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The Eudora City Council met in a specially called meeting Tuesday evening to facilitate the attendance of all members of the City Council. Several council members could not attend the regularly scheduled meeting of March 12th and with an important topic of a proposed Public Safety building, the Council wanted as many members as possible present. Four of the five City Council members were in attendance at this meeting, with the exception of Councilman Tim Reazin who was unable to make it for an undisclosed reason.
The Council moved through the agenda acting quickly to approve a final plat for what is now being called “Eudora City Center” at 10th and Main Streets. This plat includes the properties now owned by the City, the School District and the Library. A Use Permitted Upon Review (UPUR) application for a proposed Public Safety Building to be located on the cities portion of the land at the 10th and Main intersection was also passed with no substantive discussion.
Following these actions, city staff gave a presentation on the cost and tax impact of the new public safety building that has been proposed for 10th and Main. During that presentation, Eudora City Administrator John Harrenstein stated the estimated cost of the building to be $4.025 million dollars. Harrenstein also outlined that, to pay back the cost of the 30 year debt of the proposed building, a 2.851 mill rate increase would likely be needed and a combined $80,000 in budget cuts would also have to be made over the course of three years. These cuts would be taken from a variety of sources in the city budget. Money from a 2.1 mill increase authorized by the City Council in 2010 would also be used to fund this project.
This information was followed by a lengthy discussion by City Council members. The Council voiced in solidarity that the current Public Safety Building has to be replaced, but building such an expensive building is not practical.
“We have let a piece of property dictate what we are going to do,” City Councilwoman Ruth Hughs said.
Many Council members had stated in past discussions that since the planned location of the proposed building was to be at 10th and Main Streets, it need to look better than just an average metal building since they feel it is a gateway to downtown and the city.
“When we are looking at cutting $10,000 from streets, from parks and economic development, that concerns me,” Hughs added.
“It’s not the price of the building, it’s the timing and the mill rate increase, that concerns me,” Councilman Kenny Massey said. “There’s a lot of concern right now in this community with that level of mill rate increase.”
In what was somewhat of a surprise turn of events, the Council started talking about, in the best interest of the community and the City budget, that city staff should place the 10th & Main proposed building on hold and look for an alternative location to place a new Public Safety Building.
Council members questioned Harrenstein and other city staff about the feasibility of halting this project at this point and moving to “Plan B”. Harrenstein told the council that if they were questioning the project and may not want to continue forward, now was the time to do so and not send the project to bid.
The Council directed staff to look at a project with a $2 million dollar budget. If this budget were to hold and estimates made on growth and valuation decreases stay similar to what was forecast for the 10th and Main project, this would mean an approximate 1 mill increase as opposed to a 2.851 mill increase.
“The outcome of this meeting was really positive,” Harrenstein said. “The Council deliberated the issue and maintained their commitment to safety for the volunteer Fire Department. We will start looking at sites around the community and come back with some options.”
City officials will begin that process anew of determining a suitable location to house a new building and what it will cost for land acquisition, site preparation, and a different building design. The other outstanding question to be answered in the future is what the city will now do with their portion of the property at 10th and Main.
To be continued…….