City council forum answers: Ken Hayes
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?
I agree that seeking an agreement with DeSoto and the other entities makes sense from a business standpoint and severing our reliance on Lawrence for water. We have struggled with our dealings with Lawrence and especially with our pipeline that is vulnerable in the Baker wetlands, which has in the past caused us many problems. I think it would also be wise to explore adding other cities in the area to this mix to see what we could do collectively to ensure a stable supply of water that we have a hand in controlling for the future.
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?
I view the electric utility as both an asset and a liability. It is an asset to have our own capability which we sell as capacity to other cities and as a backup system for outages with our primary supplier KCPL. However we need to find ways to maximize its use and to cut costs and cut our utility rates. I do not support the increase in our utilities that was done last year or the rate hike that will occur in July. I will lobby to repeal this hike and either cut costs to operate the utility or use our reserves to fund the deficit till we can grow our tax base again.
If elected, what will be your top three objectives, and why?
Objective one is “austerity” of operations for the city government of Baldwin. We should free all wages and benefits for the next two calendar years. We need to evaluate every department and every job position to see what should be kept and what is not critical to our cities operations. Every avenue to cutting costs needs to be explored. We need to hold our tax mill levy at current levels as a minimum if not find ways to reduce it and we need to reduce our utility costs.
Objective two is to get our economic engine started in this city again. I will propose that all construction, remodeling and utility impact fees be suspended for two years. This will hopefully encourage construction remodeling and growth in our city. Also I support a business park and we should look at all available funding streams from state, federal, and private means to get a park where we can relocate existing businesses that are expanding and attract new businesses and jobs to town.
Objective three is to increase the inner connectivity of our community with sidewalks. I also feel that the corridor of Elm Street needs to be extended to the schools to the west to tie those buildings into the community via sidewalk, bike and motor vehicle traffic.
Do you believe that the current Mayor, Council and Administrative staff are performing their duties at an acceptable level, why or why not?
I think that the current mayor, council and staff have done an adequate job over the past years but I don’t think they were sensitive enough to the struggles of the citizenry as to levels of taxation and utilities. I take pride in the fact that during my term as mayor although we added a number of projects that we were able to lower the mill levy every year. I recall that 4 years ago a council member stated after a mill levy hike that the new level felt “just about right”. To me the level that feels “right” is the one that is the lowest possible without seriously damaging services.
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?
Baldwin’s greatest asset to attracting new business and people is Baldwin itself. It is located in a sweet spot between Lawrence, Ottawa, Kansas city and Topeka. It sets on a major highway, it will be close but not to close to a new intermodal transit system. But ultimately we are one of the prettiest cities with a beautiful college that is a top notch educational institution that is the center of the community. We should advertise and attract people to look at Baldwin. And after seeing the beauty of what we have here, it sells itself from that point forward. On an economic front I support tax abatements on a graduated scale for new business and would look at any other stimulus means to bring jobs and revenue to this city.
What is your long-term vision for the Baldwin City golf course?
Long range meaning when we have the money to do something with the golf course would be to reorganize the area so that soccer fields and other open spaces could be realized out of this large chunk of ground, and maintain a smaller but still fun golf course on the remainder. I think that taking some of the acreage on the north end for multipurpose fields would be great and we can reorganize the rest to maintain a golf course. I would hate to see our town lose its golf course but REALLY long range I would like to see grass greens. Those sand greens always destroyed my game.
What will you do to promote more collaboration between the City, School District and Baker University?
When I was in office before I had lunch with Dr. Lambert, the then President of Baker on a semi regular basis and we discussed a lot of issues facing the city. I don’t know if our current mayor kept up this practice but I found it beneficial to get a different perspective on our issues. It would seem that we need to drastically improve our relations with the school board so that we can plan and move forward in a less haphazard method that has dominated the last 6 years.
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?
I would use the money to construct sidewalks to inter connect the city with sidewalks and bike paths to the major nodes that our children use. We have two schools that are not really connected to the city by anything but highway. Same goes for our pool, it is not connected well to the city and puts our children at risk when walking or biking. Also I think we should use it to upgrade our park equipment in existing parks. I am not in favor of new trails and recreational facilities that we would then have to maintain with tax dollars at this time.
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?
Yes I agree with the statement that our utility rates are higher. Austerity measures and living within our means to lower utility rates as soon as possible. We have a number of citizens that are hurting financially due to our current rates. We need to explore every avenue to alleviate this stress.
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 support a business park and if we need to use our reserves which are quite substantial in the utility departments to fund this utility infrastructure then we should do so. Although since we don’t have a definitive answer as to where were going to build this then this question is a moot point till we have a clearly defined location.