Kansas Municipal News


Wichita public meeting on police/community relations Thursday

Wichita police/community relations will be at the fore Thursday of a public discussion that comes in the wake of civil unrest and racial tensions plaguing a Missouri town.

The meeting, called #NoFergusonHere, starts at 6:30 p.m. at East High School, 2301 E. Douglas in Wichita. The forum will feature a panel discussion of community leaders – including Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, Wichita Interim Police Chief Nelson Mosley and Wichita Branch NAACP president Kenya Cox – and aims to better the relationship between local law enforcement and the public.

(Read more: The Wichita Eagle & Kansas.com)

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Economic developer seeks personal and professional balance in Hillsboro mystery store debate

Two Hillsboro businessmen opposed to the mystery business to be built in Hillsboro Industrial Park praised Marion Economic Development Director Terry Jones Thursday for assistance they said he had provided in their battle.
However, Jones denied giving any guidance to Eric Driggers or Jon Hefley, although he acknowledged accepting an invitation from them to attend Tuesday’s meeting of Hillsboro City Council where the mystery business was discussed.
“My job response is to remain neutral, but as the son-in-law of a local grocery store owner I am concerned, because the business will have an effect on my family’s business,” Jones said. “I’m keeping both separated because it’s not in my job to better my family’s business.”
While officially neutral, Jones said personally he does not want the business built in Hillsboro.

(Read more: HILLSBORO Star-Journal)

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Sedgwick County adds a new MRAP to their arsenal

For four months, Sedgwick County has had a mine resistant, ambush protected armored vehicle, or MRAP. The vehicle usually carries a hefty price tag, $750,000, but the county, like so many others around the country, received it from a military surplus program, free of charge.

But what does a free vehicle cost? It starts with training.

“We sent the deputies to the fire department’s large vehicle course,” said Lt. Dave Mattingly with the sheriff’s office, “we called the experts they drive those vehicles on a regular basis.”

In all, 10 deputies are trained on how to drive the vehicle, 2 also received training from the Army on basic procedures, and 3 or 4 will receive more specialized training from the National Tactical Officers Association in November because, so far, all the training has been on how deputies operate the vehicle.

(Read more: KSN-TV)

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Cameras keep Marion officers, residents in check

In wake of the Ferguson, Missouri police shooting, several large police departments across the country are looking at supplying officers with body cameras to debunk any questions after a confrontation, but Marion Police Department is ahead of the curve.
For the past year, every officer on the department except Chief Tyler Mermis, because he isn’t often on active duty, has been required to use the cameras while on duty. After talking with other departments across the state, Mermis believes Marion is the smallest department in the state using the cameras since the department purchased four cameras from TASER last April for around $2,500.
Using the cameras is a matter of safety for residents and officers because it creates a record of exactly what the officer sees during a stop, he said.
“It keeps everyone honest,” Mermis said.

(Read more: PEABODY Gazette-Bulletin)

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A bright future for Dodge City’s economy

The economic future for Dodge City is bright according to a national agency, Policom Corporation, that looks at growth in cities and towns across the country.

“It’s the long term tendency for an area to grow in both size and quality in a consistent manner,” said Bill Fruth of Policom Corporation.

Dodge ranks 21st out of 536 micropolitan areas nationally, and was the highest rated Kansas town.

(Read more: KSN-TV)

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Landlords upset over rental licensing in Hoisington

New rental licensing agreements have some landlords in Hoisington upset.

A new rental licensing agreement would enforce minimum standards in rental homes, which involves having windows that could open and locks on doors, before they could be leased.

“If we’re going to do something to try and clean up the community and why start picking on landowners, I mean let’s look at the whole picture and get the residents of the whole town in it,” said Leon Steiner, a landlord.

City leaders argue they’re trying to ensure clean and safe rental housing.

(Read more: KSN-TV)

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Douglas County economic development plan proposes venture capital, other assistance for start-ups

Helping start-up companies with grants, loans and larger venture capital investments is among the highlights of a strategic plan being proposed by the Lawrence chamber of commerce and the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Corporation.

Chamber leaders are beginning to present the draft plan to community leaders and will ask the city and county’s Joint Economic Development Council to approve it at a Sept. 11 meeting. Ultimately, city and county commissioners also will be asked to approve the plan.

Among the action items in the plan are the development of three countywide funds for an entrepreneurship scholarship, a revolving loan fund and a venture capital fund.

