By Tim Horan

The Salina Journal

At their regular meeting Tuesday, Salina city commissioners hired RDG Planning in Design, of Omaha, Neb., to perform a housing assessment in the city.

"Most of all, bring forward a strategic plan for us to work on housing in the future," said Gary Hobbie, the city's director of community and development.

Hobbie said the city considered multiple regional planning groups in looking for a company to perform the assessment.

"We wanted to have a more extensive strategic plan," he said.

He said staff could give a report on housing needs, and commissioners and community members could give ideas.

"We felt like an outside source who was willing to go to the extreme of riding a bicycle up and down every street in the community and assessing the housing structures we have in our community was worth looking into," he said.

RDG Planning will start next month and finish in late spring or early summer, Hobbie said. Cost is $50,000.

"I think it is critical that we are getting a detailed, accurate assessment," Commissioner Jon Blanchard said. "It is something we have needed for a long time. This is something we will be able to use. It's not going to sit on a shelf. We will really be able to use this."

Topics to address

Topics the house assessment and strategic plan will address include:

-- Scope of work.

-- Community engagement.

-- Population and market analysis mapping.

-- Market assessment.

-- Neighborhood assessments, including mapping of incomes, occupancy data and housing stock.

-- Development financing review and recommendations.

-- Strategy, program and implementation recommendations.

-- Public/private partnerships and solicitation of input from the general public.

New software approved

The commission also approved a new software package for the city.

The financial accounting and payroll software used by the city originally was acquired in 1988. It has been showing its age, said Rod Franz, director of finance and administration.

Staff has been creative about developing work-arounds or supplemental systems to deal with deficiencies, he said.

"It has been incredible the system has lasted this long," Franz said.

The cost of $487,770 includes licenses, implementation, travel and miscellaneous services. The commission also approved $30,000 for hardware or operating infrastructure.

Water main replacement

Commissioners also approved the replacement of approximately 4.5 miles of water mains at a cost of $2 million.

According to the staff report, the city's water distribution system consists of 329 miles of water mains ranging from 2-inch to 30-inch diameter pipes. The original system was constructed in the early 1900s, with the majority through the 1960s.

The old sand cast iron water mains were not uniform in size and were not cement lined, which resulted in a rough surface, to which iron bacteria could attach.

Architecture firm hired

Commissioners agreed to hire PKHLS Architecture of El Dorado to begin Phase II of improvements to Fire Station No. 1.

The general scope of architectural services includes:

-- Construction of two large drive-through apparatus bays on the west end of the existing fire station, complete with Plymo-Vent diesel exhaust system and floor drive;

-- Construction of two rooms within the footprint of the new construction, one for maintenance and storage and a climate-controlled room for personal protective equipment;

-- Identify materials and methods that can be applied to the existing apparatus bays to improve the appearance of the ceiling;

-- Expand and reconfigure the Plymo-Vent diesel exhaust system for all the apparatus bays as necessary.

Cost of the project is $800,000, to be financed with general obligation bonds. The project is included in the 2014-2018 capital improvements program.

(c)2014 The Salina Journal