In January, the Butler County Commissioners discussed their membership in several organizations, including the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP).
After a lengthy discussion during their Tuesday meeting, the commissioners voted 3-2 to renew their REAP membership for another year.
Commissioners Dan Woydziak, Mike Wheeler and Jeff Masterson voted in favor of continued membership in REAP while Commissioners Ed Myers and Peggy Palmer did not support Butler County’s REAP membership.
Butler County joined REAP in 1999.
“When it was put together, the primary purpose was to have lobbyists in Topeka to counter the Johnson County lobbyists,” said Butler County Administrator Will Johnson. “REAP has kind of morphed since then into other areas.”
According to REAP’s Web site, the organization is comprised of 34 city and county governments from Butler, Cowley, Harper, Harvey, Kingman, McPherson, Reno, Sedgwick and Sumner counties. These jurisdictions have voluntarily joined together for two primary purposes: to guide state and national actions that affect economic development in the region and to consider and adopt joint actions among member governments that enhance the regional economy.
During the course of Tuesday’s discussion, Harvey County Commissioner Chip Westfall spoke to the commissioners on behalf of Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh.
He spoke about the benefits of belonging to REAP.
“It is important that we have a good dialogue,” Westfall said of the county and city governments in the REAP region. “There are 34 local agencies that belong to REAP. I look out for the interests of my county but we do have issues that are common across our region.”
Augusta residents Gary and Myrna Rogers also addressed the commissioners and voiced concerns they have about REAP and its policies.
Myrna Rogers began by pointing out that members of the Kansas House of Representatives have rejected the United Nations’ Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 encourages people to consume less energy and protect the environment.
“REAP is a small part,” she said. “The United Nations is working to control everything. It’s time facts are presented.”
She told the commissioners if they are concerned about state mandates, they should be even more concerned about federal and United Nations mandates.
“These grants have so many strings attached,” she continued. “Our personal liberties have been and continue to be totally abandoned.”
Myrna also said 54 major cities around the country were negatively impacted by their decisions to become involved with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).
“I ask you, why should the residents of Kansas be forced into legislation dictated to us by the United Nations?” she said. “It’s unconstitutional but our taxes are paying for it.”
Page 2 of 5 - Myrna’s husband Gary echoed her opposition to REAP.
“I fear for the future of the youth in the United States,” he said.
Gary also said after doing more research about sustainable communities initiatives, he fears for his future as a senior citizen as well. He also feels the promotion of sustainable development is an excuse to exercise control over citizens and the amount of energy resources they use.
“Environmentalists are trying to get into every place,” he said.
He asked the commissioners why they would continue to promote REAP’s agenda and asked them to terminate their membership in the organization.
After Gary and Myrna Rogers were finished speaking, Andover resident Marci Laffen addressed the commissioners.
“I would echo every word they said,” Laffen said. “I agree. I’ve investigated these things myself and found them to be true.”
She told the commissioners she is thankful to have been born in America and experience the freedoms it offers. Laffen said she has become acquainted with refugees and students who come from countries that do not offer the same freedoms America does.
She said she fears Agenda 21 and organizations like REAP will take Americans’ freedom away by controlling what citizens can and cannot do.
“These are two different issues I think,” said Masterson. “To me, that is a separate issue from REAP. I think we got two issues confused here. I know we’re going to have to agree to disagree.”
Masterson pointed out the Butler County Commission decided not to participate in the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program awarded to REAP.
According to HUD, this grant “supports metropolitan and multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of: (1) economic competitiveness and revitalization; (2) social equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity; (3) energy use and climate change; and (4) public health and environmental impact.”
“They have nothing to do with our planning and zoning,” Masterson said of REAP. “They have no say. I think we derive 10 times the benefit from what we pay in. That’s my opinion.”
“I totally disagree with you,” said Palmer. “The sustainable communities grant is being promoted by REAP. This is a federal government agenda which goes to Agenda 21. It’s happening in all communities.”
“I believe there is an agenda,” replied Masterson. “I’m not questioning that.”
“But in the end it is the environmental issues they are addressing,” said Palmer. “The problem I have is we’ve been through the Agenda 21. We don’t want that in this area.”
Page 3 of 5 - “Right, I agree,” said Masterson.
“REAP is in fact promoting that agenda,” said Palmer. “That’s what this is all about. It’s factual. Wichita has already more or less taken on the Agenda 21. They are promoting it.”
