Bill Whitten

Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

Monday’s city Council meeting had a rather unique twist. Most of the time, the City Council and media members receive information about what is going to be discussed that night.  This past Monday night on the agenda was simply the statement “Discuss Governing Body pay”.   No further information was given to Council members or media members about this discussion, other than the fact that the Mayor wanted to have a discussion about this topic.

What we thought would be a discussion about the rate of pay, turned out to be about Governing Body attendance.

Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson began the discussion with the idea about tying council member pay to attendance at meetings.  Currently, City Council members receive $200 per month and the Mayor receives $250 per month.

While Hopson did not have clear cut ideas on how to address the topic, he did eventually suggest setting up a policy for “excused and unexcused” absences and setting a benchmark for how many unexcused absences a Council member could have before any pay was docked.  Councilman John Fiore did bring up the fact that some council members schedules may not be conducive to constant attendance.

“I’ve got a day job that is easy for me to be here by 7, but I know that at least two of our Council members don’t have that luxury with their schedule,” Fiore said referring to Councilmen Bill Whitten and Tim Reazin who are full time fire fighters in other municipalities.

“I don’t want to tell Tim or Bill, or Kenny or Ruth for that matter, or you (referring to the Mayor) because you had some terrible issues right when I started where you were out of town helping out with disaster victims and I don’t want to tell you ‘Hey don’t help those disaster victims because you have only so many excused absences’, Fiore added.

Councilman Reazin also brought up the fact that when the pay for the governing body was raised in 2011, the idea was that the money was not solely for attendance at Council meetings but to help reimburse council members for other outside meetings and their time spent preparing for the meetings as well as giving back to the community in the form of donations to various charitable fundraisers that occur regularly.

Reazin and Councilman Kenny Massey both suggested that the idea that excused versus unexcused absences would lead to causing people to lie about why they were not in attendance.

“This is a commitment and you signed up for this when you put your name on the ballot,” Massey said. “I think if you get elected to these positions you should be here.”

Massey did also reiterate Fiore’s earlier comment about the fact that Reazin and Whitten have extenuating circumstances due to their full time employment, but said that members can somewhat plan their schedules and plan ahead for things such as vacation.

“I think it should just be X number of absences per calendar year and if you go over that, then you get docked,” Massey added.

While no formal decision was made, the consensus was that further discussions would need to take place and some formal determinations in a work session should occur in the near future.

We took a look at the minutes from each meeting in both 2011 and 2012 to verify the number of absences for Council members and the Mayor.

In 2011, there was 23 City Council meetings.  Mayor Hopson missed the most with eight absences.   Bill Whitten and Tim Reazin missed six meetings each with Kenny Massey, Ruth Hughs and John Fiore all missing one meeting apiece.

In 2012,  to date, there has been 15 meetings with Tim Reazin missing five and Bill Whitten missing four, including this very meeting where the discussion took place.  All other Council members and the Mayor have attended all 2012 meetings.

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Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

The Eudora City Council unanimously approved a motion to waive several of the fees required to build the Family Dollar store at 15th and Church Street.   By waiving the fees, the city is passing up nearly $10,000 in possible revenue to ensure the project moves forward.  The R.H. Johnson Company, developer of the store, requested the waiver of the fees due to the large cost that the fees added to the project. Mike Johnson, representative of the R.H. Johnson Company, stated that if the fees were imposed, it would add approximately ten percent of the development budget and could cause the project to be abandoned.

In addressing the City Council, City Administrator John Harrenstein stated that while the city doesn’t normally waive fees, by having the Family Dollar store in Eudora, it will potentially add 4 full time and 25 part time jobs to the community and it will have a sales tax impact since it will likely keep money in Eudora instead of going elsewhere and a property tax impact on land the city currently receives no taxes on.

The fees waived include water and sewer hookup plus the building permit fees. The electrical installation fee and the Park Impact Fee are still in place.  By waiving the fees, the city is not paying any taxpayer funds to R.H. Johnson; it is only choosing not to collect revenue to keep the project moving forward.

“There is no money out of pocket to the city,” City Councilman Bill Whitten said.  “I think this will benefit us all the way around.”

“This is putting our money where our mouth is in regards to economic development,” Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson stated. “This is a no lose situation.”

Johnson said the development company wants to get started building as soon as possible. Johnson added that that by the time the easements are removed from the area since the store will be located on what was KDOT right of way, it may be too late to start this year due to normal Kansas winter weather and they may not be able to get started until March 2012. The normal completion time once ground is broken for a project like this is 120 days.

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Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

The biggest story of the night from the Eudora City Council meeting was not the city budget (which we will report about in the coming days), nor was it about a new use for Nottingham School.  It was about birds.

The City Council held a work session to look into allowing fowl to be raised at residences inside the city limits.  Currently, city ordinances do not allow fowl of any type to be raised in the city. The City was looking into allowing certain fowl, including female chickens, ducks or quail.

The issue came to light when Jay Wilson, a local resident, was found to have several dozen quail on his property located in and near his garage. Wilson petitioned the City Council, per the current ordinances, to keep his quail which as he stated, were a hobby for him.  Tori Gezel, another young resident of the city had also recently petitioned the City Council about raising three chickens on the property she lives at with her family.

Reactions were very mixed as to even allow it anything at all. Council members Kenny Massey and Tim Reazin were rather vocal in their opposition to allowing any fowl.  Both agreed that administration of any type of ordinance allowing birds would consume city resources.  Codes administration would be involved since they would have to approve any buildings built to house birds and likely police we need to verify and enforce any complaints filed by residents about someone having too many birds or not housed properly.

Council President Ruth Hughs, while not coming down on one side or the other, stated that she had some constituents say that they were afraid having chickens next door to them would lower their property values.

Councilman Bill Whitten’s line of questions through the session made it seem like he was in favor of some ordinance allowing fowl and Councilman John Fiore, while not speaking much on the subject, appeared to also support some type of resolution.

During the session, Hughs, Whitten and Fiore wondered how many people would even want fowl and what would the neighbors desire.

The big question that was asked by City Administrator John Harrenstein at the end of the session was if he and staff should do any further work towards writing proposed legislation. There was no resounding directive by anyone to work further. Massey and Reazin indicated that the topic should be dropped and not taken further.

This leads to our newest poll question: Do you think that citizens should be allowed to raise a limited number of fowl inside the city limits? It’s a simple yes/no answer.  You can vote in the box on the upper right hand side of the web site. Simply click your answer and then hit “Vote”.  Let your leaders hear from you and what you think.  You can also use the comment section of this story if you wish to leave a longer answer

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