City council forum answers: Shane Starkey
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 believe that Baldwin City should explore the option of an alternative water source. Some concerns that we should have answered would be short term cost, long term cost, and the service level. If the overall costs are comparable, I feel that it would be better to enter into a partnership. By doing this, we would be in control of our water and not subsidizing the Lawrence water department. This would be the equivalent of buying versus renting.
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 a liability for the city. One of the major expenses that businesses look at while deciding which town to locate in is the utility expense. In some cases this difference can be $20,000 or more per year. If this deters a prospective company from locating in Baldwin City we not only lose the electric revenue, we also lose the other taxes that company would have generated for our community.
If elected, what will be your top three objectives, and why?
If elected, my top three objectives would be to reduce spending, expand our tax base, and keep Baldwin City a city where people want to live and raise their families.
Reducing the cities expenses without decreasing benefits is a task that many government agencies can and should improve on. A successful growing community needs to be financially responsible. A high taxed community often sees property values decrease. Keeping taxes low will protect the largest personal investment that we have; our homes.
With the BNSF Inner modal being built in Edgerton, there will be many supplemental and secondary businesses looking for business space within a reasonable distance. Baldwin City is a prime city to capture some of these businesses. Many of these companies will bring high paying jobs to whichever community that they decide on.
In the twelve years that I have lived in Baldwin City I have seen the town grow. I am certain that in the next four years there are going to be more changes. Some things shouldn’t change. I want to see that the growth that we experience doesn’t change the town’s values. This will be accomplished with good leadership and planning from your elected officials.
Do you believe that the current Mayor, Council and Administrative staff are performing their duties at an acceptable level, why or why not?
I feel that the current Mayor, Council and administrative staff are doing an acceptable job at maintaining the city’s status quo. However, there are some areas that could be improved. I believe that we need stronger leadership, particularly in establishing some accountability for expenses. Each departmental budget should be reviewed each year. If the department is out of budget, the wages should be froze, or eliminated. When the department is operating within budget, then and only then, should pay raises be considered. If each supervisor is running their department like a business, or if it were their own money, there would surely be less waste.
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 City has several tools that give us an advantage in economic development. In large part due to Baker University, we have an excellent pool of educated people with varying backgrounds that are willing to donate their time and expertise for the benefit of the community. In addition to the proposed business park, there is land that is suitable for residential or light industrial development. With the BNSF inner modal being built, we are close enough to be a desirable place to live, or locate a supporting business. Despite our small town feel, we are close enough to larger cities that can offer amenities that some companies and residents want. With the completion of 59 Highway, we will only be five minutes from four lane highways. This will benefit commuters and the trucking industry.
What is your long-term vision for the Baldwin City golf course?
As a golfer, I want to see Baldwin City keep the golf course. As a council member, I do not feel that every resident, golfer or not, should pay more in taxes, just to better the experience of the few who do golf. If there were changes to be made, I would like to see if there would be any interest from a “management group” that would be willing to lease the golf course. They could pay for any improvements that they felt would increase their taxable golf rounds and profitability, without costing every taxpayer. It is also important to remember that the city golf course also serves as cross country course for USD 348 and Baker University
What will you do to promote more collaboration between the City, School District and Baker University?
Baker University, Baldwin City, and USD 348 are all important to the community that we call home. If one entity gains at the expense of another, the whole community will lose. To prevent this, I would recommend that we create a steering committee with representation from all three entities that could work together to solve individual issues for each. I feel this will create synergy that will benefit the entire community.
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?
As a city councilperson, I believe that I should act in the interests of what the citizen’s want, not make the citizens accept what I like. There for, my first priority would be to poll the citizens and let them decide what would be the most desirable quality of life project for Baldwin City. The options could be the golf coarse, running trails, or a library, to name a few. The second priority would be to develop a long term vision for the development, construction, and budgeting the expense. The third priority would be seeing the project completed in a manner that would satisfy the communities need.
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?
I do believe that we are paying higher utility rates than surrounding communities. Without specific knowledge of how the rates and expenses controlled, it is impossible to have a perfect answer. The first step I would take is to identify a number of other municipal facilities of comparable size that are producing electricity at better rates. Once we have identified some successful operations, we will compare their practices to ours. Then we would have real data to compare our operation is truly performing.
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 feel that Baldwin City taxpayers would benefit from a new business park. Most business parks are done in several phases. As I understand it to be true, Douglas County would be willing to pay for the land if Baldwin City would streets, sewer, and power. If we could do this at a fair price to the current tax payers, I would support the business park. Once the initial phase is fully occupied, we could use the tax revenue from the first phase to offset the cost for the second phase. When the park is at or near capacity, the city could then use the tax revenue to reduce the burden of the tax payer.
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