Cedar struggles to get by



CEDAR -- It takes a bit longer for the mail to make its way to this tiny Smith County community, but residents already know the post office hours will be reduced.

For the most part, residents across northwest Kansas haven't been expecting to change the minds of USPS officials, breathing a sigh of relief instead that their post office isn't closing.

"I don't think it's going to hurt," said Darlene Fuller, a Cedar resident and one of five members on the city council.

But the city's acting mayor, Al Riley, sees it as another blow.

He's actually council president, put in charge when the mayor is gone.

"I'm not on the checkbook," he said, laughing. "I get to mow and push snow. When I'm not here, Lowell gets to mow and push snow."

He was referring to Lowell Lydic, another council member.

Riley's wife, Sue, is Cedar's clerk.

She and the treasurer are the only people paid by the city, but they only receive $150 a year.

Cedar is a town struggling to stay alive.

In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau put the city's population at 14.

The city's lost two residents so far, but has gained one.

Riley said he's trying to get people to move in.

The city was given an empty lot recently after it suggested the absentee owner chip in a little to pay for the gas to mow. Misunderstanding the message, the owner simply donated it to the city.

Riley, who has lived in Cedar for seven years, has an adjoining lot, and he said both would be given to anyone who wants to come in and build.

"There aren't that many people here," he said. "About everyone here is on the council."

With a five-member council, a mayor and a treasurer and city clerk, that leaves only five people who aren't part of city government.

And with rules and regulations, it's a struggle.

Cedar tried to comply with Homeland Security rules for street signs by making their own, white posts with adhesive letters -- prone to falling off as weather conditions fluctuate

"We put street signs up, but they're not up to state specifics," he said.

"It's going to cost us $3,600 to do the street signs," Sue Riley said.

Cedar only needs 14 signs.

"Just the signs and the brackets," she said, as they already have the posts.

But in a community that has a budget of approximately only $5,000 a year, it's not something they can do easily.

Smith County officials have been unwilling to lend a hand, so the Rileys are looking to apply for grants to pay for the signs.

"When I moved here, we didn't even have an address," Al Riley said. "My driver's license had a post office box on it."

The Rileys recently bought another house in Cedar and are working to fix it up, hoping someone will move in.

"I'm the youngest person in town," Sue Riley said. "I'm 58. Everyone else in town are in their mid-60s to their 80s."

With such a small population, it's getting to be a struggle to get people on the council.

"We're trying to figure out a way to get people in," she said. "We may have to go to three on the council."