back former residents to Cherokee, some in wheelchairs, who want to return to their home town," explained Carver. "The home will be 24-hour care and will be staffed at all times. The clients will pay rent. It's similar to Cherry House (existing group home in Cherokee)."

In past meetings, the Council had unanimously approved extending City water and sewer lines about 900 feet to accommodate the new home and to provide City services for available lots in that portion of the Doherty Addition.

The cost of extending the water line to the South Highland property ($16,000) will be covered by the city's water fund, however there are not adequate funds in the sewer fund to cover the $34,000 expense of running the sewer line to the housing addition. The Council agreed with City Administrator Don Eikmeier's recommendation to extend the water and sewer lines to the site, with the City to pay the cost of the extension of both services, but the City will charge a surcharge of $5,000 per lot sold. There are currently four available lots in the South Highland Addition, with the potential of an additional three to be platted. With this surcharge to be collected at the time each lot is developed, the city will recover the cost of the sewer line extension.

The Council also heard a status report from Eikmeier on the proposed $18,520 Lake Street water main project.

An existing 4-inch water line is located on south side of Lake Street between U.S. Highway 59 and Lake Street abutting Koser Spring Lake Park.

Over the past several years the City has experienced multiple water main breaks along this section of line. Soil conditions have eroded this pipe to the extent that it is on Water Department's list of locations for water main replacement.

Mid American Energy also has an overhead electric line along south side of Lake Street.

The Federal Aviation Agency, through Airport Authority, has requested Mid American to bury this line underground to eliminate flight pattern conflicts with the Cherokee airport.

Schoon Construction of Cherokee also is expanding its warehouse along Lake Street that will also require electrical improvements by Mid American.

LeRoy Schoon notified the City last week that Mid American is giving him the contract to install the underground electrical wiring. Owning the warehouse and other buildings along Lake Street, Schoon is aware of the City's past main break problems along Lake Street. If Schoon Construction was to install underground electrical only, they would bore the new electrical wiring -- rather than digging an open trench. To do so however may cause more main breaks along the City water main. By digging one 4-foot wide trench, Schoon proposed to City and Mid American, that they could install electric wiring on one side of trench and water main on the other and save both utilities some dollars in doing the project jointly.

City Engineer estimates reveal that contractor costs to install a 6-inch water main by itself would cost approximately $18 to $20 per running foot. Schoon proposed to do the project jointly for a cost to the City of no more than $12 per running foot (installation costs only).

The Council has awarded the contract to Schoon Construction to install the water main (560 feet approximate length) for $18,520 cost to the City. The monies will come from the City Water Improvement Fund that is expected to be replenished at a rate of $5,000 per month, according to Eikmeier.

In other action, the Council nixed a second extension request concerning a demo derby car located for several months at 704 Rock Island that violates the City's nuisance ordinance. That ordinance mandates that unlicensed and inoperable vehicles can't be stored in public view.

Angie Scott and Mike Fiddler who reside at that address said the demo car would be moved after the final demo derby of the season scheduled in Sheldon September 7. Fiddler said competing in demo derby contests is a family affair and that they work together maintaining and repairing the vehicle for such events.

Neighbors have complained to the City about the lengthy storage of the demo cars and have even supplied photos to the Council showing the unsightliness of the vehicles.

After hearing from the interested parties, the Council refused to grant the extension and the vehicle in question must be moved or garaged by August 20.

Pending further study, the Council also discussed and tabled a resolution presented by Eikmeier amending City building permit fees.

Building permit fees for Cherokee have not been increased since May, 1999, and Eikmeier has compared the City's fees with other area cities and proposed changes ranging from raising a $2,000 permit value from the current $25 to $40, a $100,000 permit value from the current $174.50 to $375, and a $200,000 permit value from the current $184.50 to $425.

In comparing fees with other cities, Eikmeier said the new proposals fall in the mid-point range with other cities. Some cities have full-time building inspectors and others have part-time, which also affects the permit fee structure, explained Eikmeier. Cherokee has a part-time building inspector.

Mayor Pam Pierce and Eikmeier also reported that they have been contacted by Oklahoma people and other out-of-county people inquiring about housing availability regarding the influx of new employees to the Tyson Deli plant in Cherokee. Eikmeier said Tyson has hired 100 new employees since the first of the year, and expects to hire as many as 100 more by the end of the year. There is a distinct need in Cherokee for rental housing and housing, according to Pierce and Eikmeier.

A committee is being formed to further investigate the situation and to provide housing availability options. Tyson recently closed a plant in Oklahoma and moved much of that operation to Cherokee, and are in the midst of expansion projects at the Cherokee Tyson Deli facility to help accommodate the move.

Citizen Dwight Varce, a former City Councilmember, said there are several existing empty houses in Cherokee with absentee ownership and that it would behoove the City to take an active approach on the matter to try to find those owners and work out details to make the houses available for incoming Tyson employees.

Citizen Dan Morrow also cautioned the Council that the City needs someone to regularly inspect rental housing in town to guard against the possibility of slum lords.

"We definitely have a housing problem," said Eikmeier.

Relatedly, Schoon told the Council he was expanding his Lake Street warehouse to accommodate the big increase in supplies and materials utilized at Tyson Deli he's now receiving in regards to the Oklahoma operation.

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