Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
In my estimation…March came in like a lamb – beautiful weather all this week. No one knows the origins or particular philosophy behind this weather predicting folklore…most sources say it goes back to the Farmers’ Almanac. Early almanac writers recognized March as the month we normally transition from winter to spring…they also had strong viewpoints that the weather was balanced. Hence if March blew in gentle…it would leave the opposite. 
 
Still, we can all enjoy the beautiful weather and, like the early writers of the Farmers’ Almanac know…we still have some winter yet to bear this year before spring comes to stay.  
 
Paying the Bill:
 
Now with the warm weather, leaders are in the process of assessing the damage from the week of February 12-19…the extreme bitter cold. Mostly left to figure is how to pay the bill for using so much power to generate heat. City Commissioners are faced with the dilemma and looking for ways to not have to pass the entire bill to consumers. Because of Ottawa’s ability to generate power, we experienced none of the rolling blackouts which many Kansas communities were plagued with. However…there is a cost to generate electricity and avoiding powered outages. Bottom line…it cost Ottawa $1.2 million over and above average costs, in one week to generate electricity during the arctic blast. A $1.2 million bill challenges anyone’s budget! Here is the complete report presented to Commissioners by Utility Director, Dennis Tharp and Interim Finance Director Wynndee Lee…now it’s time to pay the piper. Commissioners discussed several options but, in the end, will do their best to help consumers…us – the end user, mitigate the costs. Final decision is to pass on only 60% of the $1.2 charges to Ottawa citizens and do it over a 10-month period. Everyone will see an increase of about $10.00/month in their monthly utility bill to pay the huge overage beginning in April…this action helps lessen the load to households resulting from the huge bills the City is faced with paying for the cost of generation. 
 
Wednesday, the Kansas Legislature and Governor got involved…you can imagine – we are not the only town with this issue. It is a common problem for many Kansas communities…some to the point of declaring bankruptcy. In a single day the Legislature passed and sent to the Governor a bill to allow assistance to Kansas communities faced with these unprecedented utility bills…mostly in the form of low-interest loans to be paid back over time. Still a big relief to those who didn’t have the reserves to pay the bill. I’d like to see the early prognosticators of the Farmers’ Almanac, who believed weather was balanced, predict weather today!! 
 
International City/County Management Association (ICMA):  
 
Our own City Manager, Richard Nienstedt was recognized recently for 40-years’ service by the ICMA (picture here)…congrats Richard!! Founded in 1914 as the International City Managers Association, ICMA provides education and networking opportunities for its members and offers the Credentialed Manager program to offer professional credentialing to city and county executives managers. It also conducts research, provides technical assistance and training, and promotes professional local government management. We are fortunate to have such longstanding experienced leadership at the helm all the time really…but especially when we have situations such as unprecedented utility costs or city flooding which happened in the summer of 2019. Knowing where and how to turn in an emergency is hugely beneficial. Thanks for your leadership Richard and your steady hand on the tiller…your management is greatly appreciated.
 
New Signage:
 
Have you seen the new signs when you come to the Franklin County line on I-35 (pictures here)? Greeting highway travelers with a smile and a wave and highlighting the great opportunity to stop and hike, bike or simply enjoy the outdoors. Our trails are a tremendous regional tourist draw…and really the best way to enjoy our local Franklin County. The trails were as busy as ever last summer during the pandemic when friends and families searched for ways to be safe together in the outdoors.
 
I can’t wait until we host some events at Legacy Square featuring our trails and the many great assets of our community. Just this morning we met with a group organizing a 500-rider gravel trail timed race which will begin and end in Legacy Square later this fall…we are also beginning to plan other outdoor events for the Square. I’m looking forward to greeting all of you later this year in Legacy Square…it seems forever since I’ve seen some of you.
 
COVID Update:
 
Not feeling as oppressive as it did several months ago, the local COVID numbers continue to improve with only 20-active cases in Franklin County on Wednesday, March 3. Here is the full report.  Our local positivity testing is running at 3.7% for the last 2-weeks. I don’t want to dismiss the seriousness still present. Some of the reduction is because of local citizens stepping up and getting vaccinated (I get my second shot next week)…and certainly we don’t want to diminish the fact this pandemic is still gripping many communities in our nation and the world (more so on the coasts) – but in the Midwest the pandemic is beginning to have a different feel. Stay vigilant…let’s see this through to the end. Call 785.229.3531 to get your vaccination!!
 
More Birthday Parties:
 
Last weekend we celebrated 3 birthdays in our family…a 4-year old, a 6-year old and a 1-month old. Here are the pictures. And such beautiful weather…the kids played outdoors most of the day. Here are a few pictures of spring fun with cousins
 
Sounds like more great weather for this weekend…hope you can get outdoors and enjoy it! Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000