Kansas Municipal News

The Sustainability of Public Services … in Abilene and elsewhere

As the [Abilene] City Commission works on the 2015 Budget, which is still in process, there has been great concern and discussion over the fact that the City has spent more than it has generated in revenue every year since 2007. According to a recent article in Governing magazine by Frank Shafroth, the director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, this is not a trend that is necessarily exclusive to Abilene.

In the article, Shafroth discusses the "trend gap," which is an academic way of describing the difference between governments’ long-term ability to provide public services that the public demands, and citizens’ willingness to pay for those services. The trend gap has gradually widen and is projected to continue its trend as local government revenue continues to fall short of generating the amount that is needed to preserve existing service levels.

(Read more: Abilene Management Perspectives by City Manager David Dillner)


A look at Homestead deed restriction that stopped city from considering property for park

The announcement last week that the city of Prairie Village had called off negotiations for the potential purchase of the front acres of Homestead County Club prompted a number of questions from readers about the deed restrictions referenced in city administrator Quinn Bennion’s statement on the issue.

… The problem, Bennion said, was language in the 1955 deed that outlined acceptable uses for the Homestead land upon its sale by the J.C. Nichols Company (for $1) to form the club. At issue were two clauses that appear to explicitly forbid the use of the land as a park.

(Read more: Prairie Village Post)


SEC Charges Kansas for Understating Municipal Bond Exposure to Unfunded Pension Liability

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced securities fraud charges against the state of Kansas stemming from a nationwide review of bond offering documents to determine whether municipalities were properly disclosing material pension liabilities and other risks to investors.  According to the SEC’s cease-and-desist order instituted against Kansas, the state’s offering documents failed to disclose that the state’s pension system was significantly underfunded, and the unfunded pension liability created a repayment risk for investors in those bonds.

Shortly after its nationwide review of municipal bond disclosures began, the SEC brought its first-ever enforcement action against a state when it sanctioned New Jersey for failing to disclose to investors that it was underfunding the state’s two largest pension plans.  Around the same time, the SEC began questioning the disclosures surrounding eight bond offerings through which Kansas raised $273 million in 2009 and 2010.  As the SEC began its inquiry, Kansas began adopting new policies and procedures to improve disclosures about its pension liabilities.  Kansas has now fully implemented those remedial actions, and has agreed to settle the SEC’s charges for its prior incomplete disclosures.

(Read more: Press Releases)


El Dorado approves ban on smoking at city youth events

Smoking will no longer be allowed at city-sponsored youth sporting events, except in the parking lots, after the El Dorado City Commission passed an ordinance banning smoking Monday.
Kevin Wishart, parks and recreation director, reviewed the issue, saying the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board had recommended banning smoking at these events.
“Since that meeting, I have only had a few comments regarding the subject, and they have all been in favor of this new ordinance coming to you,” Wishart said.
The commissioners also heard similar comments.
“I’ve heard pretty good feedback,” said Commissioner Chase Locke. “The few that weren’t crazy about it, weren’t necessarily against it. I think it will be a positive thing since we are dealing with youth in the community.”

(Read more: butlercountytimesgazette.com)


Pretty Prairie tries to tackle water issues

The Pretty Prairie City Council hired an attorney to seek more time from environmental regulatory agencies for addressing high nitrates in the drinking water.
At the same, the council on Monday continued planning for a potential ion exchange water treatment system that could cost more than $2 million.
In latter 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote to the city. Pretty Prairie had exceeded the standard for nitrates for nearly 20 years, the problem was worsening, and the city and EPA and Kansas Department of Health and Environment needed to talk.

(Read more: Hutch News)


Dead town of Feterita is down to its last family of residents

When Stevens County Sheriff Ted Heaton patrols Feterita, the only thing he has to watch over is his family and the ghosts of the town’s past.
About 100 years ago, excitement swelled here with the birth of a new pioneer town. Lots were auctioned off to residents who saw the promise of vitality. After all, the railroad had just come through the area. Soon, locals constructed two elevators, along with a general store and several homes.

But prairie grasses and crop fields have long hidden the city streets. The store is gone. A brick elevator sits on the opposite side of the road – an appropriate last sentinel to a town named for a grain sorghum.

The little town that sits along Highway 56 between Hugoton and Rolla has nearly disappeared as progress marched forward.

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


Concern builds as new homes don’t — compare Hutch vs. Maize …

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Hutchinson’s housing starts are lagging well behind a number of other Kansas cities, including some much smaller than Hutchinson.

So far this year, builders have taken out only three building permits for single-family houses in Hutchinson.

