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City of Pratt residents to keep electricity access

Fran Brownell
Pratt City commissioners put action into motion at their March 16 meeting that allows city residents to keep access to electricity even if they are not able to pay their electrical bills on time, in response to economic concerns about the impact of the coronavirus disease. Late fees will still apply, but account meters (pictured) will not be shut off.

A moratorium on city utility shutoffs is in place to assure that all Pratt residents have access to water, electricity and sanitation services as protection against coronavirus, however, late fees will still apply.

Taking action at their regular meeting Monday, March 16, at City Hall Council Chambers, Pratt City commissioners supported the moratorium implemented by City Manager Bruce Pinkall.

Mayor Gary Schmidt and commissioners Zach Deeds, Jason Leslie, Don Peters and Doug Meyer all cast positive votes to make the decision unanimous.

Commissioners also supported Pinkall in acting as the “one voice” for the city for all issues relating to COVID-19.

Pinkall said the City of Pratt website will be the go-to place for citizen inquiries regarding COVID-19 concerns and that it will be updated to provide new information as it becomes available, including what to do if sick.

The webpage will be available in both English and Spanish, Pinkall said, and will be updated daily, even if there is no new information to report.

“People can check in and know what’s up,” Pinkall said.

Paying utility bills on line is an option that more residents are using and Pinkall said utility customers are being encouraged to pay on-line or pay by phone or to use the drop slot at the city hall.

Pinkall also said city staff are taking extra measures to sanitize work environments for safety of visitors and city employees with frequent wipe-downs of counters and restroom facilities.

Following an executive order by Gov. Laura Kelly last week, Pinkall said the city is contacting organizations that have scheduled city facilities for gatherings of 50 people or more and added that several organizations have already contacted the city to cancel.

“The Pilot Club already canceled their annual chicken noodle dinner,” Pinkall said.

The city recreation program will mirror the USD 382 sport schedule, Pinkall said, noting that the city soccer program will suspend practices for at least a week. The Pratt Rec. Department is closed until further notice.

Pinkall also mentioned the possibility that future city commission meetings might need to be conducted remotely by conference call and said, if that occurs, there will also be an option for city residents to call in for remote attendance.

“That’s not planned yet, but it’s down the road,” Pinkall said.

City department heads are also making plans for how to keep essential city services operable if employees are sick and unable to work. Any city employee ill with coronavirus will not be allowed to return to work for two weeks while under quarantine, Pinkall said.

“We’re already in motion and talking about those things together,” Pinkall said. “If something comes up, we’ll be able to manage it quickly.”

In other business, city commissioners:

--Completed the contract with EBH Engineering Services relating to the 2020 Comprehensive Planning services.

--Approved amendments to 10 city ordinances to remove specific dollar amounts relating to fees with the wording that a “specified fee” – recorded in a separate document – would apply.

The ordinances updated were Permit Issuance Fee, Service Connections Deposit & Fees, Meter for Temporary Use, Disconnect & Reconnect fees, Violations, Disconnections & Penalties, Electrical Service-Deposit & Fees, Administrative Impact Fees, Usage Fees for Utility Pole Lights, Fees for Storm Water Drainage Fund and Permits for Installation of Electrical Wiring, Devices & Materials.

City Attorney Regina Probst said that city ordinances are being updated in batches in conjunction with the Global Fee Ordinance which will record all city fees in one document for easier reference and revision.