The Hiawatha City Commission met on Monday evening, and after extending an Executive Session twice to discuss non-elected personnel matters, voted unanimously to terminate Fire Chief Ryan Shockley and appoint Assistant Fire Chief Gene Atland as the Acting Fire Chief until a permanent appointment can be made.

No reason was given for the termination.

Reached for comment on Tuesday, City Administrator Mike Nichols said, “The Commission decided they wanted to go in a different direction,” and noted that Shockley is still a member of the Fire Department.

The commission also voted to pass an ordinance to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and places of employment. Mayor Bill Collins said he introduced the idea a while back and the entire commission was on board from the beginning. Collins cited recent reports that vaping may be even more harmful that cigarette smoking. City Attorney Andy Delaney noted that the ordinance is very similar to the Kansas Clean Air Act, but covers vaping where the act does not.

In other business:

The commission approved a bid from Kimmi Saw Mill for the sale of cottonwood trees at Hansbury Springs and a payment of $349,531.93 to AHRS for the Citywide Street Sales Tax Project.

City Administrator Mike Nichols also gave an update on the street projects, noting that 4th and 6th Streets are nearly completed, which will bring the total of completed work to 32 blocks, with the project set for completion next August. Streets Superintendent Nic Siebenmorgen also addressed the completed work, informing the commission and cautioning citizens that the Street Department will be going light on ice melt on new concrete streets this winter to prevent premature aging and damage.

City Clerk Tish Sims read a proclamation declaring Nov. 30 as Small Business Saturday. The proclamation noted that Black Friday favors big box retailers and Cyber Monday benefits larger online retailers, while the Saturday between offers community members the opportunity to support the local businesses that are the backbone of small communities.

Siebenmorgen informed the commission that the city’s street sweeper caught fire and will need to be replaced. With an insurance claim underway, Siebenmorgen is looking for a rental to help clear the streets of leaves.

Nichols let the commission know that he is looking into the price of leasing or leasing-to-buy an excavator, as the city’s Public Works crews are trying to complete more work in-house, without paying outside contractors. Nichols also told the commission that he is looking into the numbers on hiring a City Mechanic, which could streamline the city’s machine and vehicle maintenance and save money.

Nichols also asked the commission their stance on annexation, as the last round the city completed was in 2007. Mayor Collins said he is strongly favor and asked Nichols to return with more information soon.

The commission approved the Consent Agenda, which included the following: an appropriation of $56,499.23, utility refunds of $351.61, a payment to Morrill Public Library of $2,606.20 and a payment to Berberich Trahan & Co. of $7,650.00.

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