Archive for Wednesday, March 15, 2006

City Council members contemplate paying themselves

March 15, 2006

About three years ago, when Ron Cranor was a new city council member, he wasn't in favor of paying members for serving on the council.

But on Monday, Cranor had a different opinion.

"I know my original thoughts were, being paid wasn't part of this thing and my civic duty should prevail, but my civic duty is getting worn-out shoes," Cranor said.

During his time on the council, Cranor said there's been an increase in meetings outside regular council meetings that members attend. And, members have more literature they must read on various issues, Cranor said.

"You started paperhanging us, and I ran out of steam," Cranor said with a laugh.

City Administrator Mike Yanez, who brought the issue up, researched council and mayoral salaries of nearly 70 Kansas municipalities, ranging in population from 240 to 146,000.

Baldwin, for instance, pays its mayor $400 a month and its council members $50 per month. Baldwin has a population of 3,400.

Elected officials in Concordia, meanwhile, receive $8 per meeting. Concordia's population is about 5,700.

"It's not really a salary. It's more of a stipend to do your job," Yanez told council members.

The council did not take any action on the issue, but will discuss it further at the next meeting on March 28.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved purchase of handheld computer and automatic meter reading software. The software, which costs $6,300, would allow water meter readers to log meter information more efficiently. Currently, readings are marked in a book and then manually recorded in city hall computers.

"We're kind of in the stone age in meter reading and billing systems," said Butch Rodgers, city superintendent.

He noted the city is responsible for recording information on 1,700 meters.

  • Heard from Joe Ryan, director of sales and support at Sunflower Broadband. Ryan said the city could display community events through Sunflower Broadband's On Demand programming. The programming is available for digital cable subscribers.

Ryan said the city could decide what community events to put on the calendar, or as he called it, a community bulletin board. With On Demand, customers could scroll through the events at any time to find a specific event.

Ryan also urged the council to consider taping its meetings, which could be shown On Demand.

Although Sunflower Broadband could not supply technical equipment to tape meetings, Ryan suggested the council work with the school district, which operates Channel 26, the Tonganoxie public-access channel through Sunflower Broadband.

By working with the school district, Ryan said the council possibly could offset equipment costs.

Yanez said he was in contact with the high school's media department, which operates the public-access channel, about videotaping the meetings for Channel 26.

"They felt that at some point in time, when they got their feet on the ground, they would come to the city," Yanez said.

The channel started programming last fall. Sunflower Broadband broadcasts the programming as a public service.

Sunflower Broadband is owned by the World Company of Lawrence. The World Company also owns The Mirror newspaper.

  • Discussed construction of a sidewalk along Pleasant Street from Himpel Lumber to the new middle school.

Engineer estimates show the project would cost about $198,000 plus costs for right of way acquisition.

Yanez told the council grant money soon would be offered through the Kansas Department of Transportation. The funding would be part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School Program.

Council member Velda Roberts said she liked the idea of a grant, but was concerned the process to secure funds might take too much time.

"The school is going to open, and we might not have a sidewalk," Roberts said.

The council also looked at funding the project through a benefit district, but members agreed that applying for the grant would be a better option.

"We'll put the benefit district on ice until it's time to pull it back out of the freezer," Yanez said.

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