City council forum answers: Jason Mock
Baldwin City is facing a decision regarding its long-term water supply. In your opinion, should Baldwin City continue to purchase wholesale water from the City of Lawrence, or should the city pursue a Public Water Authority partnership with the City of DeSoto, among other entities?
This issue seems to be already settled by the current city council. At the March 21, 2011 meeting, the council voted to move forward with this partnership. While the decision has already been made, I do support the decision the council made. The potential savings to consumers in Baldwin City makes this a great opportunity. Baldwin City will have a voice at the table when water pricing is set, while we currently pay the rate set by the City of Lawrence, with no vote in determining those prices.
In July the City will implement another 6% increase in electric rates, how do you view the electric utility, as an asset or liability, and explain why?
The electric utility can be a valuable asset to the city when, for instance, the city is able to sell excess capacity during summer peak. However, the utility is a liability when it comes to the rates that our customers have to pay to support the utility. Given this view of the utility the city council and the consumers within the community have to determine the best take on the cost benefit analysis of the utility. While we pay higher rates, we often have quicker service. Having a local utility that is responsive to the customers can at times be worth the extra cost associated with said utility.
If elected, what will be your top three objectives, and why?
My main objective will be to serve the people of Baldwin City. I want to bring common sense to the council, and vote based on an informed decision reached by weighing the input of the constituents of Baldwin and the best available information.
My second objective is to drive positive sustainable growth. The city needs to court fresh commercial and industrial interests. If the city can achieve growth in these areas, we will have new jobs, and shift the tax base from residential to commercial and industrial.
Maintain a high quality of life in Baldwin City. With the growth we need as a community, we risk the sense of community we all cherish. While we grow we need to do all we can do to maintain the small town feel that we have grown up with.
Do you believe that the current Mayor, Council and Administrative staff are performing their duties at an acceptable level, why or why not?
The current Mayor, Council, and Administrative staff are performing their duties as well as could be asked. They have made decisions and completed works that are positioning the city well for the future. The recent decision to move forward with a public water authority is a good example of this.
In your opinion, what tools does the city have available to them to promote economic development in Baldwin City? What are you willing to do to attract new businesses and promote development?
The City has a vast number of tools at its disposal to promote economic growth. We have a great university that can provide talent to a multitude of businesses that could come to town. The city in a partnership with the university could bring any number of organizations to the city. We could seek out research and development firms that farm talent through Baker University. We could also strive to bring a management and strategy firm to the community. Either type of business would be strategically located between Lawrence, Topeka, and the Kansas City Metro.
The city also needs to consider tax abatements to encourage investment in the community. Ottawa now has two separate American Eagle Distribution facilities and a Wal-Mart distribution center because they offered tax incentives for those businesses to locate in their city.
We have to consider all options if we want to see the business growth we want.
What is your long-term vision for the Baldwin City golf course?
I believe the Baldwin City golf course can in form or another serve the purpose of all interested parties. There is more than enough land available for a community center, walking trails, and a 9 hole executive golf course.
What will you do to promote more collaboration between the City, School District and Baker University?
The only way that these three entities can come together for collaboration is if they communicate in a more open fashion. These entities have irregular but well advertised meetings to collaborate. When these entities only come together once or twice a year, there can be no sense of shared vision. If elected to the council I would encourage an open dialogue between all three parties by encouraging regular meetings between the three to discuss the issues they face, that could potentially be better tackled as a team.
About one year ago Baldwin City passed a “quality of life” sales tax increase, what are your top 3 priorities for the use of the funds generated by that tax, and why?
This tax raised $62,000 from April 1 through the end of 2010. While this is a substantial amount of generated from a quarter cent sales tax, that could fund any number of projects. One potential use is to fund the library expansion. This money could be used to repurpose or multipurpose the golf course. While I believe that these two would be an excellent use of these funds, it is not my place as a single vote on the council to determine how these funds are purposed. We have had input from the community in the past to determine what priorities the people have, it may be time now that these funds are becoming available to once again assess the desires of the community.
It is frequently stated that Baldwin City’s overall utility rates are higher than those of surrounding communities. Do you agree with that statement, if so, how would you propose to help reduce the utilities rates?
While the statement generally refers to utilities overall, most people are not talking about water, sewage, or trash collection. The focus is on our utilities rates. A few minutes online reveals that we are more expensive than some of our neighbors, Westar charges $ 0.057743 per kilowatt hour, KCPL charges 0.09469 during the summer peak, while currently Baldwin charges 0.1092 and come the first of July that will increase to 0.1154. So, I do agree with the statement, however I can’t so easily come up with a solution to this problem. Many suggest that selling the electric utility will reduce rates. This might be possible, but without further discussions with city staff, and other stake holders I cannot come up with a firm position on this issue. However, I will say that a solution does need to be sought.
Discussions have taken place about a proposed business park in Baldwin City. Would you support the City providing utilities to the business park, if so how would you propose to fund the costs of providing those utilities?
I had a hard time ascertaining the meaning of this question. If the question is addressing if the city should pay a business parks power bill, I would don’t know that I would be in support of that. As discussed previously I am in favor of many types of incentives to bring business to town. But the proposition of paying the utility bill for a business park with no specifics on cost, etc, I cannot answer in favor of that at this time.
If the question is should the city pay for utilities to be extended to a new business park, I would support this proposition. If a developer or group of businesses wants to form a business park in Baldwin City, with the potential of new jobs and tax revenue, and they request that the city foot the bill to have utilities extended to the park site, I would be in favor of that, given that through tax generation, supporting the park would pay for itself in a reasonable amount of time.
At this time I do not have a complete enough knowledge of the city’s budget, to propose a source of funding in the budget.