One topic that came up during the City Commission meeting involved traffic signals and parking downtown.
Commissioner Chase Locke said he had received a couple of phone calls recently about the intersection of First and Main and not having a light there. He was told there had been some pretty close calls.
“The commission has discussed this quite a bit,” said City Manager Herb Llewellyn. “Several years ago that intersection was signaled.”
Then the commission approved taking out the signals at the recommendation of the Kansas Department of Transportation.
“The commission has talked about wanting it back,” Llewellyn said. “We have asked the state if it was OK and they have told us no, it’s not. In fact, I think we even have signals we could put back up and it’s just the state of Kansas.”
The next step in getting those signals back would be for the commission to get involved in the request and not just staff.
“KDOT has standards and you have to meet the warrants,” Llewellyn said. “We’re going to need the commission to help us. If the commission says they want the signals back, that will be a different letter we send to KDOT. We have not involved our elected officials in Topeka.”
He did say those standards are more appropriate for Rock and 21st in Wichita than an El Dorado intersection.
Scott Rickard, assistant city engineer, said it would be something the state secretary of transportation would need to address.
Mayor Mike Fagg said the state did come in and analyze the traffic and accidents.
“The other part is the cost,” Fagg said. “When you run a traffic light it costs you money. I think it was $50,000 a year 10 years ago. I personally like it’s not there because how many times do I come up to the stop sign and see no one coming and can pull out.”
Rickard said they also have discussed that the on-street parking on Main is a sight obstruction, although the businesses love that parking right in front of their doors.
“There is very limited parking downtown so I don’t know we should even be talking about it,” said Commissioner Bill Young.
Llewellyn said they have lots of downtown parking in the parking lots behind the businesses and all of those spots would be closer to a person’s destination than in the Walmart parking lot.
“I think if we laid it out the way we think we ought to lay it out, on-street parking, your near misses wouldn’t be near as frequent because we would lose a lot of parking around intersections,” he said.
Page 2 of 4 - Commissioner Bill Young agreed he liked not having a signal there.
“Maybe we should ask Scott and Herb to put together some drawings if we want to change the parking a little bit to open that intersection up,” he said. “The visibility is bad.”
Locke asked how many spots would be eliminated and was told a couple.
“One of KDOT’s initiatives is to get rid of all on-street parking on Main,” Rickard said, although the city has not agreed to do that.
The commission also approved some street projects.
They approved the paving of Fourth Avenue from School to Boyer and the paving of Fifth Avenue from School to Boyer. They received successful petitions from the residents to do each of these projects. The commission approved a resolution accepting the petitions and authorizing the projects.
While neither was in the budget for 2014, doing them together will save money on the project and they will move another project back so they can pay for it.
Another petition from residents requested curb and guttering be replaced in the 300 block of North Atchison.
This is a brick road that Rickard said was still in sound condition. It was approved 4-0, with Fagg abstaining because his parents live on that road.
In other business, the commission:
• received an update from the Youth Commission.
“I want to thank the kids for their hard work,” said Commissioner David Chapin. “It’s been a pleasure working with them. I’ve done it now for six years. You can’t express in words how fine it is to work with such fine young human beings and to know they will be our future leaders.”
He also thanked Jim Gardiner, who works with the youth at the high school.
Chandler Bolen, Youth Commission chair, said they all appreciate the city allowing them this opportunity to voice their opinions and learn about city government. He went on to give some highlights from their year.
“Thank you for all you do,” Fagg said.
• approved a new resolution for the general obligation bond sale. The city had left off a temporary note for $1.2 million that should have been in the sale. The new total is $8.55 million.
Before they voted, Fagg asked city staff to explain again why the sports complex was not on a GO bond.
“The commission wanted to participate and wanted to not use mill levy funds,” Llewellyn said.
He said not raising the mill levy left few opportunities to be involved.
Page 3 of 4 - “The only cash we hand on hand to do that was money that had been set aside and was part of the lake debt retirement fund,” he said. “It was making a quarter percent interest and we needed to make more.”
Fagg said he calculated it would have saved half a million dollars to go to bond.
In addition, under Kansas statute this kind of improvement would have required voter approval to go to bond.
Their bond counsel also pointed out they did not know what the interest rates were going to be when that decision was made.
Fagg said it would be nice to look at other possibilities.
“I understand what you are saying, but it doesn’t help the problem with the lake debt,” Llewellyn said.
“I’m going to vote for this because it’s the right thing to do with this money at this time,” Fagg said.
The resolution was approved 5-0.
• approved a special use permit by Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital to allow off-site parking at 217 N. Atchison. This would help with the problem of cars parking on the street.
• approved, 5-0, the Planning Commission recommendation for text amendments to the zoning districts to include transitional housing as a special use in R-3, C-1 and O-I districts. The Planning Commission approved it by a vote of 4-3, with one no vote from someone against transitional housing, another who didn’t want supplemental regulations and the third wanting to notify the people in those zones and talk about it more.
“We had numerous meetings,” Commissioner Nick Badwey said of the Transitional Housing Task Force, “and people from all over different walks of life were on the committee. We kicked around a lot of ideas and came up with this.”
• heard an update on the wind turbine. The people supposed to fix it from the recent lightning strike were to be here this week and had said it would “not be too big of deal to fix it.”
• discussed places open in case of severe weather. The Senior Center and City Hall are opened. The basement in City Hall does not have an elevator though. In addition, during regular operation hours, the library also is open to people to come to their basement.
• Fagg said it would be helpful if outside agencies would provide the city with a copy of their financial statement, tax return and letter of good standing when requesting funding from the city.
• discussed the lake debt. Fagg said there was about $4.5 million in the lake debt reserve. He asked if they could consider paying off the first note.
Page 4 of 4 - “Nothing stops you from spending that and saving the interest expense,” Llewellyn said. “I just caution that is something different. As long as it is thought about and you take the money you are currently spending on debt and put it in the fund, if you do that, then I have no qualm at all. You are saving about 3.25 percent interest.”
Fagg said that was something staff might want to talk about because they were in a totally different picture regarding interest rates than they thought they would be when the debt was set up.
Llewellyn will report back to the commission on it at their next meeting.