Archive for Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Baldwin City Council complete visioning 2020 exercise

Baldwin City Hall

Baldwin City Hall

September 25, 2012

A visioning study released last week foresees Baldwin City becoming by 2020 a destination for new residents, visitors and jobs and the city enjoying a quality municipal workforce and improved infrastructure.

Related document

City Administrator Chris Lowe’s summary of the Baldwin City Council’s summer-long 2020 visioning exercise was presented at the Sept. 17 Baldwin City Council meeting. It concluded the council’s effort to develop goals and strategies to guide the city for the next eight years. The visioning exercise started with a council retreat in May led by consultant John Divine, a former Salina mayor and city councilman, and continued with discussions at council meetings during the summer.

Mayor Ken Wagner said too often council members get bogged down with immediate needs and problems. The point of the visioning exercise was to establish overarching goals the current council and those that follow in the next eight years should keep in mind when approving projects or budgets, he said.

“It’s aggressive, but I think it needs to be,” the mayor said. “Hopefully, it will become a road map for this and future councils.”

The road map concept was present within Lowe’s summary. He wrote: “This document should be used dynamically to analyze priorities and to ensure consistent decision-making with respect to making the vision become reality.”

The council’s vision sees the city becoming a premier bedroom community, which attracts residents and visitors through the arts and local historical assets. But it also assumes Baldwin City will have commercial and industrial opportunities with the completion of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe intermodal in Edgerton.

The visioning exercise produced three primary goals. They are:

• Make Baldwin City a destination city, which was definedas a premier bedroom community that people want live in and visit.

• Support job growth.

• Invest in the city’s work force and infrastructure to provide a high level of service to residents.

The report further proposed strategic steps to realize those three primary goals by 2020 and actions to be taken in the next year to 18 months to start making progress.

For example, it is suggested the city take strategic advantage of partnerships with Baker University and the Lumberyard Arts center to create a vibrant arts culture and with the Lawrence and Douglas County Chambers of Commerce and commercial real estate firms to promote economic development.

The report also sets spending priorities. Those include specific expenditures during the next year to 18 months — such as $50,000 for the design of a gateway or signage at the city’s entrances, $10,000 in grant awards for downtown façade upgrades — and longer term investments in employee salaries and technology that will allow the city to provide a high level of service and amenities that will attract residents and visitors.

With the council’s acceptance of his report, Lowe said he would now start meeting with city staff about implementation of action steps.

Comments

1776attorney 2 years, 2 months ago

With all due respect, perhaps the city manager could explain where in this plan are the desparately needed central city area new street curbing, rain water run-off, guttering, lighting, alley and street improvements ? Or an annual plan to renovate the business district brick streets.

Two foot deep muddy street ditches around the 15 square block city central area are not exactly premier bedroom community amenities.

What I read here is not a well-thoughtout, coherent, strategic game plan. It reads like a bunch of ideas tossed in a bucket and drawn out and written down on paper without a real consise end-game with goals and benefits. At the end of the day what is the prize here?

Fifty thousand dollars for entrance gateway signs to the city? Who thought up this boondoogle? Seriously.

I've told this story 5 times before- in my 4 city block area around the downtown this past year up to 13 houses (out of 32 total) have been up for sale, many due to foreclosure or high property taxes. That is 41% of all the houses in my neighborhood.

Where was the public presentation and comment on these proposals?

What I get from all this is the city leaders want to continue to tax the community to the brink and spend taxpayer monies on pet projects in the middle of the worst resession in 50 years. The central residential area of the city can be damned so all the improvements and expenditures can go to the newer, north 6th Street area neighborhoods where money talks or to favored projects of the movers and shakers.

City government is charged with providing "services and amenities" for the community as necessary to improve living conditions. Local government is not established to over tax and wildly spend on favored projects that only benefit a few, while the majority goes without.

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straightforward 2 years, 2 months ago

I don't totally disagree with you. It is strange that most of the streets in the central and southern parts of town are without curbing and guttering. Over the long-term I think changing that would be a worthwhile use of money. However, I believe it was the developers who were responsible for putting in that infrastructure in the newer parts of town, not the city. It would be reasonable to ask people and businesses on those streets being enhanced to pay a special one-time assessment to chip in on those costs.

Also, the city hasn't damned the residents in the central part of the city. Within the last decade the city has renovated all the sidewalks and curbing downtown; repaired bridges on High and Elm streets, and prior to doing the work on 6th street north of the highway, the city did the same work on sixth street through the south part of town.

I'm happy to see the city trying to develop forward-looking goals. I hope they can strike a healthy balance between promoting job growth/improving the quality of life and keeping the cost of living from getting higher than it already is. $50 thousand seems pretty high for signs welcoming people to Baldwin. Surely these can be done cheaper than this? Give the city a $50 thousand budget and I'm sure they will find a way to spend ALL of it.

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SASHA 2 years, 2 months ago

Well said attorney. Taxes and utilities should be priority. Fifty thousand dollar archways aren't going to help the people struggling to live in this town. If i were a business owner, Id go to a council meeting and ask for money. If a bank won't lend the train business all the money, odds are they are skeptical of it succeeding. Apparently our council is smarter in business than banks are. I should have realized this with all the great decisions being made.