Compare that with Salina, whose population of 47,605 is about 5,600 greater than Hutchinson. Salina has issued 25 building permits for single-family homes, according to the Census Bureau.

Hays, population 20,500, has issued 27 single-family permits this year. Junction City, population 23,150, has issued 40 permits this year.

Maize, whose population is about 4,200, a tenth that of Hutchinson, has issued 55 permits this year. Maize, right in the path of Wichita’s northwest growth, may be an anomaly. But its growth hasn’t gone unnoticed, given that a number of people commute to work in Hutchinson from Maize and many more from Hutchinson pass through Maize on their way to shopping, dining and entertainment on Wichita’s northwest side.

Why Hutchinson’s home building lags, despite a city incentive program that rebates 100 percent of the city’s portion of the property tax for five years for any new single-family home completed before Dec. 31, 2014, is a question with no clear answer.

Builders and developers, bankers and real estate professionals have a number of theories, all of which have some validity: Property taxes are too high, there are not enough building lots, special assessments in new subdivisions discourage buyers, little or no population growth, low wages and too few shopping, dining and entertainment options.

“Tell me what we can do, and I’ll help,” said Dave Freund, a local home builder and a member of the Hutchinson Planning Commission. “I don’t know. I’m just an ordinary contractor who has survived.”

(Read more: The Hutchinson News)


Future of closed McCune school center of dispute

An elementary school that was closed permanently in May might get a new lease on life if the school district and the city in which the building is located can come to an agreement over ownership.

The McCune school is part of the Southeast School District based in Cherokee, about 13 miles away. It was the subject of controversy for more than a year as the district grappled with whether to close it and a residents’ group fought to keep it open.

“Our tax dollars built this school long before we were part of USD 247,” said Jean Morey, a longtime McCune resident. “It will be wonderful to see it returned to the citizens of McCune to benefit our town for many years to come.”

City leaders say they want full ownership of the building and grounds. They say the city would assume full financial responsibility for the property, which would save the cash-strapped school district the costs of maintenance and insurance.

(Read more: The Joplin Globe)


Study: Small Kansas colleges have $980 million impact

Though sometimes dwarfed by their larger and more famous cousins, Kansas’ small, private colleges contribute more than $980 million per year to the state’s economy, according to a study.

The Kansas Independent College Association, which represents 18 small colleges, commissioned the study. Matt Lindsey, president of KICA, said despite some of the colleges dating back to the 1800s, they don’t have much name recognition outside their own alumni networks.

They combined the 18 for the main study because of the work they do together, Lindsey said, though some also commissioned their own local impact studies. Together, they account for about one-quarter of the new teachers and nurses in Kansas, he said.

“We’re essentially the third-largest college in the state,” he said. “It made sense to look at our impact on the state as a whole.”

The lion’s share of the economic impact the study found came from increased productivity, based on average earnings of people who have a college degree compared to those who don’t. …

The study attributed another $231 million in economic impact to purchases made by the colleges, wages paid to their combined 4,400 employees and the multiplier affect of employees’ spending. …
The study also attributed $14 million in economic impact to 261,500 people who visit their campuses annually for sports and other events.

(Read more: Topeka Capital-Journal)


Future oil well regulations could be a possibility in Gardner

City officials aren’t particularly interested in allowing oil wells within city limits. That’s the consensus council members appeared to reach during a work session on Aug. 4. Community Development Director Mike Hall shared information about oil drilling and wells with the council. The work session came on the heels of a planning commission decision to recommend rejection of a conditional use permit for oil wells on property adjacent to Celebration Park. Council members have not yet considered that specific matter, but they discussed the potential negatives of allowing oil wells within city limits. “Successful oil wells inside and outside the city are a major obstacle to planned residential growth,” Hall explained. When oil wells are successful, they make a lot of money and property owners are reluctant to sell land with producing wells for development purposes. “Development for other purposes has to compete with that land use,” Hall said.

(Read more: Gardner News)


Ford County makes sacrifices to avoid raising taxes

In Ford County, commissioners didn’t want to raise taxes next year, even though they’re expecting less money for their budget.

Ford County commissioners are looking at less money coming in for 2015 due to lower property values and less funding from the state.

In an effort to keep property taxes down, the commission is attempting to keep the mill levy the same by making some cuts to services.

“It’s going take some cuts, they’re painful to make,” said Shawn Tasset, a County Commissioner. “This kind of thing carries with it, a human impact.”

