Archive for Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Council looks at move toward being city of second class

October 16, 2012

A move to the status of city of second class could mean a change in the top administrator’s title and structure of the governing body in Tonganoxie.

But Tonganoxie City Council members plan to take their time in coming to a decision.

The council met for a special meeting Monday to discuss Tonganoxie’s impending move to becoming a city of the second class. Kansas statutes require that a city be classified as a city of second class when it reaches a population of 5,000.

Tonganoxie now sits at 5,065.

Kim Winn, deputy director with League of Kansas Municipalities, met with the council and assistant city administrator Jennifer Jones-Lacy.

Winn said it was up to the council to decide how it operates moving forward.

“Being a city of second class doesn’t have to change you one bit,” Winn said. It’s a formality.”

Major decisions with being a city of second class is whether to change from a council to commission. With a commission, there would be wards from which candidates would have to reside. Currently, council members are voted at-large, so where they live in the city has no bearing on running. And with commissions, as opposed to councils, the mayor does not run for election. The mayor generally is appointed by the commission or the top vote-getter in an election is named mayor.

“At some point, you get large enough, everyone could be from the same side of town,” Winn said. “A part of the community could be disenfranchised.”

Of 35 cities in Kansas with populations between 4,000 and 10,000, 27 have a mayor/council and eight have commissions. Of those 35 cities, 17 have a city manager and 17 have an administrator. The other, Baxter Springs, does not have professional management.

The city manager would differ from a city administrator in that the city manager has more authority in hiring and firing and other responsibilities. A city administrator could be given such responsibilities, but generally would require a governing body’s final vote on such recommendations. With an April 2013 approaching for some council seats, current council members had concerns about having a decision made in advance of the election.

Winn said the process of making the change didn’t allow for enough time in advance of the election. She said starting a process of making any changes should start right after an election so there’s ample time for the process before the next election.

Moving forward, Winn suggested the council form a committee of residents, business leaders and community leaders in forming a plan for any changes and allow for community input through town hall meetings or surveys, and, ultimately, a ballot vote.

She also encouraged the council to put any changes to the structure of the governing body as a ballot question.

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