Archive for Thursday, April 6, 2006

Most city projects get an OK

April 6, 2006

It was three-fourths go, one-fourth hold on the funding for capital projects at Monday night's Baldwin City Council meeting.

All four projects had been lumped together -- Downtown Enhancement, Women's Bridge, Kapelle property and storm drainage improvement on High Street just south of Liston Stadium -- for action at Monday's meeting. After a lengthy discussion, approval was given to three, with the drainage project being put on hold.

As presented, the High Street drainage project would have committed the city to pay $126,000 of the costs of drainage improvements to the north ditch along the street that is next to the Baker softball field. A concrete "box" culvert would take most of the water flow through the area. The ditch would be able to handle any over flows.

Baker would then do a landscaping project around the area to improve the ditch that is now overgrown with foliage and small trees. It's unknown what those costs would be, but estimates are at least half of what the city would be putting into the project.

Council Member Ted Brecheisen Jr. was against the plan, saying the ditch has handled the runoff through that area forever and will continue to do so. He thought the taxpayers' money could be better spent on other projects.

"If this is not broken, if it's working, it's functional, it's just going to make it pretty," said Brecheisen. "I'd like to see our money spent directly over here where it's needed."

Council President Amy Cleavinger disagreed.

"I see storm water drainage and runoff as the city's responsibility," said Cleavinger, noting that additional development north of the area has increased drainage. "I do think it's an eyesore. Baker is spending $2.1 million to improve the stadium. I think it's a place to share costs."

Brecheisen brought up the need to replace a bridge on Elm Street between 10th and 11th streets as a better use of the funds. The bridge has a 3-ton weight limit which doesn't allow trucks to go over it, including fire trucks.

"We're going to spend a lot more than that ($126,000) if a truck goes through that bridge," he said.

The Elm Street bridge caught everyone by surprise.

"Do we have Elm Street in our plans?" asked Cleavinger.

"I wasn't aware that the capacity of the bridge can't support a fire truck on that bridge," said Council Member Nancy Brown.

Fire Chief Allen Craig is aware of the bridge's capacity. There are no houses on that stretch of Elm that the fire department would need to respond to. All houses in the area can be reached by 10th and 11th streets. City Administrator Jeff Dingman said that tentative plans call for the bridge to be replaced in 2009/2010.

Brecheisen contended that the bridge was needed for safety, while the drainage project was for looks.

"This doesn't need to be done for safety reasons," he said of the ditch. "This is something the university wants to do."

Council Member Doyle Jardon agreed with Brecheisen.

"There are a lot more important things in town to do than water flow south of the Baker fields," Jardon said.

The matter had come before the community development committee, which Council Member Tony Brown is a member of.

"We looked at it as more for the community, not Baker," said T. Brown. "You are right, it is a lot of money. It's an entryway to Baldwin."

Mayor Gary Walbridge, who is also director of facilities at Baker, said something needs to be done with the ditch.

"It's Baker's concern, and my concern as well as the city's leader, is something needs to be done there. The city owns the ditch, not Baker. I'm not voting on this, but we will have to get the city's permission to do what needs to be done there."

After the lengthy discussion, Brecheisen made a motion to approve the other three projects, but not the drainage project. Jardon seconded. The motion failed 3-2.

Walbridge told the council that Baker would be getting additional plans this week on the project.

"I want more information," said Cleavinger.

"I agree with Amy," said T. Brown. "I want to see what this looks like before voting on it."

Eventually, all five council members agreed to remove the drainage project from the package until additional information was presented on what Baker will do there.

In other action, the council approved a contract with Landplan Engineering, P.A., to conduct the update of the City's Comprehensive Land Use Plan at a cost of $49,950. A cap of $2,000 for associated expenses was also added upon Brecheisen's suggestion. The council also unanimously approved a waiver of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles standards and adoption of prescribed cash receipt and disbursements accounting standards enacted by Kansas law. The change was at the suggestion of the city's auditor.

The council also had first reading of an ordinance allowing the issuance of conditional use permits in Baldwin. The main reason for the ordinance is to address land-use problems in the city's mobile home parks. A public hearing will be April 11 at the Planning Commission's meeting.

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