Habitat asks for city’s help
Habitat for Humanity is asking Baldwin for help.
Lawrence Habitat for Humanity is ready to begin building its first house in Baldwin, and is asking the city to waive or reduce its permit and connection fees.
Jean Lilley, executive director of the Lawrence Habitat for Humanity, told the Baldwin City Council the organization, which is known for building houses for low-income families around the world, has already received numerous support and a number of contributions from Baldwin businesses and organizations.
Utility Director Terry McKinney told the council the permit and connection fees for the Habitat house would be around $4,100. He said city staff recommended Baldwin not waive $1,725 of that amount.
"These are direct expenses we have to pay," he said.
McKinney suggested the council also look at the precedence it would set if the fees were waived.
Council Member Amy Cleavinger said the city should try to help Habitat for Humanity and waive as much of the fees as possible.
"Setting a precedence doesn't concern me a great deal because of who we're talking about," she said. "I think we're really lucky to have them here in town. If we can help them, I think we should."
Council Member Ted Brecheisen said he was in favor of helping Habitat, but thought the issue should be discussed by the utility committee before fees were waived.
"The problem I could see in giving up some of these fees is that's how we're paying for the sewer plant and capital improvement types of things," he said.
Brecheisen said if the fees were waived, it would affect every rate payer in town, some of whom were also having financial difficulties.
"It's not that I don't want to help someone out," he said. "I'm just trying to look out for the residents."
Council Member Tony Brown agreed the issue should be discussed by the utility committee, but questioned how much effect the Habitat house fees would have on Baldwin.
"How much is one house going to impact the change in those fees?" he said.
"I think Habitat does great work, and I want to support them," he said. "I think this is an organization we, as a city, should want to support."
Lilley told the council the organization has had to pay for some permit fees in Lawrence, but has received numerous grants to help with the cost of the fees.
Dan Neuenswander, who is also with Habitat for Humanity, said the one house Habitat has in Eudora was built on land given by the city and all of the fees were waived.
Neuenswander reminded the council that Baldwin, as well as Habitat, would benefit in the long run.
"Without the generosity of the community, there will not be that home on the tax roll," he said.
Mayor Ken Hayes told the Habitat representatives Baldwin would work with the organization as much as it could.
"I think our city will do what it can to help support your efforts," he said.
The utility committee is expected to meet in the next two weeks to discuss the issue.