Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2008

Letters to the Editor

October 23, 2008

To the editor:

With the election only a few short weeks away, please consider the importance of your vote and the effect it will have on the future of Baldwin City. One of the most important decisions you will make can affect the quality of our local schools.

When someone considers relocating to another community, one of the first things they ask about is in regards to educational opportunities. What is available for their children? We need to make our school district the best it can be.

A young man from Baldwin High School made an important point about how behind we are in technology. He is correct. How can our students excel and compete if they don’t have adequate tools? We need to ensure the safety and comfort of our students, teachers and staff. A new roof for Baldwin Junior High School and a new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center are necessities. More students than ever before are actively pursuing band and sports and we need a performing arts center and improved sport facilities.

Some citizens are concerned about expense, including me. But prices will continue to rise and we must act now to secure the future of generations to come.

Our world is becoming more competitive, impersonal and uncertain. Education is the foundation of a society and our students need every opportunity to grow intellectually, to make informed decisions and to succeed in life. Formal education is crucial to the future of our town’s economic development. We have the opportunity to make this a better place for our children. Vote “yes” on the Nov. 4 bond issue.

Joshua K. Mihesuah

Baldwin School Board member

Baldwin City

To the editor:

I would like to express the city's appreciation to Baldwin City resident Anne Walker, who visited my office last Monday and asked about the city's intent to weed the downtown flowerbeds before our visitors arrived for the Maple Leaf Festival. I agreed with her that it needed to be done, and that it indeed was on the list of items for the city's crew to complete during the week before the festival. She asked if she could organize some volunteers to get the mission accomplished. Of course, I was agreeable. I saw her at work on one of the beds later that afternoon, in the rain. She worked the next two days in the soggy weather to clean out each of those flowerbeds by herself, and it made a noticeable difference.

She is also part of a group of ladies who volunteer to care for the large planter box near the swimming pool, both as a form of recreation and as a contribution to the community. This area is very well cared for, and really has looked great all season.

Again, my sincere thanks to Anne and her friends for all they do to make our community look great.

Jeff Dingman

Baldwin City Administrator

To the editor:

The veterans of Baldwin City and the surrounding area were very well honored at Friday’s final Baldwin High School home football game.

Many students, too numerous to mention by name, were involved and did a tremendous job of rendering thanks and various goodies to the veterans and their spouses. The hot coffee was most welcome on a cool evening and the candy and chips helped, too.

Starting in with the sign in and being escorted to the special seating area with offers of thanks for your service along the way. The flyover by a Forbes Field Black Hawk helicopter to start the game of football was most pleasing.

The half-time field experience with Sen. Pat Roberts and the band playing the various branch of service songs was inspiring. The remarks and presentation of the flag flown over our nation’s capitol especially for this show of thanks by BHS students for its veterans truly shows the character of our young people and we can’t thank you enough for the efforts you made to bring this all about. Thanks, too, for the fireworks, a wonderful display and I heard it was done by the technician who does the annual Fourth of July fireworks display for Baldwin City. I’m sure there were parents, teachers and administrative assistance in this endeavor and we thank them, too.

Marvin Jardon

Member American Legion Lloyd Beaton post No. 228

Baldwin City

To the editor:

There comes a time when one can’t make do anymore. Buckets are perched in the ceiling of Baldwin Junior High School catching water leaks from the roof. Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center has intermittent water standing that one has to cross to reach the electrical boxes, and this summer had mold growing on the furniture in the kindergarten classrooms. The junior high auditorium has a hodgepodge 1969 electrical system, broken seats and peeling walls. We have rigged up solutions for as long as we can.

Repairs must happen. The junior high must have a new roof. No bond money has been spent on the primary center in 52 years. The old building has had a good run, but it is time to provide our youngest children with a new facility for the next 50 years. One that meets modern educational needs for security, safety and classroom size. A building with enough electrical outlets for the latest technology, that is Americans with Disability Acts compliant with space for learning, collaboration and growth.

Without passing the bond issue, the repairs will come at the expense of all other needed capital outlay projects. This will impact the quality of education of our students. This will impact our ability to retain and recruit qualified teachers.

Right now, we will get great value for our money. The state will chip in 27 percent of the cost of new construction for our bond, and provide additional per pupil funding for the next two years. There is grant money available to defray the construction of the auditorium and new primary center gym if they are constructed as safe rooms. Interest rates are historically low. Contractors are hungry for work.

