Baldwin City Council to tour, discuss facilities
It wasn’t on Monday’s Baldwin City Council agenda, but facilities and the city’s capital improvement plan were on the minds of one council member and a resident in attendance.
During her report as chair of the council’s budget subcommittee, Councilwoman Kathy Gerstner suggested the council use its coming retreat, which had been scheduled for June 26 and 27, for a discussion on facilities.
The city has a number of facility needs, which were explored in discussions before its annual update of the city’s five-year capital improvement plan adopted in April. Projects include a $2.5 million public works building slated to be built in 2016, a new police station estimated to cost $1.8 million pegged for 2017 and $500,000 in upgrades to City Hall.
Gerstner’s idea was seconded by resident Bill Harmon when he addressed the council later in the meeting. He suggested the council use its retreat to reconsider the approved CIP. In his opinion, which Harmon said many in the community shared, the CIP was too ambitious. It was a bad time for the city to consider new facilities because the state’s financial mess would probably require the school district to raise its mill levy as the state cuts funding to education, he said. That would force the city to hold the line on property taxes, he said.
Property taxes are of great interest to him because he was looking to build a new home for his A&H Air Conditioning and Heating, which has outgrown its current location, Harmon said. Many considerations would go into the decision, including taxes and where the company’s customers were, he said.
“We’re considering everything — Baldwin City, Lawrence and in the country,” he said.
Harmon noted the five-year CIP was one of the last things approved before three new council members took their seats May 4, and that Mayor Marilyn Pearse cast the deciding vote when the council members present split 2-2 on the plan.
In response, Pearse said the council was split not on what was in the CIP but the omission of a community center, which had been among the projects considered (Councilwoman Christi Darnell clarified she voted "no" because she also had concerns about other items in the CIP).
The mayor emphasized the CIP was a planning tool and that no spending had been approved for any project. The council still would have to approve funding for every project in the CIP. Before that was done, funding for each project would also have to be included in an annual budget, Pearse said.
Since the new council would update the CIP next year, there was no reason for it to reconsider the April vote, Pearse said. She added the council would make little progress if it started reconsidering all the recent split decisions.
As for Gerstner’s proposal, the majority of the council agreed retreats should be focused more on an overall strategic outlook than a single issue.
That retreat will now be rescheduled for fall at City Administrator Chris Lowe’s request. He said that he had a recent meeting with a consultant, who had a fresh approach for the retreat, and he suggested it be rescheduled for fall.
With the council’s consensus to go with that request, council members agreed to have a facilities discussion on June 27 after touring city buildings.
Harmon concludes his remarks with a request the council consider a policy of the city buying materials and awarding contracts from local businesses. The community would benefit because money spent locally turns over six times, he said
The council approved one measure Monday that will extend an electrical rate discount to its largest businesses. The action, approved by a 5-0 vote, passes on the city’s savings on the purchase of demand electrical power to its biggest customers.
The measure, which gives a 10 percent reduction in the charge for demand power to Baker University, USD 348, three large industrial companies and 11 commercial outlets, was first approved a year ago. That action was taken in response the KCP&L’s decision to eliminate its variable demand charge the utility traditionally added to the cost of power during peak demand periods.
Rob Culley, superintendent of the Baldwin City electrical power plant, recommended the council approve the extension for another year because KCP&L agreed not to add on the variable demand charge in a three-year contract signed with the city. That saved the city a variable demand charge of $11,000 per megawatt it paid KCP&L in the past, he wrote in a report to the council.