Split vote keeps Rice County community a city, for now

Update Wednesday, Nov. 8:

About eight percent of voters turned out in Sedgwick County for Tuesday's local elections. But in the Rice County town of Frederick, turnout was about 50 percent, enough to keep the tiny city on the map, at least for now.

In Frederick, there are six to eight registered voters in the town of Frederick. Four of them had their voices heard in Tuesday's election. But the vote to dissolve the town's incorporation was split, 50-50.

About 10 people call Frederick home, but it has no mayor, no city council and no budget.

"Nobody wants to serve on the councils or do anything with the city, and yet we can't get a concise vote to dissolve it," Rice County Clerk Alicia Showalter says.

Showalter says the town hasn't passed a budget in three years. So, when it was time again to vote on Frederick's existence, its residents thought the choice was obvious.

The Associated Press spoke to former Frederick Mayor Robert Root. He said all eight registered voters in town unanimously agreed to dissolve the city, but the results of the Nov. 7 election proved differently.

"Two came in with "yes" answers and two came in with "no," Root says.

He says there will not be a coin toss. The vote to dissolve Frederick's status as a city needs to pass a 2/3 vote before it passes. This is why a flip of a coin can't break the deadlock in Tuesday's vote.

And Tuesday wasn't the first time the vote failed to dissolve the city. Last year, residents in the surrounding township were accidentally given the opportunity to vote on the town's existence. They voted to keep it, but the only people who are really allowed to have a say are Frederick residents.

Tuesday, the town's residents had the chance to make a move from cityhood. The deadlock keeps Frederick on the map.

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In Rice County, you'll find one of the smallest towns in Kansas.

It has a population you can almost count on your fingers, and pretty soon the people who live there will decide whether or not the city will continue to exist.

"Frederick was a booming town at one time." says Melode Huggans. "It had stores and banks and restaurants and stuff here in town."

Melode has lived in Frederick, KS for 21 years. She's just one of a handful of residents still left in town.

"10...11? I think there's 11 people."

That's counting children. Subtract the three that live there, and you're left with eight people of voting age who will soon decide whether to keep the city, or dissolve it.

"I love the town, but there's just nothing here anymore except the coop." Huggans says. "So it isn't much of a town, we don't do anything."

She currently serves as the Frederick City Clerk. She got the job when the last clerk moved to an assisted living facility.

"I lived here, so I got the job" she jokes.

In her official capacity as city clerk, she uses what little tax money the town still generates to pay for their electric bill - which consists entirely of powering street lights.

"It keeps the lights on...and that's about it."

She's hoping that on November 7 the other seven voters in town will agree to dissolve their incorporation, allowing the township to assume responsibility. It's something they've tried in the past with interesting results.

"We ended up with some votes from the township or something got put into the city vote" she says. "So there were a lot of people that voted to keep the town but they weren't supposed to."

This year, she worries that not enough of the town's residents will bother to cast a ballot.

"I bet we don't have half of them that will vote..."

But regardless of the outcome, she says she's here to stay.

"We love it out here."

If the town's residents vote to dissolve incorporation, she says the Eureka township would then assume responsibility for maintaining their roads and ditches.