(Read more: BaldwinCity.com stories)

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Wichita leaders want your help telling the city’s story

A group of local organizations is working to develop a new brand strategy for Wichita that leaders believe will help boost economic growth in the city.
And they are asking the public to help them develop it.
Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau has joined forces with the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, Wichita Downtown Development Corp., Wichita Community Foundation and Wichita State University in what organizers say is truly a collective effort to tell Wichita’s story.
And to identify just what that story is, the group will be holding public input sessions next week, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 2 and Sept. 3 at the Wichita Scottish Rite Center.

(Read more: The Wichita Business Journal)

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Harvey County works with businesses on banning e-cigarettes

As Overland Park becomes the first in Kansas to ban e-cigarettes in public places. This has other cities in Kansas talking about regulation. Last year in Newton High School banned e-cigs from its campus because students using the products in class. The Harvey County Health Department says they have businesses interested in possibly banning them in the work place.

As E-cigarettes rise in popularity, so does the talk of regulating them. Right now in Kansas it’s legal to smoke indoors. That’s why Harvey County Health Department is helping businesses as they decide to prohibit them in the work place.

(Read more: KAKE News)

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Concerned citizens want to make city hall accountable

An organized effort by neighbors to fight a zoning change has evolved into a grassroots organization which hopes to help the entire community.
A group of residents of the five neighborhoods in The Oaks have formed Citizens for Vibrant Neighborhoods and Communities. The group is organized with a vision statement declaring itself as “a collection of citizens concerned about the way things are being run at city hall and have decided to exercise our rights by holding our elected officials accountable.”
The Citizens for Vibrant Neighborhoods and Communities likely had its seeds planted [when a developer planned to build] … apartment units on land which was previously zoned for single-family homes. …
Members continue to hear from others across the Derby community. They are being asked to look beyond this one issue and see other problems which local residents would like corrected.

(Read more: DerbyInformer.com – news,news/)

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Anthony to begin rebuilding downtown

Ground will be broken at 10 a.m. Thursday on the $3.5 million redevelopment of a block of downtown Anthony – five years and 51 days after an accidental fire destroyed nearly the entire block.

The year-long project, dubbed “Anthony 100,” will create a two-story, 41,000 square-foot building shell with nearly a dozen storefronts, which will then be up to individual property owners to complete.

The design will retain much of the historic look of the downtown neighborhood, but yet “be new and fresh,” said developer Jeff Jones of Wichita-based Tru-Building Inc.

A 2 percent sales tax collected within a designated Community Improvement District, in place since 2011, will fund the development, which will include retail and office space, as well as potential loft apartments.

Besides funding the shell structure, money from the CID will be available to property owners in the form of low interest loans to finish out the spaces.

(Read more: Hutchinson News)

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County attorney looks to boost budget

When County Attorney Nathan Coleman came to the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners with his budget request, he came prepared.
… Coleman presented the commissioners with a request for an increase of more than $50,000 to his office’s budget. It would be a 21 percent bump to the office of the county’s chief prosecutor.

Coleman presented budgeting numbers that he said showed Cherokee County was falling behind in key areas. He said the county was behind peers in population in total budget, per capita budget per offenses and in child in care of need (CICN) cases.
“Where we’ve set the county attorney budget right now is comparative with counties having more like 12-thousand to 14-thousand to 16-thousand population base,” he said. “And we have almost 21,000.”

(Read more: Cherokee Co. News-Advocate – news,news/)

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Trust in city’s government discussed at proposed rate hike meeting

Topeka city manager Jim Colson realizes a lot of Topekans lack confidence in their city government, he said Tuesday evening

But Colson said he’s working continually to hold employees accountable and better serve citizens, while city council members seem “confident that we’re making progress.”

Colson, whose second anniversary on the job is Wednesday, spoke at the second of two meetings the city government held this week to share information about proposed increases in the rates it charges for water and wastewater service. Doug Gerber, the city’s director of administrative and financial services, made a presentation and answered questions at both gatherings.

(Read more: News)

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Extensive KORA request concerns superintendents

A legislative open-records request sent last week to school districts has some superintendents wondering how to comply, and has skeptics asking whether the request is politically motivated.

Superintendents across the state received the inquiry last Thursday. Sent by the Legislature’s research department, it seeks information about schools extending invitations to elected officials or election candidates to attend events or meetings.

