Kansas Municipal News


Hutchinson City Council to take up sick leave policy with police union

The Hutchinson City Council, which has already angered two city employee unions by imposing an unpopular change in sick leave policy, will take on a third union, the Fraternal Order of Police, over the same issue on Tuesday.

Negotiations for a 2014 contract stalled, and an impasse over the sick leave issue was declared last October. A federal mediator met once, unsuccessfully, with the city and the FOP. The next step should have been submitting the dispute to an impartial fact finder for a recommendation, but that hasn’t happened.

The FOP’s attorney has requested a number of records in preparation for fact finding. According to a memo prepared for the council meeting, the city has “made every reasonable effort” to provide relevant records. However, the memo by City Manager John Deardoff says the city rejected the request for some records because they were protected by privacy law or were irrelevant to the dispute.

Sgt. Tyson Meyers, a FOP representative, disputed that. He said every officer provided a waiver of privacy so that the city could provide an accounting of how much sick leave officers have used under the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows them to take off for events such as the birth of a child or when another family member falls ill.

(Read more: The Hutchinson News)

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Local school officials brainstorm hostage crisis response

It is a nightmare when law enforcement has to deal with a hostage situation, but imagine the hostages are elementary aged children at their school during a field day event.
This was the scenario viewed by over a dozen Sedgwick County schools and emergency management districts during a nation-wide video teleconference held last week. Those in attendance were given the scenario in advance to come up with a planned response to discuss during the meeting.
Among those in attendance were Dan Fenn, safety director for the Mulvane School District and Sgt. Mike Friday of the Mulvane Police Department.
“It’s a good thing that we try to do and get involved in,” said Fenn. “It’s a time to go over those infinite number of what-if’s and see what’s working and what’s not going to work in theory.”
Mulvane schools do not have a School Resource Officer program, but Friday said the police department has a good relationship with the school and officers make an effort to visit the schools as much as they can.”

(Read more: DerbyInformer.com)

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STAR bonds advance for U.S. Soccer center in WyCo

The Unified Government Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to approve an expanded and amended STAR bond district anchored by U.S. Soccer’s national training center.
The district could generate an estimated $295.5 million worth of sales tax revenue, or STAR, bond financing to support a total of $665 million in development east of the Village West retail and entertainment district in Kansas City, Kan.

(Read more: Kansas City Business Journal)

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Plans for Sedgwick County Park would take people down memory lane

Sedgwick County Park may soon have more spaces perfect for making photo memories.

Plans are underway to craft what’s being called a memory park … thanks to a community initiative known as Together Wichita 2014.

The idea, said Heather Denker, project manager for Together Wichita 2014, is to add objects along a path that parkgoers might want to gather around and then snap a photograph.

Think grinning toddlers posing with an antique tractor. Or high school students leaning against a fence post for senior photos. Or Grandma kissing Grandpa’s cheek as they sit on a hay bale.
… Together Wichita 2014 is a community campaign supported by 22 local companies and organizations that is aimed at celebrating and enhancing the city by bringing residents’ civic improvement projects to life.

The group is also responsible for the the “I live here, I love it!” campaign and the Keepers on Parade public art project, which aims to place dozens of 10-foot fiberglass replicas of the Keeper of the Plains statue across Wichita.

The memory park idea “was really kind of naturally born. No one has seen this anywhere else,” Denker said.

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

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Growth of no-kill policies can jam animal shelters

Years ago, this kind of problem would not exist. When space got tight at animal shelters, the operators put to death as many animals as needed to make room for more.

But this is the age of the no-kill animal shelter, where crowding is commonplace.

Some shelters… use discounting and aggressive marketing to meet the challenge. …
Others are overmatched. This past week the Humane Society of Missouri took custody of 126 pets from an overcrowded, no-kill shelter in Lebanon, Mo., less than an hour’s drive northeast of Springfield. Some dogs had been caged for two-and-a-half years.

“It was just crazy filthy,” said Judith Koch, the new president of the Lebanon Humane Society.

Such horror stories and the fact that many no-kill shelters turn away pets that end up being dumped by their owners on back roads are reasons the national no-kill movement has its critics.