(Read more: KSN-TV)


Shawnee, homeowners spar over sewers, development

An aerial view of the Shawnee Mission Parkway/Maurer Road interchange in Shawnee reveals big-box-anchored retail development on three of its four corners.
The fourth, southwest of the interchange, includes several large, undeveloped tracts. That’s because the land, right in the middle of Johnson County’s third most populous city, remains unsewered.
Shawnee officials are attempting to change that by pushing for creation of a contract sewer district. But some homeowners, content to remain on their septic tanks, oppose the loss of trees and the new commercial neighbors the sewer district is expected to bring.

(Read more: Kansas City Business Journal)


Andover City Council to consider adding 1 cent sales tax proposal to November ballot

The Andover City Council plans to vote Tuesday evening on a resolution that would add a question on November’s voting ballot levying a one percent retailers’ sales tax in the City of Andover. Assistant City Administrator Jennifer McCausland explained that, if passed, the retail tax would be used to fund capital improvement projects that are unfunded and for property tax relief.

(Read more: butlercountytimesgazette.com)


Petition to decriminalize marijuana in Wichita apparently fails

Supporters of a petition to decriminalize marijuana apparently have come up just short of the signatures they need to force the city to put it to a vote.

Petition drive leader Esau Freeman said organizers got word late Thursday that the county election office has ruled they were about 180 valid signatures shy of the 2,928 they needed.

About 3,500 signatures were disqualified by the election officers, although the reasons for disqualifications could not immediately be determined.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle: Top Stories)


Goodland residents on electricity restrictions

Goodland residents have been asked to limit their electricity use.

The Sherman County Emergency Management says the City of Goodland Power Plant experienced a catastrophic failure on one of its switch gears Tuesday evening. The outage affected mostly residential power.

Emergency officials are asking residents to limit electricity usage between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. for the next 6-8 weeks.

(Read more: Top Stories)


Eastborough police officers rescue ducks from storm sewer drain

On a dark and stormy night, a young Wichita family was torn apart, separated by high waters and murky drains.

It would take the long arm of an Eastborough police officer to rescue and reunite the six wayward ducklings with their mother.

At 8:30 Thursday morning, an Eastborough resident called the city’s clerk, Debra Gann, and told her the duck family needed help. Gann immediately relayed the information to Eastborough officers Kevin Dorritie and Michael Erwin.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle: Top Stories)


Chloride contamination a threat to Wichita water supply

Wichita’s water supply is facing contamination. It should take about ten years for a chloride plume to get into the Wichita water wells.

“Sounds like a long time, but we have to face this now,” says James Clendenin, with the Wichita City Council.

A new report out from the United States Geological Survey, points to a chloride plume that is moving towards Wichita’s water wells.

What does Wichita do?

The plan is to spend up to $250 Million to keep the chloride away.

“We pump more water into the area, and research shows that will help,” continues Clendenin.

(Read more: KSN-TV)


Prairie Village post office to relocate — within the city

Mayor Ron Shaffer said city staff worked diligently to convince the postal service to choose a location in Prairie Village. Letters were sent to U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, who Shaffer said helped lobby the postal service to stay in the city.

Shaffer said keeping a post office branch in Prairie Village is important because it’s both convenient for residents, and it helps the community keep a hometown feel.

“We want to keep residents close to home, and this is another way to do that.” he said.

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


Mission administrator warns that developer could be ‘basically starting over’ with Gateway incentives package

Walmart not only remains committed to coming to the Mission Gateway project, but plans to increase its footprint by 25,000 square feet to 175,000 square feet. And a hotel at the site is a possibility once again. However, the city likely will be asked to approve a new financial package as well.

A new Gateway plan, which could come back to the city as early as late September, will trigger a new development agreement and consequently a new financial plan that the developer will ask the city to support more than 18 months after the city voted for a package of financial incentives. New York developer Tom Valenti was in Mission Wednesday but did not stay to answer questions from the city council assembled for committee meetings in the evening. Some of the councilors were strongly critical when told that it is likely the Gateway development plan will need to start over.

(Read more: Prairie Village Post)


The Oaks controversy might create change down the road in Derby

A recent decision by the city council allowing a zoning change in The Oaks development cleared the way for a new 444-unit apartment complex. That decision has brought a wave of concern for some Derby residents. It’s a concern that goes way beyond the actual zoning change.
Many of the residents, who are behind a legal appeal on the decision, reside in The Oaks or the area. Their concern is the addition of more apartments will change the original vision of the development in a negative way, lowering property values and creating increased traffic.

(Read more: DerbyInformer.com – Opinion)


Bonner Springs firefighters help develop search and rescue technology

Rob Deardon moved slowly through the room, the device in his hand dropping virtual “crumbs” along the way.

The Bonner Springs volunteer firefighter could stop and look back, and on the display in the glasses he was wearing, he could see the “crumbs” — which appear as blue dots — along the path he had already taken.