Please join our family in voting “yes” on the USD 348 school bond issue.

Kathy and Mike Gerstner

Baldwin City

To the editor:

This is an open letter to Mayor Gary Walbridge, City Administrator Jeff Dingman and other city leaders.

Although it is often difficult to tell, I truly want to believe that all of you have the best interests of this city at heart. This makes it doubly difficult to understand some of the most recent actions of those who are elected and appointed as public servants. Too often, it seems, the attitudes and the lack of communication can be construed as cooperative sabotage or incompetence, both of which are hopefully untrue. Some of our city leaders have shown total disinterest in events such as the Maple Leaf Festival and appear to see them only as an inconvenience. They appear to have little or no regard for the financial

benefits to the local non-profits, the public schools, Baker University organizations, as well as the volunteers who work hundreds of unpaid hours to make this particular event happen for the benefit of this community.

We are all aware of the reluctance on the part of some employees and administrators to be an enthusiastic participant in many endeavors, and particularly the Maple Leaf Festival. We have also been made aware of the derisive conversations and the bitter complaints of some. The absence of a cooperative spirit on the part of this administration toward those who are working for the benefit of Baldwin City is distressing. It creates an adversarial relationship between city and those citizens and organizations it should be serving. I do not intend to tar all city employees with the same brush – many of you are cheerful, helpful, and bend over backwards to be of assistance and we are grateful.

This letter is meant as a plea to you all. I ask that you tell us what you want and need. Work with us in a timely manner. Be cognizant of the consequences of the actions you take. Please do not nod and pretend we’ve gotten through when we attempt to make a case for our position on an issue. Don’t lie to us. Simply, work with us – be on our side. You may be amazed at what can be accomplished through cooperation as opposed to hostility.

In closing, may I suggest that if you are not motivated to support the events, the organizations and actions that are valuable assets of Baldwin City, but instead are motivated by personal convenience or the wishes of a few of your friends, then you may be in the wrong line of work.

Sandra Cardens

Baldwin City

To the City Council, City Administer and Mayor:

Before I begin, would like to set the record straight in that the Arts Council, which was referenced in the letter from the city, and the Lumberyard Arts Center are two separate but cooperating entities.

We (referring to Lumberyard Arts Center board members) are here for two reasons.

First of all, to voice our frustration and concern for the inconsiderate way and timing in which it was conveyed to us that we were not to have the previously planned events to be held in the alleyway of the lumberyard for the Maple Leaf Festival.

It has been common public knowledge that the community regularly utilizes the space for many community events, and safety of the public has always been a number one priority. We have liability insurance and have taken every precaution to ensure the safety of those attending any event held there. Board members and volunteers have spent hours in preparation of any event to close off areas that might cause harm to anyone, even before beginning any renovation work.

Prior to the Art Walk on Sept. 12, held in the alleyway because of inclement weather, several volunteers spent a total of at least 10 hours securing the area to be used that evening, with construction netting half the length of the alleyway and setting up construction lights for additional lighting for the safety of those who might be attending.

In preparation for the annual event of Blues and Barbecue, additional orange netting was put in place for the remainder of the alleyway and an additional approximately 15 tons of gravel was hauled in to level the alleyway.

Early in the week before Maple Leaf Festival, fire extinguishers were checked and serviced by Heartland Fire and Security Co. and volunteers spent an additional eight hours adding additional safety barriers.

Those in charge of the Lumberyard Live music show had at least five people that worked for at least four hours along with Jim (Niehoff) to set up staging, etc, a total of at least another 27 hours of preparation, all with advanced planning so that it would be safe for our visitors to enjoy, only to be told in writing less than 48 hours before the event that the city advised against it! Hours and hours of work and expectations down the drain because those in the office stay in the office and don’t seem to know or care what is going on out there in the community. Baldwin State Bank, which currently holds title to the property, was made to look like the bad guy for calling a halt upon receipt of the intimidating letter from the city. The project manager was never advised against opening the building to the public while under construction as stated in the letter, and would never ever allow anyone, volunteer workers or others to be put in danger at any time. The Maple Leaf committee was forced to make last-minute arrangements to accommodate a music venue after months of pre-planning, all of which could have been avoided with clear communication from the city administration and building inspection department. That brings me to our second reason for being here.