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

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Fed to Consider Including Municipal Bonds in New Bank Safeguards

The Federal Reserve, under pressure from lawmakers and state officials, is considering allowing banks to use certain types of municipal debt to satisfy a new postcrisis financing rule, according to a person familiar with the process.

On Wednesday, U.S. regulators are expected to finalize safeguards requiring that banks hold enough liquid assets—such as cash or those easily convertible to cash—to fund their operations for 30 days if other sources of funding aren’t available. Municipal securities issued by states and localities wouldn’t count as “high-quality liquid assets” under the rule, meaning such securities wouldn’t qualify for use under the new funding requirements.

States and localities have warned that excluding their securities could cause banks to retreat from a $3.7 trillion market in which they have increasingly become an important player, which could driving up borrowing costs…

The Fed is now considering providing some relief in the coming months and may allow banks to include some types of municipal bonds as part of the new safeguards, the person said.

Read more: Wall Street Journal.

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Derby, Conway Springs receive grants to build new community trails

Derby and Conway Springs are receiving more than $50,000 each to develop community trails, according to a news release from the Sunflower Foundation.

Derby will receive $55,000 for a new one-mile walking trail at Madison Avenue Central Park. …

Conway Springs will receive $52,250 for its first community trail – a half-mile trail that will be built this fall.

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

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Local event builds casino support

There is no backup plan for Phil Ruffin, Jr. and John Berrey.
The pair … spent time Thursday morning reaffirming the desire of Ruffin Companies and the Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream Casino Resort to work together to bring a casino to the former Camptown Greyhound Park site near Frontenac. They were joined by dozens of others, including representatives of their respective companies, city council members, commissioners, legislators and more to talk about the partnership and the vision, and the conversation buzzed with excitement about the potential opportunity.
“It means a lot of jobs, a lot of property tax revenue,” said Adam Lusker, representative for Kansas’ second district, which includes Frontenac.
Lusker said this was an ongoing priority for his predecessor, Bob Grant.
“Bob Grant worked on it for a long time. He worked on gaming since he went to Topeka,” Lusker said. “We have an opportunity to move forward with the same facility.”
Jim Kennedy, mayor of Frontenac, said Camptown was an asset for the community in the past.

(Read more: morningsun.net)

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City of Topeka to consider ban on public nudity

The Topeka City Council plans to consider banning public nudity.

City manager Jim Colson’s weekly report released Thursday included a copy of the preliminary agenda for the council’s Sept. 9 meeting, which said the council would consider Councilwoman Michelle De La Isla’s proposal to prohibit nudity in public places.

“The ordinance was prompted by concern expressed by people who observed a man walking nude in south central Topeka within the environs of an elementary school,” according to a document that’s part of the online agenda packet.

(Read more: News)

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KCK mayor wants more diverse police, fire departments

Mayor Mark Holland says the police and fire departments in Kansas City, Kansas, need to be more diverse.
Holland made the comments in a report delivered the City Commission Thursday afternoon.

While the report comes in the wake of the trouble in Ferguson, Missouri, Holland said he and the U.S. Department of Justice have been working on this issue for months.

While the population of Kansas City, Kansas, is about 40 percent white, 28 percent Hispanic and 27 percent black, the police force is 72 percent white, 12 percent black and 11 percent Hispanic.

(Read more: Local News)

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Excavation uncovers oil well in heart of the city

It was more like hitting a snag than striking it rich.

While crews were digging out tons of contaminated soil that surrounded the four large underground fuel tanks at the former Amoco station at Main and Meridian in Valley Center this week, they ran into an old, abandoned oil well.

Valley Center historian Vince Marshall with the local historical society said the well was likely drilled in 1929. It was among 16 other so-called dry hole oil wells drilled in Valley Center around that time.

(Read more: Valley Center Newswire)

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Rural Opportunity Zones program expands to additional counties


The Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ) program has expanded by four counties for Fiscal Year 2015, bringing the total number of ROZ certified counties to 77. On July 1, Cherokee, Labette, Montgomery and Sumner counties joined the initiative designed to help bring new residents to rural Kansas after decades of population loss.

