On Sept. 16, Pratt City Commissioners discussed the draft of an ordinance that would make it unlawful for anyone under the age of 17 to loiter in any public area within the city between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.
That document fell short of what the police department wanted — no loitering by anyone under the age of 18 between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on week nights and midnight to 6 during the weekend, with a laundry list of defenses or reasons why a youngster would be permitted to be out after hours.
On Monday night, commissioners directed City Attorney Ken Van Blaricum to draft a formal ordinance for consideration at the next meeting. Most agreed to place the age at under 18 and keep the hours from midnight to 6.
The purpose is not to "play gotcha" with football players coming home from Ulysses after midnight or penalize debaters or cheerleaders or kids going home from work or others on the streets for legitimate reasons, Van Blaricum explained. Rather, it will give police officers the power to stop someone, ask what they're up to and call their parents if needed.
"Right now we have kids roaming the city," said Sgt. Kent Wyatt, who works the night shift. It's not unusual to find 13-year-olds, 12-year-olds and even 8- and 9-year-olds out at 2 or 3 a.m. "I call parents, and wake them up, and they tell me it's fine," he said.
The proposed ordinance would make loitering between the specified hours a Class C violation, with a maximum jail time of 30 days or a maximum fine of $500, which could apply to both the minor and the parent.
The penalty is meant for shock value, Van Blaricum said.
Wyatt said a loitering ordinance in Colorado Springs, where he previously worked, was "very, very effective. Studies show whenever a city adopts some type of ordinance, the crime rate for that age group goes down."
Commissioner Bill Hlavachick reported that he had talked to about a dozen families. They all agreed with an ordinance against loitering, and not a curfew, and they thought the age should be under 16. Most also thought the city already had some kind of ordinance in place.
City Manager Dave Howard said the ordinance won't make a difference to some — "the ones up to no good, they're going to be up to no good, no matter what the law" — but agreed that the ordinance would give police a tool.
A vote is expected at the Oct. 21 meeting.
In other business, commissioners:
• approved a monthly utility allowance of $550 per month for a period of 13 months for the Hope Center, which hopes to move into a building at 314 S. Main by Dec. 1. The average utility payment by Cox Communications during a 12-month period ending August 2010 was $451.42. An initiative of the Pratt County Ministerial Alliance, Hope Center aims to coordinate services of 70-some resources to help people with immediate problems and provide life skills to get them on their feet as fully-functioning members of society.
• approved the purchase of a trailer-mounted air compressor for the water department in the amount of $16,534.26. Over a period of three years, the department has put back $17,000 for the purchase, according to Kelvin Clay, water superintendent. The 1996 model still runs pretty well, but is no longer in production and parts are hard to find. It will be retained as a back-up.
• approved a contract with Arensdorf Construction, LLC, for labor to replace ties for the Pilot Express train in Sixth Street Park. Arensdorf's bid was $25,500, significantly lower than a bid by FATB Construction, LLC. The city wants to control the type of material used, building inspector Brad Blankenship said. The amount will be in excess of $10,000, which requires a competitive bidding process, he said. He will bring detailed information to a later meeting. The job is to be completed by April 1.
• learned that construction on the Main Street beautification project will not begin until early in 2015. The city had proposed a more aggressive schedule, recreation director Bruce Pinkall said, but Kansas Department of Transportation proposed an alternative timeline based on numerous project reviews and approvals. The city will continue with the design phase, Pinkall said, and the construction timeline can be set as conveniently as possible for businesses in the construction zone.
• approved a program to test the new tornado sirens every Monday from mid-March to July and monthly from August through October. The testing period will be one minute.
• learned that the city has received a KDOT geometric improvement grant to resurface North Main from Blaine to the railroad tracks in 2016 and for milling and overlay of First Street from Jackson to Mound in 2015.