Deardon and Fire Chief Denny Hubbel had several firefighters in the department trying out the new technology — Epson Moverio BT 200 glasses, similar to, but much cheaper than, Google Glass —and giving feedback on how it could be used in real-life applications, particularly on a search and rescue to allow firefighters to track where they’ve searched and to follow their path to get back out. …

Bonner Springs firefighters got the chance to help develop this future technology thanks to Deardon, who also works for New Frontier Technologies in North Kansas City, Mo.

(Read more: BonnerSprings.com stories)


Fifth St. repair draws Florence critics

Priorities, not pavement, took center stage Monday at a special city hall meeting in Florence intended to solicit public feedback about a proposed Fifth St. renovation.
More than a dozen concerned citizens jammed the council meeting room to question how Florence could afford its half of the estimated $600,000 price tag, and argue that other issues, such as town blight and housing, should take precedence over the street repair.
“Where are we going to get $300,000? Anybody got any bright ideas?” Leonard Ellis asked.
Council member Randy Mills said the only viable approach would be to increase the mill levy for property taxes.

(Read more: PEABODY Gazette-Bulletin)


Marion considers quitclaims for abandoned rail line

City of Marion

Five properties between Main and First Sts. could grow if the city can determine ownership of an adjacent abandoned railroad line between First and Main Sts.
A quit claim deed would be the best solution, city attorney Susan Robson told city council members Monday, because after extensive research, the city was unable to find any ownership of the abandoned line by the city or former railroad. Quit claim deeds would vacate any ownership of the property by the city.
Because of the rock and elevated railroad bed, it would be pricy for the city to build a road where the line formerly ran, however the city will maintain any easements onto the property.

(Read more: Marion County RECORD)


School district to return funds because of error

Four mills in capital outlay could have funded a bus purchase, new band uniforms, building improvements or other projects in Southeast USD 247.
In 2013-14 they did, but a clerical error discovered Monday means the district will need to return those funds to taxpayers, and also cannot collect them for the 2014-2015 school year.
For Superintendent Glenn Fortmayer, this is a nightmare scenario.
“I have had an almost nightly nightmare that I have shared with so many so often that a simple mistake, a missed deadline, or some overlooked detail will cost us,” he said in a press release issued by USD 247. “My nightmares were prophetic.”
In Sept. 2012, board minutes show a resolution was approved authorizing the school district to renew its annual collection of four mills in capital improvement funds for the next five years. However, that resolution was not certified because of a clerical error.
The district press release says a former board clerk documented that the resolution to renew the four mills for five years was passed, but no signed resolution exists in board records from that time period, and the resolution was not published.

(Read more: Pittsburg Morning-Sun)


Disgruntled resident addresses Hillsboro council

A disgruntled resident had words for Hillsboro City Council Tuesday over alleged mistreatment from city building inspector Ben Steketee.
Kevin Tidwell, who lives in the 200 block of B St., accuesed Steketee of harassing him for not following city code. Steketee disagreed.

Tidwell’s power was disconnected after receiving a letter from the city directing him to remove some recent electrical work that was not up to code. The letter, sent by Steketee, stated the work had to be done by a licensed electrician and inspected by Steketee within three days or power to the home would be disconnected.
Steketee said concerns about the wiring causing a fire prompted him to act immediately.

City code allows homeowners to work on their own residences, provided the work is up to city code and passes inspection, neither of which Steketee said Tidwell is able to do.

(Read more: HILLSBORO Star-Journal)


City of Shawnee prepares for public health emergency with exercises

In the event of a real emergency — such as a terrorist attack or pandemic — Johnson County’s emergency management department says it’s ready.

You can never be too prepared for an emergency. That’s why the city of Shawnee tested the city’s readiness in case of a public health emergency on Tuesday.

“You can never hold enough drills, enough exercises,” said Terry Kegin, the Emergency Management Coordinator for the city of Shawnee.

Today the city of Shawnee and Johnson County Department of Health practiced a city-wide plan for antibiotic dispensing in the rare event of an infectious disease emergency.

(Read more: fox4kc.com)


Goddard voters approve 1% sales tax


Goddard voters passed a sales tax Tuesday, with 74 percent of the voters casting their ballots in favor of the tax; 26 percent voted against.

“I am very, very pleased,” said Goddard Mayor Marcey Gregory. “Folks in our town are progressive, and this is for a good cause. It will improve streets and make them better to drive.”

The city’s sales tax will increase to 8.15 percent. The state has a 6.15 percent sales tax and Sedgwick County a 1 percent sales tax.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle: Top Stories)