She continued to say that some things, including workforce development, done by REAP are just a pass through from the state.
“What’s good for Wichita is good for Butler County,” said Masterson. “We benefit by a strong economy.”
“REAP likes to take on the role that they are the ones who get this through,” responded Palmer.
She noted Butler County pays higher per capita fees than some of REAP’s other members.
“The REAP budget is about 90 percent consultants and administration,” continued Palmer. “I have a problem with where the money’s going.”
Myers echoed some of what Palmer said.
“First of all, I want to thank all of the presenters this morning,” he said. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the REAP Web site. Frankly I do have discomfort with a lot of what REAP is promoting. I think that most of us here believe government is like a community’s overhead. As I read through the REAP materials, I kind of get the feeling the people are the government’s overhead and I do have a problem with that.”
He said that REAP’s mentality is like a Utopian dream. He believes the quickest way to economic stability is to let individuals and families assume responsibility and live with and adjust to the consequences of their actions.
“I feel that the main game is to grow government at the expense of the private sector,” said Myers. “I intend to vote no in remaining a member of REAP.”
“I don’t know that I can add much more to what’s already been said,” Wheeler said. “We already voted down the sustainable communities grant. This is whether we want to have a seat at the table.”
Wheeler noted he has spent time on the REAP Web site as well, and that he hasn’t come to the same conclusions Myers has.
“As far as membership, I think it’s important to have a seat at the table,” said Wheeler. “We govern Butler County. We make the decisions.”
REAP membership costs Butler County $5,445 annually and an additional $800 for a spot on the water resource committee.
Page 4 of 5 - For more information about REAP, visit www.reap-ks.org. To read the United Nations’ Agenda 21, visit http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/ content/documents/Agenda21.pdf.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:
• had Clerk Don Engels flip a coin to determine the second place finisher in Augusta’s Ward 2 City Council race. Mike Huddleston and Mark Knowles were tied with 28 votes. Knowles won the coin toss so he will run against Jamie Hubbard in the general election.
• received Wilber Ayers of Burns who discussed the poor condition of River Valley Road near his home. The county received money from TransCanada to repair damage done to the road during the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. The county has not yet finished the road repairs.
• approved a grant application from KDHE to the Butler County Health Department for ongoing categorical grants. The motion passed 3-2 with Woydziak, Wheeler and Masterson in favor and Myers and Palmer opposed. Myers expressed concern about types of contraception dispensed by the Health Department and said he could not in good conscience vote for grants that include them. Myers said some of the contraceptives could interfere after conception. Health Department Director Janice Powers said she respected Myers’ position but said she disagreed with him. Her office does not dispense the contraceptive known as the morning after pill, nor does her office ever refer anyone to an abortion provider. She told commissioners the contraceptives her office dispenses do not interfere after conception. The county typically spends around $1,800 on contraceptives for the Health Department each year. Grants provide additional funding.
• approved the 2013 Non-Competitive Capacity Building Award (CBA) Contract and proposed budget information for the Butler County Health Department. The $4,000 award will allow the Health Department to recruit volunteers to help the department in the event of an emergency.
• approved an agreement for processing waste tires at the landfill.
• approved a notice to surfacing contractors for an asphalt surface overlay project on about 1.8 miles of SW Thunder Road.
• authorized professional engineering services for the landfill related to biannual groundwater sampling, analysis and reporting and related to annual general engineering services. The motion passed 4-1 with Masterson opposed.
• authorized Public Works to obtain proposals for CIP projects to replace damaged metal panels and insulation on the El Dorado highway shop building and for equipment shed improvements at the El Dorado and Augusta county highway shop locations.
• approved the release of a surety bond for road maintenance related to the Keystone Pipeline project. The bond was released because TransCanada has paid the county $1.8 million for road repairs.
• authorized the solicitation of bids by Public Works for the annual purchase of tires for multiple departments, herbicides for the Weed Department and liquid asphalts for the Highway Department.
Page 5 of 5 - • held a work session to discuss the year end update and the 2014 budget.
• held a work session to discuss microwave installation for the IT Department. The county has been in discussion with Butler Community College about the possibility of using space a communications tower on the college’s property for the microwaves. This project could include moving the emergency communications backup system to the college’s tower as well. If all phases of the project are completed, the total cost would be around $313,000.
• held a work session to discuss employee travel and expense reimbursement.