(Read more: News)

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Bonner police consider body-mounted cameras

Bonner Springs City Manager John “Jack” Helin said the city is considering body-mounted cameras for its police officers.

Following the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., Helin told the Bonner Springs City Council Monday that having officers wear cameras to have a better record of incidents has become a national discussion, and the Bonner Springs Police Department would like to consider its options.

Helin said the department actually purchased about 15 body cameras a few years ago, but the technology wasn’t very durable at the time and all of the cameras broke over the years.

(Read more: BonnerSprings.com stories)

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Wastewater department billed De Soto schools for a lot of green but gave a lot back

The De Soto School District recently learned the value of asking questions.

About $26,680, as it turns out.

That’s the amount of a refund check the district received from Johnson County Wastewater after the district questioned its bill. At issue was the method used to keep track of the water poured out to keep new sod alive in a very dry summer.

The district had been charged for about 9 million gallons of water used to keep two fields irrigated during three summer months of 2012, said Alvie Cater, spokesman for the district.

But since water for landscaping goes straight into the ground instead of wastewater treatment lines, it should not have been included in the bill. Hence the refund.

(Read more: Local News | The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com)

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Reno County Commissioner notes election costs

The recent primary election in Reno County cost just under $6.50 per ballot, Reno County Commissioner Dan Deming noted Tuesday as the commission considered vouchers which included election costs.

Those costs, among more than $2 million in vouchers approved Tuesday, totaled $48,781. That included some $14,000 for ballots and $28,000 for election workers.

(Read more: The Hutchinson News – news/local state news,news/local state news/)

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Kansas increase in free school lunches is tied to poverty, not districts gaming the system

A Kansas Association of School Boards report finds the increase in children receiving free or discounted meals is tied to increasing poverty rates and is not a ploy to boost school funding.

Over the past 15 years, the number of students eligible for the meals has swelled from 33 percent to 50 percent, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The number of students who qualify for free meals factors into the state’s school finance formula. School districts receive more money for students from low-income households, based on the idea that schools in impoverished areas have a higher need.

The organization’s lobbyist, Mark Tallman, said the report is a response to state lawmakers’ questions about why there is an increase in students eligible for the meals and whether the growth in applications is linked to schools misusing the formula to get more funding.

(Read more: Local News | The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com)

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Wichita school district hopes new bidding process will save money, time

Wichita school board members hope a new process for bidding work for the new Southeast High School will save the district time and money and could open more jobs to small subcontractors.

The board voted 6-0 Monday to proceed with a different approach, called construction at-risk management, in which the district will select a construction manager to work with designers before various parts of the project go out for competitive bids.

Instead of bidding the whole project at once, the construction manager and district will work together to bid various parts of the project – everything from concrete work to heating and cooling systems to floor tile.

(Read more: Breaking News, Sports, Weather & More | The Wichita Eagle & Kansas.com)

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Wastewater Facility in Hays Getting an Upgrade

Problems with the water in Hays have led to two violations from the state.
Back in April, the city had to pay an eighteen-thousand dollar fine for an ammonia problem.
Now they’re continuing testing after being cited for having too much coliform in the water.
It all means needing to repair or replace the 1950s wastewater treatment plant, last upgraded more than twenty years ago.

(Read more: KSN-TV)

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Work begins on Shawnee park named in honor its German sister city

There’s a city in Germany called Erfurt, and it has its eye on some Shawnee parkland.

That land will become Erfurt Park, named in honor of the German city — Shawnee’s sister city since 1993. Construction began Monday.

The park will sit on 15 acres fronting 71st Street on the north and running between Clare and Gleason roads. Its design will replicate the German city and its Aga Park, said Neil Holman, the Shawnee Parks and Recreation Department’s director.

(Read more: Joco 913 News | The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com)

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Survey: Dodge City in top 4 percent of small cities in economic strength

The high economic strength ranking of the Dodge City micropolitan area, 21 on a list of 536 in the nation, is likely skewed when compared to many of the 20 above it, the analyst that compiled the rankings said.
Without North Dakota oil boomtowns and dense northeast towns packing the top of the list, Dodge City’s ranking could be higher, William Fruth of the municipal planning firm Policom said.
Each year Fruth’s firm, based out of Florida, ranks the nation’s micropolitan and metropolitan economies. Dodge City has been on a steady increase since it bottomed out at 310 in 2006. It is now the highest ranking micropolitan economy in Kansas, according to Fruth’s methodology. Junction City at 59 is the next highest.

