The City of Pratt is preparing to show its best face to visitors in town for the Miss Kansas Pageant.

"We've got everybody mowing, trimming, cleaning up, trying to get the town looking nice to greet Miss Kansas," public works director Russ Rambat reported at Monday's meeting of the City Commission.

On a related note, city inspector Brad Blankenship said he had sent out 65 "weed letters," warnings to property owners that if they did not mow their lawns, it would be done for them and charged to them.

"We've already mowed too much," he said. With recent rains, he gave owners some additional time, and it "just ballooned out."

For the most part, he said, people are doing their own mowing after receiving the reminders. The city hires private contractors at the rate of $75 for a 50-foot lot. About half a dozen mowers are currently working, doing five to eight properties in an evening. The city pays the contractors, then tries to recover fees from owners. They're not always successful. Another recourse is to add the charges to the property tax bill, but that may go unpaid also. The city can also file a lien, to try to collect when the property is sold.

"You'd be shocked how much we mow that the citizens of Pratt end up paying for," Blankenship said.

City Manager Dave Howard said that next year, in early May, the city will send warning letters to habitual violators of the ordinance, eliminating the 10-day waiting period once a property is already overgrown. He also noted that an owner is not in violation of the ordinance until grass and weeds have grown at least a foot tall.

"We need to adjust that," Howard said.

Howard reported a leak in a diesel fuel tank that he said was not "super-serious. It was self-contained but it did get into the dirt." The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will handle clean-up.

Howard also informed the commission that Interstate Holdings, LLC has canceled an agreement to purchase property north of the Green Sports Complex for the construction of an apartment complex. The company did not receive the state tax credits for which they had applied, so the "deal is off the table," he said.

Library Director Rochelle Westerhaus presented a budget request for $116,500 from the city, to help cover a 40 percent increase in technology services and bring the library's funding base closer to that of libraries across the state serving a comparable population.

A similar request was made last week to the Pratt County Commission.

Commissioners handled two action items:

• Approved a bid of $75,532 to replace a cooling tower in the city electrical system.

• Approved contracts with Kansas Municipal Energy Agency for the reallocation of baseload power to Garden City and to Meade. Selling 6 megawatts of power to Garden City through KMEA should result in savings to the city, Howard said, as Pratt should be able to purchase power for its own needs at a cheaper rate. The contract with Meade is short-term, to help that city with summer loads.

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