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NanCrisp 2 years, 2 months ago

A note about utilities and trying to attract new business, especially to an industrial park.

Many years ago I was directly involved with the Intech Park in Eudora. The company for which I worked owned the park, and my direct supervisor (the CEO) enlisted me to help our largest tenant, a national printing firm, try to resolve their eletricity cost dilemma. It seems the parent corporation had taken a look at the plant's electric bills and found that they were not only the highest amongst all of their plants nationwide, but significantly so.

Of course, my first call for assistance went to the Kansas Corporation Commission. They told me Eudora had "municipal" utilities (eletricity and water) and that the KCC, therefore, could not take up a grievance. I asked what our recourse would then be. They told me that municipal utilities are considered to be regulated by the taxpayers/constituents. I was told that if we didn't like the rates, we should vote in a new city council to help us get lower utility rates. In that case, it turned out that the mayor & council had a specific plan to rape the businesses on city utility rates in order to provide a lower mill levy overall for the townspeople. In other words, the printing plant owners weren't voters, so they were thrown under the bus. In the end, getting no relief from the City, the printing company put the plant up for sale and moved on to greener pastures in another state. Or maybe another country.

A cautionary tale for the City of Baldwin: If you want to attract national or even regional businesses to your town, you'd better make sure the utility rates you charge them are going to be competitive. Because in today's economy, they are definitely going to be savvy enough to draw that comparison against other possible locations. And they are definitely looking at other possible locations.

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1776attorney 2 years, 2 months ago

Thank you for commenting. I am not completely against economic development. What I am against is a plan that does not sound like a well-thought-out strategy and spending on economic development when so many other priorities exist. Amazingly our city leaders seem oblivious to these greater needs.

While I like the mayor and he deserves credit for hard work and dedication, I also think we hire a city administrator to act as a wise, experienced steward and adviser of the taxpayer's monies. So far, I don't feel Mr. Lowe is fulfilling these roles.

Successful city management is first judged on how well the administrator manages the "quality of living" issues- utilities, streets, city services. Once these issues are well-managed and fine-tuned, you have the foundation to attempt new projects when the economy is good and citizens are doing well.

In the 1970's, the city council spent $50,000 of taxpayer funds to establish an industrial park at the northeast corner of Highway 56 and High Street. The city installed electrical, sewage, water and some street infrastructure. The city also offered taxpayer funds to a 3-person "tee shirt" company to move to Baldwin City to be the first and for a long time "only" tenant in this industrial park. Eventually, Mr. Cutler (who founded and retired from Cutler Paving in Lawrence) built a large building to invent and tinker around in. For 20 years, these were the only tenants in this city industrial park. (Now there are more buildings and employers there, but 20 years later.)

These taxpayer funded industrial parks in this area of Kansas do not have successful track records, whether Eudora, Lawrence or Baldwin City. The East Hills Business Park in east Lawrence is almost empty with vacant buildings.

A developer is responsible for the streets, curbing and sidewalks in new developments. However, once installed, the city takes over all future obligations for maintenance, repair and replacement.

What attracts people to cities is modern and well-maintained infrastructure and amenities, including the quality of living.

Baldwin City just paid for a $700,000 sidewalk on North 1055 / 6th Street which will be used by maybe 5 people a day. I am told that next the City is planning on building a sidewalk along Highway 56 out to the new elementary school at considerable cost. (This is something the school district should have been responsible for (or planned better for), but of course, they have no money for this now).

All the while, there are many parts of Baldwin City that would just be happy with an asphalt street and not gravel. And curbing, sidewalks (that meet the ADA requirements), drainage and level streets seem a very basic quality of living issue.

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hyperinflate 2 years, 2 months ago

I guess I'm having a hard time swallowing the idea of "Destination City". I'd be interested in how much we paid for the consultant to help our City Council arrive at that conclusion, because anyone who has lived in this town for a decade or more knows that previous Councils had the vision of turning Baldwin City into another Westin Missouri. This drove lots of plans, including the downtown sidewalk stairs/ramps/rails project. Remember four years ago when that simple act was supposed to automatically cause more "destination" businesses to open downtown? We now appear to have only a single, open antique shop downtown (and really at the edge of downtown, not even serviced by the sidewalk/ramp project).

What I really suspect took place is that the whole "visioning" exercise didn't really do anything more than codify what certain Council members wanted prior to the exercise being undertaken. It seems rather silly to push all Baldwin City's chips on the table for a goal that has failed (spectacularly) to materialize after being the vision for as far back as 2002 or so. Nothing like banking on a completely recession-sensitive industry as the sole (or at least primary) goal for a town's economy.

Mark me down in the unimpressed column.

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Goldie 2 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like it's about time to run the good ole boy network out of town - while there is still a town to run them out of.

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baldwinfan 2 years, 2 months ago

I agree. We need to stop trying to "grow" Baldwin City off the current resident's backs. Stop spending out money. If people want to find Baldwin, they have Google. They don't need $50K worth of signs.

If a new resident wants to build a house in Baldwin, they get a tax break. If a current resident wants to build a fence on their own property, they pay full price for the building permit. Something is wrong with our tax and spend policy.

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