Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2007

City approves budget, ban on some animals at Monday’s meeting

August 9, 2007

Baldwin City Council members approved a $16.5 million budget for next year, raised sewer and water rates, banned animals from public events, gave the city administrator a raise and discussed various speed limits during a lengthy Monday night meeting.

No one spoke at the public hearing on the 2008 budget. It calls for a slight mill levy reduction of .004 mills to 32.367 mills. A mill raises $1 for every $1,000 of valuation. The city's valuation rose slightly, 4.29 percent, to an estimated $30,718,530.

"As for me, I feel good about being able to propose a budget without a mill levy increase for fiscal year 2008,' said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "With some of the obligations for capital projects coming to fruition, a mill levy increase will be very likely starting with our next budge, FY2009.

"But, we will also be enjoying some long overdue infrastructure improvements that should last the city for a long time," said Dingman.

Council President Amy Cleavinger was also pleased with the budget.

"It is a challenging time for the city," said Cleavinger. "We were able to hold the line this year with the mill levy and I am relieved about that. I don't believe we will be as lucky in the coming years with all that we have going on and the projects that are coming up. The finance committee spends a great deal of time going over every line item in the city's budget with our city administrator and the respective departments heads and I am very appreciative of their efforts."

Animal ban -- Toby, too?

On second reading, the council approved an ordinance that prohibits animals at public events. It's the result of a young girl being bitten in the face by a dog at last year's Maple Leaf Festival.

But, Monday's unanimous approval didn't happen before two items were discussed. The first was the annual "Dog Days" at the Baldwin City Municipal Pool where dogs are allowed to swim on the last day it's open before it's drained.

Because it is an event planned for animals, it fits in the exemption in the ordinance that allows animals in the Maple Leaf parade and the petting zoo.

"I think Dog Days fits the exemption," said City Attorney Matt Hoy. "I think the clause in section 3 gives us some leeway."

It's an example of unforeseen problems with the ban.

"This one is going to be tough to enforce," said Mayor Gary Walbridge. "I walk my dog by the pool every day."

That's when Council Member Doyle Jardon brought up that he'd been contacted by Jim Borgeson concerning his horse, Toby, who has been at his chiropractic clinic the last few Maple Leafs. Toby is the subject of a book and is there to generate interest in the fund-raising project.

Nancy Brown, a member of the safety committee that did most of the work on the animal ordinance, said she'd talked to Borgeson about Toby already and assured him that the horse's appearance didn't violate the ban.

"Toby hangs out in the back room," said Brown. "He is an actual event. He is a booth. Toby does fall within the exemption."

With that, a voice vote was made with all council members saying yes. Council Member Ken Wagner went as far as to register his yes vote with a horse whinny.

Water, sewer rates

As part of the 2008 budget, water and sewer rates were adjusted upward. The rate increases are necessary to help pay for increases from Lawrence, which supplies Baldwin City's water, and planned improvements to the city's sewer system, Dingman said.

The water rate ordinance increases the base monthly rate from $6 to $6.50 per month and the cost of 100 cubic feet of water goes from $6.54 to $7.20. The sewer rate increase bumps the base monthly rate from $14.70 to $16 per month and usage rate from $3.50 per 100 cf of water to $3.85.

The council approved the rates on first reading. At the next meeting will be second reading. If approved then, too, the rate increases would take effect with the September billing.

Wagner was concerned by the increases.

"I just don't know what our options are," said Wagner. "Our utility bills are just high. I think our utility rates put a burden on some people. My utility bill last month was $500."

He wondered if there was any negotiating done with Lawrence on the price of water.

"We're a little bit at their mercy," said Utility Director Bill Winegar, "but they guarantee us water."

The sewer increase is to eventually fund a $1.8 million upgrade that will be a two-phase project stretching from the FireTree subdivision down 11th Street to the wastewater treatment plant.

Speed limit questions

The topic was originally brought up regarding the Kansas Department of Transportation announcing it was raising the speed limit all along U.S. Highway 56 from 55 to 60 mph. That includes the stretch in front of Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center.

Dingman, Winegar and school officials met with KDOT about it last week and were informed of a school zone that would be created. (See related story)

It was another item that upset Wagner.

"I had a phone call from State Sen. Roger Pine about this," said Wagner. "He was appalled. There wasn't any forewarning on this. I'd like to hear why they are raising the speed limit on that highway. It's unsafe."

He wondered if the city couldn't have more control of the speed limit through town. He was told it would take annexing the entire stretch. Currently, the city only has half the road in the city limits. Dingman said he was in discussions regarding annexing the entire road.

That also prompted discussions on several other roads on the city's borders, including Eisenhower Street to the north. Dingman was told to research the situation further.

The meeting adjourned following a 20-minute executive session to discuss personnel. After the session, the council voted unanimously to give Dingman a favorable job review and a 4 percent raise to $79,456.

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