The ROZ program allows qualifying individuals who move to one of the 77 certified counties to have their state income taxes waived for up to five years. In addition, counties that opt to partner with the state may offer student loan repayments of up to $15,000. Currently, 70 counties have decided to join the student loan repayment program. Montgomery and Washington counties are the two most recent additions to this portion of the ROZ program.

“Rural Opportunity Zones have had a positive impact across our state, helping to bring new families and skilled workers to counties that have suffered population loss for generations,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “The most recent expansion of the program will bring those ROZ benefits to additional areas of southeast and south central Kansas.”

The Department has received 1,654 applications for participation in the student loan repayment program from residents of 42 states. Applicants represent a wide variety of industries and educational backgrounds. Education, healthcare and agriculture are the most common careers of applicants.

For more information about the Rural Opportunity Zones program, please visit KansasCommerce.com/Rural.

The following counties have been certified by the Legislature as ROZ counties:

Allen, Anderson, Barber, Bourbon, Brown, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Clark, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Comanche, Decatur, Doniphan, Edwards, Elk, Ellsworth, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jackson, Jewell, Kearny, Kingman, Kiowa, Labette, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Meade, Mitchell, Montgomery, Morris, Morton, Nemaha, Neosho, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Ottawa, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Republic, Rice, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Sumner, Trego, Thomas, Wabaunsee, Wallace, Washington, Wichita, Wilson and Woodson.

Learn more about Rural Opportunity Zones

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Hutchinson officials urged to end housing construction incentive program

The Hutchinson Housing Commission voted 7-0 on Wednesday to recommend that the City Council allow the 2-year-old New Construction Housing Incentive Program to expire on Dec. 31 rather than renew it.
The incentive, created amid a deep housing slump, offered a five-year, 100 percent rebate on the city portion of the property taxes for any new single-family home purchased between Jan. 21, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2014.
However, the incentive did not stimulate improvement in home construction. Housing Program Manager Irene Hart reported last month that when the first rebate checks went out in July, only six new homeowners received checks, and the total rebated was about $3,000.
On Wednesday, Hart said the conclusion was that the city was just giving away tax money because those houses would have been built regardless of the incentive, which several Housing Commission members said wasn’t much of an incentive because it applied only to city taxes instead of the entire property tax bill.

(Read more: The Hutchinson News)

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3 Kansas school districts approved for ‘innovative district’ status

Three Kansas school districts have received initial approval to become special innovative districts, which would make them exempt from many state education regulations.

The Coalition of Innovative School Districts on Wednesday recommended that Kansas City, Hugoton and Blue Valley districts be designated as innovative. A fourth request, from the Santa Fe Trail District, was not approved.

The Kansas State Board of Education must approve the coalition’s recommendations.

(Read more: News)

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Rail zones aren’t quiet, but Edgerton will pay

Edgerton will pay final bills for a project to create a quiet zone at the railroad crossing at Nelson Street, despite the finished product’s failure to meet federal guidelines for a quiet zone. Construction on the project was completed earlier this year, city administrator Beth Linn told Edgerton City Council members during a Aug. 14 meeting. The Federal Railroad Administration notified the city of Edgerton in June that the safety measures installed along 199th Street and Nelson Street do not meet federal requirements for the establishment of a quiet zone. City staff have removed “No Train Horn” signs at the Nelson Street at-grade crossing.

(Read more: Gardner News)

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Need a ride? Uber arrives in Wichita

Wichita residents now have another option to get from point A to point B.

If you haven’t heard of Uber, it’s a company that uses a mobile app to connect passengers with drivers for hire. Basically, you use the app to request a ride, and the nearest registered Uber driver to your GPS location will pick you up and take you to your destination.

Payment also happens via the app, with the credit card you have on file.

(Read more: KAKE – HomePage – Headlines)

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Hiawatha residents strive to bring back movie theater

A group of residents in Hiawatha are trying to bring a movie theater back to the northeast Kansas town.

Hiawatha’s Twin Theatre closed about a week ago after voters in April rejected an initiative that would have funded the construction of a new city-owned theater.

Now, a nonprofit group called Hiawatha ACES has launched a fundraising drive to buy and renovate the 40-year-old Twin Theatre.

(Read more: News)

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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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