(Read more: dodgeglobe.com)

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Eureka pulls plug on gas chamber

The days of euthanizing animals with a gas chamber have come to an end in one south-central Kansas town.

The city of Eureka unplugged the gas chamber just a few days after The Topeka Capital-Journal published a story Aug. 4 about the ongoing practice in the state. Midge Grinstead, director of the Humane Society of the United States branch in Kansas, had been working with the pound since July.

“It’s been a goal of ours for quite some time,” Ian Martell, city administrator of Eureka, said Monday. “I guess we just needed someone to come in and say, ‘You might as well do that.’ ”

(Read more: News)

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Big expansion project helps McPherson’s economy

mcpherson-logo

For years, the The National Cooperative Refinery Association oil refinery has been a pivotal fixture of the McPherson skyline.

… Recently, a pack of cranes ranging in size and shape has taken over the skyline to aid the refinery in its Coker Replacement Project. One of those cranes is more than 530 feet tall.

NCRA is in the middle of a $555 million, two-year expansion of its coker.

McPherson Chamber of Commerce executive director Jennifer Burch said the economic reach of the project has brought more than 1,000 people to McPherson. As a result, Burch said, the community is experiencing an economic boom in addition to facing a housing shortage.

Other communities have also been able to benefit from this project, Burch said, as project contractors looking for homes are finding them in Lindsborg, Salina, Hutchinson and Lyons.

NCRA is one of the higher-paying employers in McPherson County. Later in the year NCRA plans to perform a turnaround, shutting down the refinery to clean it, which Burch said will bring an additional 2,500 people to the area.

(Read more: Hutchinson News)

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School district may use alternate pre-bid process for construction of Southeast High

Wichita school officials are considering a different approach for the new Southeast High School bond project in which a construction manager would work with designers before the project goes to bid.

The process, called construction at-risk management procurement, was approved by state lawmakers in 2008 as an alternative to the typical construction bid process for complex projects or ones with tight deadlines.

It allows districts to hire a construction manager by negotiation, before the design is complete and without competitive bidding at the prime level.

(Read more: The Wichita Eagle & Kansas.com)

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Shawnee County resurrects facilities management department

A nine-year experiment.

Shawnee County counselor Rich Eckert used that phrase this past week to describe the county’s elimination in 2005 of its job for a facilities management department director, who focused on overseeing building maintenance and county construction projects.

County commissioners switched that responsibility first to the human resources department, then to the parks and recreation department.

Finally, this past week, the situation came full circle.

County commissioners voted to again create and operate a facilities management department and to also create a job for a facilities management director.

Eckert said: “One thing that everybody always accuses government of doing is ‘We don’t think outside the box, and we just keep doing the same things over and over again.’ Well, we just had a nine-year experiment. We did try something different. We didn’t like it that much.”

(Read more: News)

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Longtime public servant starts first semester as director of KU School of Public Affairs and Administration

Even as many are disillusioned with national- and state-level government, it’s an exciting time to lead Kansas University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.

So says the top-ranking school’s new director, Reggie Robinson, citing KU’s emphasis on preparing students for leadership roles in municipal government and the “meaningful opportunities” that abound there.

“There are a lot of wonderful things happening at the local level,” Robinson said. “It’s where the rubber meets the road.”

(Read more: LJWorld.com stories: News)

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No new trial for Neodesha in long-running feud with BP

The Kansas Court of Appeals has refused to order a new trial in a class-action suit in which the city of Neodesha and its residents claimed BP of North America needed to do more to clean up industrial pollution from a refinery closed in 1970.

In a decision announced Friday, the appellate court affirmed a Wilson County District Court order denying a new trial. The case — one the appeals court described as “a massive lawsuit in every respect” – has already been heard once by the Kansas Supreme Court, which in 2012 refused to order a new trial based on a challenge to a 2007 jury decision that said BP had fulfilled its cleanup requirements.

The plaintiffs returned to the district court with new arguments for a new trial based on what they said were multiple other errors in the first case. They were turned down by both the trial judge and the appeals court, which acknowledged problems in the way the initial trial was conducted.

(Read more: The Topeka Capital-Journal)

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