To help you more clearly understand our displeasure at the way things have been handled, I would like to share a brief timeline of our experience with the building and inspection department.

When the application for a demolition permit was issued, we were told that we could not remove any of the structural support that would make the building unsafe. We have not. Instead of removing any structural support, we have added two 73-foot steel beams, north to south within the building and seven 54-foot steel beams, east to west, within the front half of the building, the area that is included in Phase I of our renovation plans. How does adding make it unsafe?

Back to the timeline:

On Sept. 3 we obtained the final prints from the architect and delivered them to the building inspector on Sept. 4. They were not accepted because we did not have easements along the side of the building from the city and the bank. A meeting was scheduled for the following Monday afternoon at 4, Sept. 8. Jim met with Jeff Dingman, Ken Wagner, Tony Brown and Ivan Huntoon. At that meeting Jim asked if since this is a renovation and not new construction, would the inspection department be able to handle review of prints “in-house,” or would it have to be sent to Johnson County for review, slowing up the process of issuance of a building permit. Jim was assured it could be handled in house and that the city was agreeable to the sidewalk easement we were asking for on the west side of the building.

The following week, Sept. 17, Jim called Dingman back to check on the progress of the easement and was told that nothing had been done yet, that they need some verbiage in order to draft the easement. Jim called Paul Werner, architect, who responded immediately with the needed verbiage correctly describing what was necessary for said sidewalk and it was e-mailed to Dingman and approved by the city council at its Oct. 6 meeting.

Secondly, nothing was said at the time of issuance of the demolition permit that areas unaffected by the stripping of plaster, etc. could be used for planned community uses and events.

The first inquiry and hint of objection to our activity came just the day before Blues and Barbecue was scheduled to occur. The building inspector came by as Jim and volunteers were putting up the additional orange netting and asked if we were planning to have something there. This is after nearly a month of advertising with a poster covering the entire east display window and numerous posters around town and a display ad in the newspaper. Yes, we are indeed planning to hold a fundraiser here and “safely” show the supporters our progress! And we are also preparing for Maple Leaf Festival. At this time Jim was told by the inspector that they don’t normally let activity continue once a permit has been issued and she needed to talk to the city administrator and would be back in touch. The inspector has not been back. This is not a “normal” project, but one involving a building that is used by many groups for many things.

On Friday, Oct. 10, Dingman called Jim with concerns about Maple Leaf Festival and the Charity Halloween Haunted House planned to be held at the lumberyard. He said it was too late to do anything about Maple Leaf Festival, but he asked Jim to call Jessica Cordoba and tell her they could not hold the haunted house there. Jim suggested it was Dingman’s job to do that.

Cordoba later conveyed that when Jeff called, she was told there would be a meeting on the following Monday night and she would be advised of the outcome.

On Tuesday morning, I called Diane Wagner, a member of the Maple Leaf committee, to inquire the outcome of the Monday night meeting and was told the meeting was canceled. I expressed my reason for inquiring about the city’s concern and Wagner told me that the city was going to sign off on any responsibility. This was acceptable with the lumberyard as all precautions for safety were being made.

On Thursday morning, Oct. 16, Dingman called to say he had a letter he needed to get to me. Thinking this was the letter releasing the city from liability, which would have been acceptable, I made arrangements to pick up the letter later in the afternoon. After repeated calls from numerous irate and angry persons who had seen the actual letter, I requested Dingman e-mail the letter. All of this would have been much easier to accept and deal with had it come days, weeks, or a month before, not after hours and hours of preparation and costly advertising and just a day before the event!

The Lumberyard project has involved hours and hours of volunteer time, money and effort for a facility that is desperately needed by the community and is needed right now. We would like to know what we have to do to establish better lines of communication within the administrative department of the city so that our plans may be realized in a more timely manner.

Members of the Maple Leaf committee spend hours and hours, months and months of preparation for a festival that has made Baldwin City known nationwide with proceeds that benefit nearly every non-profit organization not only in Baldwin City, but many of the surrounding communities.

All of this for no pay other than the satisfaction of knowing they are supporting the community.

Diane Niehoff

Lumberyard Arts Center Project

Baldwin City

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